TAKING A FIRST LOOK AT THIS YEAR’S JANE’S WALKS
By Whitney French
Lace up your sneakers and get ready to walk it off! Since 2007, the first weekend of May has been slated for the annual Jane’s Walk, an urban neighbourhood walking tour that honours urban advocate and author Jane Jacobs. In the spirit of Jacob’s cause, Jane’s Walk embraces civic engagement by offering free walks led by enthusiastic locals who recognize pedestrian-focused landscaping over vehicle-centric interests. This year, a confirmed 170 walks are scheduled and thousands of Torontonians are expected to participate.
Jane’s Walk is always looking for volunteers to assist with various tasks, including coordinating, photographing, and tweeting walking tours. Individuals can choose specific walks they wish to volunteer for. See www.janeswalk.net for more information.
The Toronto City of Labyrinths Walk offers a unique perspective of city-bound labyrinths. Himy Syed, founder of the Toronto City of Labyrinths Project, leads this walk for the second time. Beginning at Christie Station, Syed discusses the origin of labyrinths, their trans-cultural nature and their contemporary relevance, despite the fact that they have been used for centuries.
Walkers will learn about the misconception that labyrinths and mazes are the same; a labyrinth has one entrance, a center and a path in which it is impossible to get lost. Labyrinths are an appropriate theme for a Jane’s Walk since, according to Syed, “mazes are like traffic and labyrinths are like walking.”
Walkers participating in The Toronto City of Labyrinths Walk can expect to learn about different types of labyrinths, including ancient models to more modern, mathematical examples. And, naturally, a portion of the walk will be reserved for walking a labyrinth in Christie Pits Park.
“There’s no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Kids never walk labyrinths, they always run,” Syed laughs.
After creating over 80 of them across Toronto, Syed paints these beautiful walkways as a response to the events in the city. Whether it is a reaction to the 2009 garbage strike, a broken public fountain in a park or neighbouring violence, all of Syed’s labyrinths have a purpose. The Toronto City of Labyrinths Walk is scheduled for May 5 at 5pm, but come early as last year over sixty people attended.
In the theme of political response, the recent subway versus LRT debate sparked criticism of the effectiveness of streetcars along St. Clair. The popular Twitter trend inspired the #StClairDisaster: Seeing is Believing Walk led by John Lorinc.
While walking along St Clair West between Bathurst and Dufferin, and then riding it out to Gunn’s Loop, Lorinc invites participants to travel around his neighbourhood and explore the current growth, decline, and overall development of St. Clair’s real estate and businesses. Walkers can expect to learn stats about St. Clair’s economy, demographics, and accident rates, while investigating why some businesses thrive and others fail in the area. Lorinc hopes to share his perspective on how the street responds to the right-of-way. There are multiple uses of the street, and the streetcar plays a vital role to the function of St. Clair West.
The goal of the #StClairDisaster Walk is to have “people speak for themselves,” as Lorinc strongly encourages audience participation. Torontonians have been “told certain things” about St. Clair, and this walk acts as a dialogue to address conflicting stigmas, share pedestrian experiences, and discuss the broader trajectories of the neighbourhood.
John Lorinc led two walks last year and has been “discovering city stuff” for over fifteen years. He is a columnist for Spacing, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, and Atlantic Cities with a special focus on urban affairs and municipal issues, as well as energy and the environment. The #StClairDisaster Walk is scheduled for May 5 at 2pm.
Other Jane’s Walks to keep on the radar: Wizard of Ossington Jane’s Walk, Graffiti in Toronto, and Liberty Village: Change is Good.
Be sure to have comfortable shoes for May 5th and May 6th for this year’s Jane’s Walk line-up. Know the city, know the community, know your neighbours.