New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Transforming City Life

July 06, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Jay Walljasper

Pedestrianizing Urban Space and Undoing the ‘Auto-cracy’

by Jay Walljasper

I am perplexed by the almost complete lack of pedestrian districts in North America.  Why is it that car-free streets — designed for pleasurable strolling, shopping, and hanging out — which have become as common as stoplights or McDonald’s in European city centers, are almost non-existent here?

I’ve only seen a few — a couple of blocks in downtown Boston, Rue Prince Arthur in Montreal, Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and short stretches of downtown streets in college towns like Boulder, Ithaca, Iowa City, Charlottesville, and Burlington, Vermont.  (A glance at Wikipedia turns up a few more, although I notice many on the list, like the Nicollet Mall here in Minneapolis, are not truly car-free.) (more…)

Whose Streets?

March 31, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Jay Walljasper, Politics

A Battle Rages Over Bikes and Pedestrians in New York City

by Jay Walljasper

A controversy over the commons has erupted in the streets of New York. At issue are the streets themselves, which in principle belong to everyone. But some New York drivers don’t want to start sharing them with pedestrians and bikes.

New York is America’s least auto-dependent city — more than half of all households do not even own a car (75 percent don’t in Manhattan). And the city is nearly flat as a pancake.

So New York ought to be a paradise for biking and walking. Well, except for the traffic, which is world-famous for being treacherous. Yet over the past four years, the city’s death rate from traffic accidents has dropped to its lowest level since cars invaded the streets a century ago — and that includes the lives of motorists as well as bike riders and pedestrians. (more…)

Less Parking, More Parks

February 18, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Jay Walljasper

They Paved Paradise — Can We Unearth It?

by Jay Walljasper

“Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it,” Mark Twain once quipped.

And the same could be said about the lack of public space in most cities, where the majority of  non-private property is taken up by highways, streets, and parking spaces.

In downtown San Francisco cars claim 70 percent of public space, which is what finally prodded a gang of artists to stop complaining and start doing something.

One fine day in 2005, they plugged the meters at a few  downtown parking spaces, rolled out 200 feet of sod, set up chairs and sat down to enjoy San Francisco’s newest “park.” (And somewhere Samuel Clemens, who started signing his articles “Mark Twain” while working in San Francisco, was smiling.) (more…)

Bikesharing in the U.S.

January 30, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Jay Walljasper

Minneapolis Program Demonstrates Successful Model

by Jay Walljasper

For all those who dismissed bike sharing as a woolly-headed European idea that would never work on the mean streets of U.S. cities, the success of the first season of the Minneapolis Nice Ride bike program will come as a surprise.

700 public bikes hit the streets in June at 65 stations, and they were taken for more than 100,000 rides until put away for the winter in mid-November. 1300 people signed up for an annual membership and 30,000 signed up for a $5 daily pass with the swipe of a credit card.

But the numbers that may be more significant for the future of bike sharing are three, two and none. That’s the number of bikes vandalized, the number of bikes stolen and the numbers of injuries reported. This conclusively answers numerous skeptics who thought that sharing bikes would never work here in the individualistic, auto-crazed USA. (more…)