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Re: WorldTransport Forum Dedication – Mrs. Jane Jacobs : Activist, author, example

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  • Chris Bradshaw
    Eric, I would add something about what her legacy is re: new mobility. I re-read _The Life and Death of Great American Cities_ about three years ago. It is
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30 9:11 AM
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      Eric,
       
      I would add something about what her legacy is re: 'new mobility.'
       
      I re-read _The Life and Death of Great American Cities_ about three years ago.  It is very powerful, and represented over the following 40 years until her death an amazing change of direction for city planning -- without her prescribing something to replace the then predominant regime in any detail.
       
      She had an understanding of how cities -- and especially the districts and neighbourhoods that made up cities -- worked as economic units.  And how the streets linked these economic units.  Her next two books expanded this theme.
       
      In her private life, she protested city initiatives, in both NYC and Toronto, to expand roadways to accommodate longer and often frivilous transport at the expense of the local trips and the functioning of sidewalks and business streets.  She mostly spoke for the value to the global economy of these walkable areas.
       
      To me, "eyes on the street" was the most significant phrase from that book, because it explains why our cities, sadly, during her life have gotten less and less safe.  Distance deadens connections between people and a feeling in a stake in the vitality and civility of any one street or park.  It also marked the end of the era of orienting our homes and businesses toward the street as the literal 'river of life,' from which air-conditioning, energy-conserving insulation, and the media of TV, radio, Internet, and recorded distractions now insulate us.  The remote-control garage door now is the main street-facing feature of each residential unit and each office building and shopping mall, suggesting that those who enter never are exposed to the street on which the units exist.
       
      She surely reminded us that walking IS life, but that life is as economic as it is social.  In an age where the environment is now a lot more important (interestingly, Rachel Carson wrote _Silent Spring_ at about the same time as Jacobs wrote, _The Death and ..._), her advocacy for walkable spaces is just as apt and important.
       
      Chris Bradshaw
      Ottawa
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