Sunday, December 20, 2009

Still More Jane's Walk Talk

More general buzz and discussion popping up about bringing some kind of Jane Jacobs related events and walks to Pittsburgh and other former Rust Belt cities.

Diana Nelson Jones, who hosts one of the few blogs focusing on Pittsburgh from a pedestrian perspective did this post, which quotes one of my comments on Null Space. She also links to a number of other Jane related sites, articles-- and we can add to this the previous talk on Rust Wire, all of which point to some building support for doing something in the Spring.

Using the inevitable football metaphor, living here is often like watching a terrible coaching staff leaving almost all your best running backs on the bench, refusing to block, refusing to tackle while wasting time and resources on ever more bizarre hail Mary passing plays or relying exclusively on kickoff returns.

Not only do the coaches and owners, not put the best people on the field, we can't even let them practice and even worse, one always has to live in fear of which reasonably good or potentially great players might be traded away or cut next, whose property might be seized, whose street cut off and taxes raised for another "special teams operation".

It's not like Pittsburgh doesn't have some great walkable neighborhoods-- and it's not like they ain't successful-- there's plenty of game tape out there that shows what's working on a social and economic level as well as plenty of red ink, empty streets and failed shells to show us what hasn't worked. Yet almost all major government policies repeat these failed plays over and over. Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining!

Team is a good word to use, since as Jane pointed out city's are continuous experiments in social interaction.

Just one more thought, Jane always left a cop out for bad coaches looking for excuses when she said "no two cities or streets are alike". Obviously, this is self evident, but one just has to look at Death and Life's chapter titles, listed below to get the idea that she thought some things worked and some things didn't or only look at a few cities closely to see she was mostly right.

The uses of sidewalks: safety
The uses of sidewalks: contact
The uses of neighborhood parks
The uses of city neighborhoods
The need for mixed primary uses
The need for small blocks
The need for aged buildings
The need for concentration
The curse of border vacuums
Gradual money and cataclysmic money
Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles

May not be sexy enough to always make the highlight films.

1 comment:

Stephen Goldsmith said...

A great post, and while it's true that some of these elements described by chapter headings might not be sexy enough at first blush, the "ballet of the street" that Jane described is often very sexy indeed.

A short film festival might be just the thing to brings these ideas to life, maybe a part of your Jane's Walks this year?

As the coordinators for Jane's Walks in the U.S. ( please let us know if we can assist in any way. Of cities poised to host great walks (and rolls--bicycle views of the city) few places have as a great of streets as Pittsburgh to celebrate.

Reach out to us at anytime, walk on!