Post by Joe Rashid, ioby Detroit Action Strategist
Detroit is known as the Motor City; here the car is king. With the city spread out in 139 square miles of single family homes, walking and public transportation are sometime seen as an afterthought. Freeways divide the city, making distinct physical and social borders between neighborhoods that can be difficult to overcome. In recent years, however, many Detroiters have begun to push for walkability and functional mass transit. There is an increasing demand for both as access to goods and services at times are few and far between.
To Madhavi Reddy, walking and functioning transit just make sense as key elements to creating a healthy community. Four years ago, Madhavi moved to Detroit from Toronto, where she had been working to build cooperatives, organize immigrant communities and lead Jane’s Walks. In Toronto there are hundreds of these citizen-organized, citizen-led neighborhood walking tours each year on the first weekend in May. Madhavi partnered with her neighbors Mark Loeb and Vickie Elmer to bring Jane’s Walks to Detroit in 2012. Since then, they’ve grown the program into Live Love Detroit Jane’s Walk , a city-wide event taking place annually on the same weekend as walks in Toronto, New York, and dozens of other cities across the US and Canada.
Jane’s Walks celebrate the life and work of Jane Jacobs, an urbanist and native New Yorker who famously worked with her neighbors to stop Robert Moses’s freeway system from dividing Manhattan. Walking was one of her most powerful organizing tools: She was able to change sentiments by simply taking people on walking tours of neighborhoods, to get them to see the value of a walkable space, observe the streetlife, and hear stories from neighbors along the way.
In Detroit, where walking can sometimes seem like a forgotten art, these Jane’s Walks around the city are doing something very powerful: they’re helping Detroiters imagine how neighborhoods can once again be walkable centers. Walks will be led by residents, community organizers, youth, and neighbors all over the city. These events are meant to showcase a side to Detroit that is often missing from the dominant narrative surrounding the city.They’re a great way to meet neighbors, and experience a new part of the city or to see your own neighborhood through a different lens.
There are as many stories about each neighborhood as there are people, and hearing directly from the citizen leaders of the walks is one of the most valuable things anyone can do to gain perspective.
The Jane’s Walk weekend in Detroit has grown from one walk four years ago to eleven walks this year happening all over the city. Because of all this success, this is the first year the event has grown large enough that it needs logistical and promotional support. With the recent launch of ioby Detroit, the timing was right for Madhavi and her fellow organizers to launch an ioby campaign to raise money – just over $1,000 – and awareness about the walks.
For a citizen-planned, citizen-led series of events meant to celebrate neighborhoods, we think ioby is a perfect match, and we’re proud to support Live Love Detroit Jane’s Walk. We hope you will support this great project too!