New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Less Waste/Waist

April 16, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Jay Walljasper, Politics

Everyone Benefits When More People Bike and Walk

by Jay Walljasper

For the past year powerful voices around Washington have singled out programs to improve biking and walking as flagrant examples of wasteful government spending.

Since last summer, proposals have flown around the Capitol to strip away all designated transportation funds for biking and walking — even though biking and walking account for 12 percent of all trips across America but receive only 1.6 percent of federal funding.

But last week the U.S. House of Representatives — the hotbed of opposition to bike and walking as well as transit programs — voted to extend the current surface transportation bill for another three months, saving the funding of bike and ped programs. The Senate followed two hours later. (This marks the ninth extension of the existing transportation bill since 2009 and another victory for the growing movement to ensure federal support for biking and walking projects.) (more…)

Down on the Corner

September 19, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Jay Walljasper

Neighborhoods Are Defined by What’s in Store

by Jay Walljasper

It’s undeniably fun to write each week about what’s happening in cities around the world, chronicling trends like bikesharing, cool new public spaces and crowdsourcing.  But it’s not all glamour.

A lot of what makes a great place to live is actually quite prosaic: sidewalks and sewer pipes, fire and police protection, effective public officials and dedicated citizens.

And, oh yes, corner groceries.

I’m serious. No neighborhood will be truly vibrant if you must drive a mile or two or more every time you need eggs and espresso beans. Commerce is the lifeblood of any community but even the best bookstore or a knock-your-socks-off vintage fashion boutique can wholly compensate for the lack of a food store.  (more…)

Open the Streets

July 29, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Jay Walljasper

Cities Thrive by Going Footloose and Car-Free

by Jay Walljasper

Imagine diverting traffic from a major street in your neighborhood, then welcoming families on bikes, families on foot, babies in strollers, people in wheelchairs, toddlers on training wheels, grade schoolers on skateboards, teenagers on single-speeds, hipsters on fixed gears, grandparents on recumbents, couples arm-in-arm and even yoga classes in the middle of the road. What would happen?

If your neighborhood is anything like mine — which I am sure it is — get ready for a massive outbreak of smiles.

A few Sundays ago, Minneapolis debuted its first “Open Streets Ciclovia” by closing busy Lyndale Avenue for 2.3 miles south of downtown between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Despite relentlessly overcast skies, an estimated 5000-7000 people hit the street to walk, bike, look, talk, giggle, dance, eat, and thoroughly enjoy themselves. (more…)

Taking Back Our Food

July 21, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Jan Lundberg

Dealing with Hunger and the Land

by Jan Lundberg

The housing crisis — foreclosures, homelessness, renters cutting rents, disappearance of credit, slowdown in construction and home-buying — has gotten much more attention than the food crisis. The growth economy and Wall Street’s “financial instruments” have been more important to corporate media and politicians beholden to their more affluent constituents. And rising hunger can be silent, for a time.

But food is coming on strong as more serious: people can double up in a bed to stretch housing, but a plate of food split two ways means two still-hungry people. One billion people already go without sufficient food daily, a 1-7 ratio. In the U.S. it is 1-6, with record high Food Stamp reliance. One in four U.S. children are “food security at risk” (hungry). Trends indicate things will get worse before they get better: in the U.S., soaring farm values reflect that crop prices have risen because demand for food is growing around the world, while the supply of arable land is shrinking. In Iowa, 25 percent of farmland buyers are investors, double the proportion 20 years ago. (more…)

Expanding Bike Programs

June 15, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Jay Walljasper

A Modest Proposal in a Time of Shrinking Budgets, Soaring Gas Prices

by Jay Walljasper

Gas prices have raced toward four bucks for the second time in three years. So it’s more crucial than ever to find quick, enduring ways to free our nation from over-dependence on oil.

Millions of Americans suffer when prices at the pump rise, because they have no alternative to driving almost everywhere they go. We need to create a transportation system that will not be held hostage by volatile fuel prices.

Here’s some good news: Over the past few years, simple infrastructure improvements (bike paths, lanes, etc) making it more convenient and safe for people to bike and walk have been constructed coast-to-coast. Cities from New York to Minneapolis to San Francisco have enjoyed 100 percent or more increases in the number of people biking to work, school, and shopping. (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…)