image from JaneJacobs.biography It is futile to try to evade the issue of unsafe city streets by attempting to make some other features of a locality, say interior courtyards, or sheltered play spaces, safe instead. By definition again, the streets of a city must do most of the job of handling strangers for this is where strangers come and go. The streets must not only defend the city against predatory strangers, they must protect the many, many peaceable and well-meaning strangers who use them, insuring their safety too as they pass through. Moreover, no normal person can spend his life in some artificial haven, and this includes children. Everyone must use the streets. -Jane Jacobs from The Death and Life of Great American Cities, page 35-36 ( I stole it from CityKin).
I am far from being an urban planning scholar or an expert on Jane Jacobs. I’ve read portions of The Death and Life of Great American Cities but that is all. However, I became familiar with her work through my interests in the development and reclaimation of children’s play spaces and gardening with children. The present focus EL&CC (Early Learning and Child Care) on the role of the environment as the third teacher and observing how your space is actually used by children on a day-to-day basis are ideas that are found in Jacob’s work. If you’d like to learn more I found this biography on the Project for Public Spaces-PPS website (www.pps.org) to be quite informative or better yet pick up a copy of her books- they are quite accessible. So- you are asking…”that’s nice but what the heck is a Jane’s Walk?”. The briefest description I can give you is that Jane’s Walk was created by Jane Jacob’s friends and colleagues as a way to commemorate and honour her work and as such is held as close to her birthday- May 4th as possible. It is a community event where participants walk around the neighbourhood sharing stories, concerns and visions for the future. This is a highly simplified explanation so I encourage you to visit the Jane’s Walk website, janeswalk.org for more information and go here to find out more information about events in Winnipeg. If a full walk is beyond your means then start with your yard or your block. As educators, we are constantly aware of how we interact with our communities and are affected by them. So I encourage you to mobilize your children and nurture the young urban planner in them because citizen’s who take responsibility for the safety and livability of their own neighbourhoods are citizen’s who are happy and healthy!