Tag Archives: cities

Watching: Jane Jacobs—Neighborhoods in Action

A great video produced by the Active Living Network (a project of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). It features an interview with the urban goddess herself.  The clip explores the role of the built environment in physical activity and public health.  /it’s 9 minutes and 46 seconds VERY well spent)

I love her support for skateboarding as an important of youth physical activity.  Lots of good aphorisms at the end as well.


Quick Take: Ubiquitou-city

ubiquitous: from Latin ubique, everywhere

“One principle emerges ubiquitously… This ubiquitous principle is the need of cities for a most intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that give each other constant mutual support, both economically and socially… Unsuccessful city areas are areas which lack  this kind of intricate mutual support.” – DLGAC, p 14

Quick Take: What should a city be like?

Jane Jacobs: It should be like itself. Every city has differences, from its history, from its site, and so on. These are important. One of the most dismal things is when you go to a city and it’s like 12 others you’ve seen. That’s not interesting, and it’s not really truthful.

Cars and Communities

Jane Jacobs was a fierce advocate for putting communities before cars.  She spent  more than a decade of her life successfully fighting plans to run expressways into the heart of Manhattan at the expense of neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Soho and Greenwich Village.  After moving to Toronto she campaigned (again successfully)  against a proposed Spadina expressway, which would have cut through the heart of downtown Toronto.  Unfortunately not every city had a Jane Jacobs and, as a result,  have suffered the consequences of putting cars before communities.

Paul Hanley recently wrote a two part column in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on how cars can to dominate the urban landscape in North America.    It is based on an interview with Gordon Price, the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University and a former 6 term city Councillor for the city of Vancouver, BC.

Part 1:  Remembering when cars took over our cities

Before the 1930s, children were free to play in the street and people could cross wherever they wanted. By the 1930s, motordom managed to convince people that the pedestrian, not the car, was the interloper and had to be restricted. The pejorative “jay walker” was introduced and public safety programs “educated” pedestrians to use signals and crosswalks.

Part 2:  Time to reimagine car culture

Photograph by: Reuters File Photo, The StarPhoeni

We don’t really like our car-dominated cities. We prefer places that are dense, lively and walkable — the places we tend to go to on vacation, such as the old centres of European cities, with interesting buildings, narrow streets, squares and public art. But because we have made our cities barely navigable without cars, we have no idea how to remake them in a more pleasing form.

(via: http://pricetags.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/motordom-in-saskatoon/)

Jane’s Walk Phoenix will provide an opportunity to look at how car culture has affected urban life in Phoenix.  As one of the few surviving pre-car neighborhoods in the Valley,  downtown Phoenix provides a useful backdrop to examine the impacts cars have on city life and the tenuous relationship between cars and communities.

A Walking Conversation

1062507_grupo_de_visita_1Rather than a traditional ‘heritage walk’ or guided tour,  we will be joined in the conversation by downtown residents, small business owners, local activists and interested observers, who will help engage the participants in a conversation with each other, using the sights on the tour for illustrations and inspiration.

The main ingredient of the Walk, however,  are the participants themselves, i.e. YOU.  Afterall, cities are first and foremost about people,and it is your opinions and stories that ultimately define  what downtown Phoenix is, and–more impoortantly–can become.