I’ve always REALLY loved cities. Being in them, walking around in them, watching people, feeling the buildings and the space around me. Those are the number one things in my personal hierarchy – I can’t separate these activities from each other. Talking and reading about cities is second. So it made sense that in May 2012, when I noticed that my Twitter feed suddenly had several mentions of Jane’s Walk, I had to investigate.
I found that Jane’s Walk celebrates people and cities all around the world on the first weekend of May, to coincide with the urban thinker Jane Jacobs’ birthday. Through the simple act of walking together and discussing what makes a neighborhood, Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into strong and resourceful communities. Created in 2007 in Toronto by friends of Jane Jacobs, the 2012 walks were held in 85 cities and 19 countries.
Only seven US cities held walks in 2012… and Chicago wasn’t one of them. My first question was, “Why not?”
So I started talking to people in Chicago… and my question remained, “why not?” I’d recently joined the board of Friends of Downtown http://friendsofdowntown.org/, and I persuaded the President, Noah Temaner Jenkins, and the other board members that this activity was consistent with Friends of Downtown’s mission. And I talked with other organizations as well. So on the weekend of May 4 and 5th, 120 people joined Friends of Downtown and The University of Chicago Community Service Center on eight walks around Chicago. It was great!
After that weekend, we sent out a SurveyMonkey to ask for feedback. Two of my favorite responses were: “Kudos to the organizers!!!!! … Perhaps a coffee hour afterwards would let us all chat with each other about the tour and what it meant to us. Please spread out the walks so I can attend more than one,” and “More tours. You only offer a handful of tours and most of them are scheduled simultaneously.”
So, with comments like that – and a surprise donation of $2,500 for ‘”The Outdoor Walking Event Not To Be Missed in Chicago The First Week in May Annually” (mark your calendar now don’tchaknow!)’ – this blog exists to help figure out how to do that. Suggestions are welcome, and I look forward to your comments!