Tuesday 28 April 2015

Jane’s Walk: Take a walk where you live

Six hundred people will go on 21 walking tours around Singapore this weekend as part of the global Jane’s Walk movement
By Gurveen Kaur, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2015

Singapore’s scorching heat has not put off a growing number of residents who are signing up to pound the pavements and explore the city on foot.

Global movement Jane’s Walk returns from Friday to Sunday for its third annual edition of free volunteer-led walking tours. More than half of the 21 tours here have been fully booked since registration opened on April 7, while the eight remaining tours are filling up quickly.

The tours have close to doubled from 11 last year. Four tours were conducted in 2013.

Among the tours still available are a walk along the Green Corridor – the nature-filled former KTM railway land – and another to learn about the changing urban landscape of Singapore’s first satellite public housing estate, Queenstown.

Other new tours offered this year are a leisurely dog walk in the Tanglin Road and Dempsey Hill area and, for those who are up for a challenge, a jog through the city’s park connectors from Geylang to Gardens by the Bay. Avid cyclists are welcome to ride along. For history buffs, there are tours of neighbourhoods such as Bishan and Clemenceau Avenue.

Ms Mai Tatoy, 45, organiser of Jane’s Walk in Singapore, says the walks have been gaining popularity. “Even before I attempted to reach out to media outlets to promote the event, some tours were already fully booked,” she says.

Jane’s Walk, which takes place this weekend in more than 130 cities worldwide, began in Toronto in 2007 to honour Jane Jacobs, a CanadianAmerican urban design activist who died in 2006, aged 89. Jacobs had advocated walking as a way to get to know a city. Every May on the weekend closest to May 4 – Jacobs’ birthday – volunteers in different cities introduce participants to the myriad facets of the city’s neighbourhoods.

Ms Tatoy says: “The walks are a way for city dwellers to be a tourist in their own city and learn the history and stories behind an urban space.”

After attending a walking tour of Joo Chiat last year, freelance tour guide Charlotte Chu is back for more – not as a participant, but as a walk leader. She will be guiding a heritage tour titled Walking In The Footsteps Of Our Foremothers, which is fully booked. It takes participants along Waterloo and Victoria streets and Stamford Road, with Ms Chu pointing out various landmarks related to pioneer women and telling their stories.

The 53-year-old says there is no better way to explore a city than by foot: “The objective of Jane’s Walk is great as it’s all about getting people to step out and explore the city on foot, something many residents will not do on their own typically.”

An ardent supporter of Jane’s Walk is the Singapore Heritage Society, which has helped by recommending walk leaders. The society’s president, Dr Chua Ai Lin, says: “Hopefully, it inspires participants to pay greater attention to their surroundings and learn about the stories behind them.”

Participants can sign up for the walks online via ticketing platform Peatix. Each tour can take 15 to 35 people on a first-come-first-served basis. Ms Tatoy expects 600 people to attend the walks this year, double the number who participated last year.

Film-maker Ashima Thomas, 35, will be going for two tours – a first for her as she has never been on a guided walking tour before.

She says: “The tours sound intriguing and will be a good way to learn about my home. I like the idea of walking to learn more about a city. You might just stumble upon hidden secrets lurking in lanes or meet a resident who can share more about the area. It is an experience you won’t get sitting in a tour bus.”

For more details, go to janeswalk.org/singapore/singapore/ and sign up at peatix.com/user/721159

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