Friday, May 6, 2011

Walkability Exhibit at Urban Space Gallery

Yesterday, I noticed a Walkability exhibition in the Urban Space Gallery at 401 Richmond that celebrates Jane's Walk--the series of free walking tours around the city in the memory of Jane Jacobs. There are dozens of walks in Toronto to choose from and even a handy iPhone app that helps you organize, search, and remind yourself about walks you're interested in.

The exhibit, draws on the work of Paul Hess, a Professor in the University of Toronto's Urban Planning and Design Program, and Jane Farrow, executive director of Jane's Walk. It showcases large poster-boards, each expressing a different tenet of walkability, from crosswalks needing to be properly spaced to creating paths where people actually walk to trying to avoid blind or narrow lanes.

One of the things not in the exhibit (but I can't remember all the poster-boards, so I could be wrong) was the fact that diversity in visual style can affect an area's walkability. I live on Bloor St West in the Annex, for example, right near where Spadina Ave cleaves Bloor in two--essentially acting as a dividing line between two very different streets. On the west side, you have small three-storey buildings with retail along the bottom, while on the east side you have increasing larger (and longer) buildings that all tend to look the same.

What I quickly found out living here is that walking west down Bloor is much more interesting and feels like it takes a shorter amount of time than walking east down Bloor, even if I'm actually walking the same distance. There's something about the shorter, older buildings and the fact that the stores change every ten feet that makes it much more interesting to walk west down Bloor, going so far as to even affect my sense of distance and time.

This happened, too, when I lived in White Rock, British Columbia and had to walk to high school every morning. We didn't live very far away (it was only about a ten minute walk), but it felt so long to me because it took me along boring suburban roads with no sidewalks, through a park with a hole cut into a fence, and then finally across two defunct asphalt tennis courts. It was boring, and therefore seemed much longer than the ten minutes it actually was, which meant that when it was offered I would often choose to hitch a ride in my mom's car.

All images were taken by me at the Walkability Exhibit at Urban Space Gallery, which features photographs by Katherine Child and graphic design by Mia Hunt. The exhibition was designed by Adam Zinzan-Harris.


  1. We're glad you liked it! The exhibit is also online at It will be up for the next two months and then it will be available to go on tour and be hosted by organizations around the city.

    You might also enjoy these posts from Regina Urban Ecology about walkability and interesting streets:

    Doors are Important:

    Where the Sidewalk Ends:

  2. Thanks a lot, Heather. Great to know this exhibit will be making the rounds.