Transform your city by joining “Jane’s Walk”!
Andreas Lindinger, City Organizer of Jane’s Walk Vienna and a real CityChanger, explains why walking can actually be a powerful tool of shaping your city.
Every first weekend in May, citizens come together all over the world to explore and discover their cities by joining “Jane’s Walk”. Inspired by the late Jane Jacobs, an important American-Canadian activist, writer and city changer of her time, the annual walks honor her legacy by putting into practice some of her most important theories.
With concepts like “the sidewalk ballet” or “all eyes on the streets” she focused on people as the most important creators of every urban landscape, rather than planning and building cities solely for cars and big businesses.
Since 2007, people from all kinds of backgrounds meet to participate in one of the worldwide walks to learn about their city from local residents, engage in conversations and maybe begin to experience their neighborhoods in a new way.
“The idea that every citizen can contribute something to shape and create his or her own district or city is one of the core principles of Jane Jacobs”, Andreas Lindinger summarizes the spirit behind Jane’s Walk.
When Andreas Lindinger first participated in a walk in Vancouver, he was intrigued by this uncomplicated way of getting to know people and districts and soon decided to bring Jane’s Walk to Vienna
. With the help of the Global Office in Toronto Andreas became a so-called City Organizer and started to offer walks in Vienna in 2014.
“In the beginning, it was hard to find people who were willing to be Walk Leaders, because people thought they had to be experts to be able to show others their district”, he recalls one of the biggest early challenges. But as people got to experience how easy it is to participate in a walk or even talk about how they perceive their city as a Walk Leader, the skeptical mindset of more and more people shifted towards curiosity. “We started with only 4 walks in the first year, but already had 19 walks this year! This turned Vienna into the city that offers the most walks in Europe!”
Although Jane Jacobs is more known in the US and Canada, Jane’s Walk is a worldwide movement with around 1700 walks in more than 220 cities in 36 countries and on 6 continents! Andreas also plans for Vienna to join other cities that started to offer walks, not only at the same weekend in May, but also at the exact same time. That way, the feeling of a global community of walking urban activists becomes even stronger and more powerful.
But regardless of plans for the future, what has already been accomplished in Vienna is very impressive. This year, for example, there has been a cooperation with an organization called Supertramps where homeless people showed participants their side of Vienna within the framework of Jane’s Walk. “People showed huge interest, because this was a unique opportunity to open your eyes to a completely different world that you usually don´t have access to in everyday life”, Andreas Lindinger recalls the experience.
Although the work for Jane’s Walk is completely voluntary, the small Viennese City Organizer team still manages to find time for it. “From the very beginning, a key to our success has been an efficient press work as well as good public relations and networking in general.”
According to Jane Jacobs´ principle of “all eyes on the street”, Andreas Lindinger has a lot of ideas for side events around Jane’s Walk. There could be more panel discussions, festivals or small parties for neighborhoods, maybe a screening of a Jane Jacobs Film and more. “If you look at cities like New York or Toronto, where Jane Jacobs used to live, there are around 200 walks on the weekend of Jane’s Walk. So, the sky is the limit when it comes to goals for Jane’s Walk Vienna!”
However, as Vienna is the only city in Austria that offers Jane’s Walk so far, a specific wish is to expand it to other Austrian cities and smaller municipalities. Although a cooperation with other organizations that care for putting people back in the center of urban development could be helpful, Lindinger´s advice for future City Organizers, participants or Walk Leaders is to “Just try it!”
“By joining a walk, you become part of an international community of interested people and you have the opportunity to exchange ideas and experience a change in perspective. Just try it!”
I love my city because… it is a diverse city.
I am a very… interested person who loves to walk.
It´s always good to take a walk through your city, because… there are always opportunities to see new places and to get to know new places and new people.
Everyone can live more sustainable, simply by… walking.
Every city should… have Jane’s Walk.