JANE’S WALK Toronto is one of nine Canadian cities hosting a series of free guided neighbourhood walks inspired by late urban activist Jane Jacobs. Saturday-Sunday (May 3-4), various times and locations. Free. 416-642-5779. www.janeswalk.net. Rating: NNNNN
How did this event come about?
Jane’s ideas were so compelling and achieved relatively wide acceptance considering how radical they were in the 60s. We want to make her ideas more accessible. We need to understand our city fom the perspective of people who live and work here, not as outsiders looking in.
What’s special about these walking tours?
They’re about exploring and appreciating the urban environment and are led by politicians, artists, activists. MPP Kathleen Wynne is one of the leaders of the tour of Flemingdon Park, for example. There are walks on Scarborough’s Golden Mile, the gangsters and dreamers of the Lower Don Valley, a history of Skid Row, Queen Street. We have 10 high school kids showing what’s great and cool about their neighbourhood at Jane-Finch. Did you know Jane-Finch has possibly the best poutine in the city?
What part of the city is not among the tours but should be?
The Leslie Street Spit. When I want to go for a long, contemplative walk, that’s where I go. It’s labyrinthine in that it lets you go deeper into yourself as you pass through all this urban weirdness, washing machines and willow trees.
What areas do we walk through without appreciating them?
Those places where the stores are a little rough around the edges – maybe it’s Crazy Bob’s Drapery or nail salons or tax outlets. We see them in strip malls and don’t even pay attention. Architecturally they’re not pretty, but they – not Starbucks – are the muscle and connective tissue that make Toronto work.
Other than Toronto, what’s your favourite city?
Montreal in the spring and fall is pretty great. Vancouver in the winter. Obviously, New York is fantastic any time. Copenhagen is extraordinarily gorgeous and walkable. Oh, and Tokyo – take Vancouver off the list – is consistently engaging at street level.