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Know Toronto. Take a walk.

This weekend's Jane's Walks may be an eyeopener.

The late urban thinker Jane Jacobs believed the way to understand a city like Toronto, and know its true needs, was to walk its streets. Her ideal comes alive this weekend in the form of more than 100 neighbourhood walks in Toronto and another 160 in cities across Canada. Jane's Walk, now in its third year, provides the opportunity to gain insight into the wonders and challenges of your own neighbourhood or learn about an entirely different part of the city.

The free walking tours on Saturday and Sunday are led by volunteer guides of all ages and backgrounds, and range in focus from the history of a neighbourhood to its present and future.

Through youth-led tours, Jane and Finch, Jane and Wilson and St. Jamestown – neighbourhoods generally in the news for poverty and crime – take on a new dimension. Where do the kids build forts? Where's the best snack shop? What's it like to live in the shadow of the unwalkable Highway 401? Who are the neighbourhood characters?

These are things that turn our monochromatic images of a neighbourhood into a truer picture. It can also serve to galvanize communities in their fight for needed improvements.

When Jacobs began her work in the 1950s, cities weren't seen as having a vibrant future. Experts declared that cramped, disorderly downtowns would hollow out, to be replaced by neatly planned suburban subdivisions. Jacobs knew they were wrong then; we know it today.

Fifty years ago, Jacobs wrote: "No one can find what will work for our cities ... by looking at suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities. You've got to get out and walk."

May 2, 2009 in Toronto Neighbourhoods | Permalink

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Posted by: Fakhra | May 18, 2009 10:23:18 AM

Walking is the ultimate way to truly get a feel for a neighbourhood and city. It's how you connect with neighbours as well. Whenever suburabanites come to visit me, they are surprised when we say we'll walk to a restaurant for dinner - everyone expects to jump in the car. It's a very green way to live too!

Posted by: Tina | May 17, 2009 9:45:25 PM

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