Tuesday, August 3, 2010

National Night Out - A Vitamin for our Neighborhoods

There might be no better proof of Jane Jacobs' thesis in The Death and Life of Great American Cities than National Night Out.

Tonight is National Night Out, and neighborhoods all over will have block parties and neighborhood watch meetings. It is a nationwide, organized event that attempts to introduce and then reproduce the street and neighborhood conditions that lead to public safety and to thriving city life. What had occurred naturally in good cities must now be organized voluntarily and deliberately - in large part because we have systematically eliminated the four generators diversity.

National Night Out is a giant nutritional supplement for our city life whose diet is missing something!

Let's return to what Jacobs said about sidewalks and public safety:
The first thing to understand is that the public peace - the sidewalk and street peace - of cities is not kept primarily by the police, necessary as police are. It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.

A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted street is apt to be unsafe....there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space....Second, there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street....And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers.
So get out, meet your neighbors, bike around to the next neighborhood over! Make the streets a vital meeting place!

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