Quote: A Classic – The Sidewalk Ballet by Jane Jacobs


Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with improvisations.

          – Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities



  1. I’m not sure I get this, but it made me think, which I guess is part of the purpose?

  2. Of course everything is meant to make you think 🙂

    This excerpt is an extended metaphor comparing pedestrian use as a dance. Jacobs advocates pedestrians as an element that gives life to the city. Something so vital was being overlooked with urban development so she was active in grassroots movements in New York City. To compare, think of how suburbs don’t facilitate walkability and therefore often appear bland and lifeless with its absence of pedestrians.

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