25 Jane Jacobs Quotes by the Urban Activist

If you admire the work done by the urban activist, you’ll love these Jane Jacobs quotes.

Here, we have curated a list of the most authentic and inspiring Jane Jacobs quotes.

It can help you find your favorite Jane Jacobs quote.

Furthermore, this article also sheds some light on the early life and achievements of Jane Jacobs.

So, let’s dive in!

Who was Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs was a renowned author, urbanist, and activist.

She left a strong mark on the areas associated with urban planning.

With her impressive ideas, she challenged traditional ways of planning cities.

Early Life 

Jane Jacobs was born on May 4, 1916, in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Since her childhood, she has developed a keen interest in the ways cities were built.

Her life in New York City allows her to understand the diversity of a neighborhood and the dynamics of urban life. 

These experiences created a sense of curiosity in her mind, which led to her interest in urban planning.


Jane Jacobs is also known for her unique writing style.

In 1961, she published “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”.

This book served as a guide for urban planning. 

Through this publication, she criticized the contemporary style of urban renewal.

She further argued that it disregarded the needs and requirements of local communities.

Urban Activism

The ideas proposed by Jane Jacobs triggered the wave of urban activism.

It helped to introduce new changes to contemporary urban planning. 

She encouraged the people to actively engage in shaping their neighborhoods.

This helps implement their suggestion at the grass root level.

Jacobs also gained popularity as an influential figure.

She fought various high-profile battles against urban development projects against the will of communities. 

Urban Planning and Design

Jane Jacobs has also influenced urban planning through her activism. 

Her ideas allowed planners to try new urban planning practices.

This has helped us build people-centric and sustainable cities. 

She also emphasized the walkability and importance of preserving historic landmarks.

“Eyes on the Street” is one of her remarkable ideas, which relates to the complex ecosystems of current urban setups.

This idea has also influenced the urban designers and planners of her age.

Her legacy still continues to inspire urban planners looking for ways to develop human-centric cities.

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Top 5 Jane Jacobs Quotes 

Top Jane Jacobs quotes are presented in the following section so you have a clear insight into Jane Jacobs.

1. “You don’t get new products and services out of sameness.” — Jane Jacobs

2. “There is no new world that you make without the old world.” — Jane Jacobs

3. “Sentimentality about nature denatures everything it touches.” — Jane Jacobs

4. “Traffic congestion is caused by vehicles, not by people in themselves.” — Jane Jacobs

5. “I think that intelligent people, to a great extent, are captives of their time or place.” — Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs Quotes Regarding City 

Jacobs had also written a book about cities and had a closer look at city life. Here are some of his quotes about city and city life.

6. “Designing a dream city is easy; rebuilding a living one takes imagination.” — Jane Jacobs

7. “This is what a city is, bits and pieces that supplement each other and support each other.” — Jane Jacobs

8. “The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations.” — Jane Jacobs

9. “The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity.” — Jane Jacobs

10. “That the sight of people attracts still other people is something that city planners and city architectural designers seem to find incomprehensible. They operate on the premise that city people seek the sight of emptiness, obvious order, and quiet. Nothing could be less true. The presence of great numbers of people gathered together in cities should not only be frankly accepted as a physical fact… they should also be enjoyed as an asset and their presence celebrated.” — Jane Jacobs

Jacobs observed various old and new buildings in cities. His views about old Victorian and modern buildings can be seen in the following quotes.

11. “We expect too much of new‎ buildings, and too little of ourselves.” — Jane Jacobs

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12. “There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.” — Jane Jacobs

13. “The Victorian house and lots of other buildings weren’t oppressive in themselves. They were often very airy and gingerbread and fancy. But they were associated with all this [Victorian] stuffiness.” — Jane Jacobs

14. “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them…. for really new ideas of any kind–no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be–there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error, and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.” — Jane Jacobs

15. “Modernism really started with people getting infatuated with the idea of ‘it’s the twentieth century, is this suitable for the twentieth century.’ This happened before the First World War, and it wasn’t just the soldiers. You can see it happening if you read the Bloomsbury biographies. It was a reaction to a great extent against Victorianism. There was so much that was repressive and stuffy. Victorian buildings were associated with it, and they were regarded as very ugly. Even when they weren’t ugly, people made them ugly. They were painted hideously.” — Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs Quotes About America & Americans 

Jacobs interacted with the American system and people. He closely observed their life and thinking and presented his observations in the following quotes.

16. “Americans don’t really think that other places are as real as America.” — Jane Jacobs

17. “I am not any hate-America person. I really came here for positive reasons.” — Jane Jacobs

18. “Privately run jails are a mark of American ‘reinvented government’ that has been picked up by neoconservatives in Canada.” — Jane Jacobs

19. “Americans have got it so dinged into them that they are the most fortunate people on Earth and that the rest of the world – the sooner it copies what America is like, the better.” — Jane Jacobs

20. “I still have a lot of family in America. I still have a lot of friends there. There is a lot that I admire there very much. When I find America getting too much criticized outside America, I want to tell them how many things are good about it.” — Jane Jacobs

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Let’s check out some more Jane Jacobs thought-provoking quotes on culture, urbanism, and community building.

21. “Writing, printing, and the Internet give a false sense of security about the permanence of culture.” — Jane Jacobs

22. “Throughout the world, Dark Ages have scrawled finis to successions of cultures receding far into the past.” — Jane Jacobs

23. “Advanced cultures are usually sophisticated enough, or have been sophisticated enough at some point in their pasts, to realize that foxes shouldn’t be relied on to guard henhouses.” — Jane Jacobs

24. “The salient mystery of the Dark Ages sets the stage for mass amnesia. People living in vigorous cultures typically treasure those cultures and resist any threat to them. How and why can a people so totally discard a formerly vital culture that it becomes vitally lost?” — Jane Jacobs

25. “But look what we have built low-income projects that become worse centers of delinquency, vandalism, and general social hopelessness than the slums they were supposed to replace. Cultural centers that are unable to support a good bookstore. Civic centers that are avoided by everyone but bums. Promenades that go from no place to nowhere and have no promenaders. Expressways that eviscerate great cities. This is not the rebuilding of cities. This is the sacking of cities.” — Jane Jacobs

Which One of these Jane Jacobs Quotes is your Favorite? 

Jane Jacobs is a popular contributor to the field of urban activism. 

She proposed groundbreaking ideas which challenged conventional notions associated with city planning.

This helps promote a more human-centered approach while planning a city. 

Due to her struggles and contribution in this particular arena, Jane Jacobs gained unmatched popularity.

As a result, people share Jane Jacobs quotes to acknowledge her work.

The list of Jane Jacobs quotes provided above can help you find your favorite quote.

If you have found one, do share it with us via the comments section. 

We are looking forward to your reply.

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