Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jane Jacobs Saves the Day

This is probably the most unlikely accreditation of Jane Jacobs we have ever come across, and one that our authors prudently omitted from Genius of Common Sense. At Slate, Fred Kaplan writes that one thing we learned from the attempted car-bombing of Times Square was that “Jane Jacobs is, once again, right. In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, self-taught urban scholar and activist Jane Jacobs observed that sidewalks and their users are ‘active participants in the drama of civilization versus barbarism’ (by ‘barbarism,’ she meant crime) and that a continuously busy sidewalk is a safe sidewalk, because those who have business there — ‘the natural proprietors of the street’ — provide ‘eyes upon the street.’[. . .] This may explain why busy areas like Times Square aren't attacked by terrorists more often. The crowds make them tempting targets: lots of people mean lots of potential victims and subsequent media attention. But those same crowds—especially the regulars, who are always looking out on the street—make an attack harder to conceal and, therefore, to pull off. (Research project for a sociologist: Have terrorist attacks in Western cities taken place more often, or less often, in areas with lots of street vendors?)”

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