Jane’s Walks: International Movement to Honor Jane Jacobs
by Glenna Lang
On May 1 and 2, people in cities all over the world will gather to walk and observe their neighborhoods in honor of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs. Begun shortly after Jane’s death at almost 90 in 2006, Jane’s Walks encourage people to explore where they live and take action to influence these places for the better.
This year, on the first weekend in May – the weekend closest to Jane's birthday – more than a hundred walks will take place in Canada, several in Europe, and even one in India. Jane’s Walks are currently scheduled in thirty-five U.S. cities, with more added daily. Any inspired citizen can organize and host a walk. The walks are free, fun, enlightening, open to everyone, and they welcome information and thoughts from participants as well as chance encounters along the way.
Last year, we organized a hugely successful first Boston-area Jane’s Walk. This May 1, we hope to rival it. During a walk entitled “Urban Fringe: Walking the Cambridge-Somerville Line,” we’ll follow another set of old train tracks (now a dedicated walk / bike path) between North Cambridge and Somerville’s Davis Square, and branch out into the contiguous neighborhoods. Along the route is a fascinating mix of recreational, industrial, commercial, and residential uses dating from the 19th century to the present.
Sites include Jerry’s Pit, Boston’s first Catholic cemetery, the remains of a brick factory and a race course, a newly built co-housing community, affordable housing at Trolley Square, and Camp Cameron from the Civil War. Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, will provide historic background.
For more information about the Jane’s Walk movement and individual city walks, go to: www.janeswalkusa.org or www.janeswalk.net.
To find out more about Jane Jacobs, read what Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Robert Campbell designated “the best short introduction yet to the life and work of one of the most influential Americans of her generation” for all ages, Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities.