Our Impact Why We Exist
Jane’s Walk provides opportunities for people to meet their neighbours, get to know the places they live and work and explore common concerns for the future. Jane's Walk helps make cities and streets safe for all users. We encourage people to get out and walk not just for recreation, but for basic tasks of daily life, shopping, schools and work. Jane’s Walk seeks to create a social and built environment where people CHOOSE to walk. Walking promotes health while also increase social cohesion and connection. Jane’s Walk helps pedestrians identify their walkability needs and provides frameworks and methods that advance policies and practices that create and support walkable neighbourhoods. Jane’s Walk takes Jane Jacobs’ ideas forward and applies them in new contexts, often with communities unfamiliar with her ideas, in order to advance local engagement with contemporary planning practices.
Our Story What We Do
History of Organization
Jane’s Walk was inaugurated on May 5, 2007 in Toronto by a group of Jane Jacobs’ friends and colleagues who wanted to honour her ideas and legacy. That first year, 27 walks were offered. Attendance and buzz exceeded all expectations - Jane’s Walk was an instant hit. A Walk Leader for the first event, CBC broadcaster Jane Farrow, took a part-time leave from CBC Radio and came on board as the Executive Director in 2007. She quickly organized the event in New York, proving that Jane’s Walk was a highly adaptable mechanism for cultivating urban literacy and civic engagement. An advisory board formed (Mary Rowe, Margie Zeidler, Max Allen, Ann Peters, Hannah Evans, Alan Broadbent and Linda Weichel), funds were raised (including a visionary Vital Ideas grant from Toronto Community Foundation in 2008), the organization got a desk at the Centre for Social Innovation and the event went from one city to eleven (141 tours) in 2008. The pattern of rapid growth and local uptake has been repeated over the five short years since its inception. In 2012 Jane’s Walks happened in 85 cities worldwide, with over 600 tours. In addition to Toronto, walks were led in places such as New York, Berlin, London, Madrid and Paris, St. Petersburg, Miami and Tel Aviv, to name a few.
Jane's Walk is a project of Tides Canada Initiatives (TCI). TCI is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to providing uncommon solutions for the common good by leading and supporting actions that foster a healthy environment and just Canadian society. TCI is a shared administrative platform, providing governance, human resources, financial, and grant management, for projects across Canada, allowing projects to more effectively achieve their missions.http://tidescanada.org/about/
Accolades and Accomplishments
Jane’s Walk was recognized as a Vital Idea by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2008. Jane’s Walk was awarded the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation’s ‘Active Transportation Champion’ award in 2008. The Toronto Community Foundation provided funding to Jane’s Walk, in partnership with University of Toronto Geographer Paul Hess, to conduct the first walkability studies done in high-rise neighbourhoods in North America’s inner suburbs. This fascinating and revealing research was completed in 2010 and the reports are available at http://www.janeswalk.net/walkability/studies/. Jane Farrow, the former Executive Director of Jane’s Walk, was recognized as a Vital Person by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2010.
Our Programs How We Do It
Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves. Since its inception in 2007, Jane’s Walk has expanded rapidly here in Canada and abroad. In 2012 85 cities, in 19 countries, took part in the event, programming walking tours in over 600 neighbourhoods. All Jane’s Walk tours are given and taken for free. The main Jane’s Walk event takes place annually on the first weekend of May, to coincide with Jane Jacobs’ birthday. Jane’s Walks can be organized and offered any other time of the year by enthusiastic local people or organizations, although the first weekend in May is where we focus our organizational energies and resources. Jane’s Walk honours the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk often takes Jacobs’ ideas to communities unfamiliar with her ideas, in order to advance local engagement with contemporary urban planning practices. The locally led, visitor friendly walks help knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.
Jane’s Walk Operations
Jane’s Walk is actively engaged in the process of creating and maintaining walkable cities and towns, for the betterment of the people who live there. Thousands of people have taken part in a Jane’s Walk, contributing their insights, observations and stories. Jane’s Walks explore a wide range of urban landscapes, from social housing slated for redevelopment to areas with a rich architectural and cultural heritage, to teen hangouts and secret gardens. Walks are led by individuals and small groups. Some are focused around historical themes more than geographical areas, for instance, walks have been built around ideas like urban forestry, gay and lesbian history, places of relevance to the homeless, and urgent planning matters facing certain neighbourhoods. The walks offer a more personal take on local culture and issues and opens up a friendly, engaged space for discussion amongst affected stakeholders and residents. Guides and participants report feeling a greater sense of connection, hope, enjoyment and pride in and of their neighbourhood and the people who live there.
Funding and Program Partners
Jane’s Walk has been funded by several foundations and individuals since its inception in 2007. Notable for their early and visionary support are Avana Corporation, UrbanSpace, Metalf Foundation and the Toronto Community Foundation. The Ontario Trillium Foundation came in with critical funding in year two that gave us the stability to expand the program throughout the province. The materials developed in the early stages have been used to seed Jane’s Walk initiatives across Canada, the USA and internationally. Jane’s Walk has, in six years, drawn in other funders and sponsors from the private and public sectors including the Department of Canadian Heritage, City of Toronto, and most recently the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Context, Daniels Corporation, Concord Adex, Kirkor Architects, Urban Capital and McMillan. Media sponsorships from CBC TV/Radio and The Toronto Star have critically assisted us in getting the word out about our projects.
Since 2007 Jane’s Walk has engaged over 15,000 Torontonians in leading and/or going on a Jane’s Walk to raise urban literacy, increase social cohesion amongst neighbours and neighbourhoods, and promote good walking environments. Building on the arguments Jane Jacobs espoused more than 40 years ago, the importance of creating good places for people to walk is increasingly being recognized by transportation experts and public officials. Public health researchers and officials suggest that the conventional car-centered approach to designing cities has contributed to the recent rise in physical inactivity and obesity. Local residents, planners and architects alike are keen on reversing these trends by building and maintaining a vibrant, safe street and sidewalk grid that connects people with local amenities, transit and each other.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
“Preliminary findings suggest 80% of a study’s respondents who live in Toronto’s high-rise neighbourhoods said they don’t own a driver’s license, half walk to buy groceries, and 90% walk their children to school”
“Each hour daily, spent in a car, contributes to a 6% increase in the likelihood of obesity”
Jane’s Walk raises the profile of issues of active transportation in cities, in particular highlighting the walkability conditions people encounter in suburban and priority neighbourhoods.
Jane’s Walk guides and participants report feeling a greater sense of connection, hope, enjoyment and pride in and of their neighbourhood and the people who live there. Walkers have followed up on issues raised during their walks by coming together to work on getting a crosswalk, garbage cans, benches, paved pathways and traffic signal timing changes. Business owners have embraced the walks as a way of welcoming newcomers and locals, and giving back with meeting space, food and promotion. Politicians and community stakeholders have demonstrated appreciation and enthusiasm for the walks as they create an alternative ‘consultative approach’ that is more informal, friendly and informative. The walks narrow social distance, cultivate understanding and make people feel good about where they live and work.
One youthful Walk Leader who co-led a Jane’s Walk in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood of Toronto called ‘Jungle Jaunt’ had this to say about his experience "I think the tour went well even though I thought it would be a huge failure before. I felt really good after the tour because everyone who came enjoyed this place - people were talking to me about how they enjoyed the tour, and how they wish they can come and live in Jungle. The reason why we did this tour was to show people a positive side of the Lawrence Heights community. Usually if someone talks about Jungle they will think guns, violence, drugs, etc. I would like to thank you all for taking time to let us show you what Jungle is really about."
- Abdulwahid, Walk Leader
What You Can Do
Jane's Walk Operations
Activities a donation will support
A donation towards Jane’s Walk will go directly to the operations of the organization. Run on a shoestring, Jane’s Walk is headquartered in Toronto but recruits and supports Jane’s Walks organizers and Walk Leaders around the world. The organizers never travel to other cities, maximizing their organizing effort through their website, email, phone and social media. Resources are dedicated to one full time staffer, and a few part time contractors who work seasonally to help roll out the program, develop the website, assist in promotion and media outreach, and help recruit and train Walk Leaders to tell the stories of their neighbourhood.
The sidewalks and streets are the largest public space in any city or town. Jane’s Walk encourages people to get out and walk not just for recreation but for basic tasks of daily life, shopping, schools and work. Walking promotes health while also increasing social cohesion and connection. Support for Jane's Walk helps make the city and streets safer for all users. It also takes Jane Jacobs’ ideas forward and applies them in new contexts, often with communities unfamiliar with her ideas, in order to advance local engagement with contemporary planning practices.