Each year Jane’s Walks are hosted worldwide to draw citizens into conversation about the spaces we live in, to encourage exploration and to build connections. The walks can take on a variety of themes, and are very much shaped by the leader and participants. The walks are hosted in honour of Jane Jacobs, an influential activist and urbanist.
If you’re drawn to that park near your house, that plaza across from work, that walking path, boulevard or bike lane, it could be a great start to your Jane’s Walk. The planning process only takes a few days. Interested? Here are a few things to consider when planning your first Jane’s Walk:
Keep in mind that Jane’s Walks are limited by time and space, and a walk with six to ten stops can last approximately 1.5 hours. For this reason, thinking of six to ten spaces that are thematically linked and relatively close together can be a strong way to start your Jane’s Walk planning. You could find green-spaces, meeting spaces, arts spaces, pedestrian areas, heritage buildings, spaces that feel safe or not so safe, spaces recently renovated, spaces recently in the news, etc. The possibilities are endless. The first real step is walking an area by yourself or with a friend. What catches your eye? What do you want to discuss? Start there.
2. Route Planning
When planning your route, think about places that are safe to stop and talk. Will you be able to hear each other over the sound of traffic? Will you be blocking pedestrians? Jane’s Walks tend to be observational in nature; can you see the structure or space you’re speaking about clearly? Will you end where you begin your tour?
Jane’s Walk leaders do not have to be experts on their chosen walk topic. They do, however, have to be friendly and interested in facilitating conversation about our city.
For each stop, I like to think of two or three open questions about the stops to get people talking about the space you’re observing. Some of my favourite initial questions are, “have you been here before?” and “how do you use this space?” Though reading Jane Jacobs’ work is not a necessity, her books can give you a new perspective on the observation of public spaces.
While you’re out planning your walk, you could take note of those using the spaces. Do you know any facts about the spaces: how long that building has been there, what was there before it, if there are others like it elsewhere? These tidbits should be related to your main theme, and you may find you are asked questions for which you do not know the answer. This is to be expected, as the walks are a conversation. Encourage others to contribute their knowledge whenever possible.
Though not necessary, it can be a treat to bring additional information about your stops. Are there newspaper stories about this site? Photos online? Some guides bring along Jane Jacobs’ works. Having a guest read a relevant excerpt can be an excellent way to refocus the conversation.
For more information, a list of Jane’s Walks happening in Victoria and a place to add yours, visit the Jane’s Walk site.
And after your walk, consider posting your photos and observations here, on Greater Victoria’s urbanism blog site. Enjoy!
Guest Author Bio
Rayleen Lister is a young urbanist and City Coordinator of the Jane’s Walk Victoria festival.
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