Jane’s Walk Vancouver invites conversation and change

The grassroots organization hosted local tours from for all walks of life

A scenic,street-level view of Vancouver’s Chinatown
PHOTO: Coen Devlin / The Peak

By: Hannah Fraser, News Writer

From May 2 to May 5, Vancouver’s Jane’s Walk Festival held citizen-led walking tours through Canadian neighbourhoods. Jane’s Walk honours late Canadian writer, urbanist, and activist Jane Jacobs by promoting her idea that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” The grassroots organization “encourage[s] participants to observe, reflect, share, question, and collectively reimagine” the places they live in. The Peak corresponded with Maria Jácome, a coordinator for Jane’s Walk Vancouver, for more information.

Jácome said Jane’s Walk celebrates the present and our ability to discuss our collective past in the present. “Jane’s Walk Festival encourages citizens to dialogue both about what they love and is working well in their neighbourhoods, as well what is not and encouraging dialogue about positive changes that can be made in the future.”

The dialogue that takes place during Jane’s Walk involves storytelling and oral history that have been part of Indigenous traditions for thousands of years. “It’s important to recognize the significance of storytelling in creating powerful connections,” she said. Jane’s Walk works to create a space where “leaders and participants alike” can experience the power of connection.

 “Rich conversations sometimes are difficult conversations, and as organizers of Jane’s Walk Festival, we are open and accepting of this.” — Maria Jácome, Jane’s Walk

Jacobs’ 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, discusses “how cities function, evolve, and fail that have become conceptual pillars” for modern-day city planners, urban activists, and policymakers. 

The tour New Chinatown and Cedar Cove led participants through Vancouver’s Chinatown and gave a detailed history of the neighbourhood. Jácome said Jane’s Walk does “outreach to various communities of different heritages, including Asian heritage, to try to persuade walk leaders to organize a walk with various cultural topics.”

A local city planner and executive director of Movement: Metro Vancouver Transit Riders, which advocates for improved public transportation in the Metro Vancouver area, led the kick-off event for Jane’s Walk Vancouver. It highlighted the poorly planned and managed transit “pain points” in Downtown Vancouver. 

Experiencing our neighbourhoods and the problems that take place there first-hand “could motivate people to take action and make positive changes,” said Jácome.

Jácome said Jane’s Walk “doesn’t have a [specific] focus at all, that’s kind of the whole point.” Rather, “it’s really up to leaders what they want to focus on.”

Other walks this year included Productive Lands from Past to Present, a walk led by a “passionate team of three urbanists” to discuss culture and tapestry in the False Creek Flats of Vancouver. The Kitsilano Missing Middle Midrise Walking Tour was another walk exploring the history of “where apartments in Kits are allowed to be built.”

Though Jane’s Walk began in Toronto, they now hold walks in many different countries and cities globally. Find more information at janeswalk.org.

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