The Outdoor Walking Event Not To Be Missed in Chicago The First Week in May Annually

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last few months thinking and talking with people about how to create an organizational structure for “The Outdoor Walking Event Not To Be Missed in Chicago The First Week in May Annually” (mark your calendar now don’tchaknow!)”

During the six years since it introduced the idea of Jane’s Walk, the Toronto Project Office has developed a list of “Principles – Nine Simple Ideas.”  The first Principle is that Volunteers lead Jane’s Walks and participation is free.  The other eight are:

Two / Jane’s Walk is a non-partisan initiative that strives to include a wide array of voices and ideas in discussions about cities, neighbourhoods and community engagement.

Three / Jane’s Walk celebrates the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs by getting people out on the streets, exploring neighbourhoods and meeting their neighbours. Jane’s Walk promotes walkable neighbourhoods, urban literacy and cities planned for and by people.

Four / Jane’s Walk encourages an environment where people choose to walk, not merely as a

recreational option, but as a viable and enjoyable way to carry out basic everyday tasks, improve

health and increase social cohesion.

Five / Walk Leaders lead the conversation with interesting insights and stories about their neighbourhood, and strongly encourage Walk participants to get involved and share their own

opinions and observations.

Six / Jane’s Walk supports engaged discussion between Walk Leaders and Walkers with differing opinions. Jane’s Walk does not tolerate hate speech. While we encourage the discussion of ideas and experiences, no Walk will be allowed that defames or excludes specific individuals or groups.

Seven / Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.

Eight / Jane’s Walk often brings Jane Jacobs’ideas to communities unfamiliar with her ideas, in order to advance local engagement with contemporary city-making and urban planning practices.

Nine / Local financial support of Jane’s Walk is permitted, but no fees, charges or any promotion of commercial activities can be connected to the content or activities of any given walk. Any form of support of Jane’s Walk must adhere with the Principles as listed above.

I enthusiastically support seven of these nine principles, but based on my experience over the last year, I have come to believe that two of them are sub-optimal for Chicago. These are Principles One and Nine.

One of the glories of Chicago is its great wealth of major cultural figures researching and/or writing about things that other people haven’t thought about yet.  In 2013, we had Lee Bey lead a Children’s Walk along Wacker Drive, and Rolf Achilles of the School of the Art Institute led a Walk along Dearborn Street, which has more important art and architecture sites from the past 125 years than any other street in the US. 

There are so many opportunities for one-of-a-kind experiences in Chicago, that we shouldn’t try to confine them to one weekend in May… and the extraordinary number of people who might be available to discuss their ideas with new audiences should be acknowledged with some sort of honorarium. We already know that The University of Chicago Community Service Center will be organizing some walks around Hyde Park, and that Rolf Achilles and Julia Bachrach of the Chicago Park District will be returning for their second year.  I’ll return to the subject of possible exceptional experiences in later posts.

I believe that “The Outdoor Walking Event Not To Be Missed in Chicago” has the potential to be a uniquely Chicago event with wide appeal.  My mouth waters at the prospect, and I hope yours does, too!

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