New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Bicycle Brilliance

June 06, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Jay Walljasper

Greening Our Streets and Bringing Bicycling into the 21st Century

by Jay Walljasper

You can glimpse the future right now in forward-looking American cities — a few blocks here, a mile there where people riding bicycles are protected from rushing cars and trucks.

Chicago’s Kinzie Street, just north of downtown, offers a good picture of this transportation transformation.  New bike lanes are marked with bright green paint and separated from motor traffic by a series of plastic posts.  This means bicyclists glide through the busy area in the safety of their own space on the road.  Pedestrians are thankful that bikes no longer seek refuge on the sidewalks, and many drivers appreciate the clear, orderly delineation about where bikes and cars belong.

“Most of all this is a safety project,” notes Chicago’s Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein. “We saw bikes go up from a 22 percent share of traffic to 52 percent of traffic on the street with only a negligible change in motorists’ time, but a drop in their speeds. That makes everyone safer.”

Klein heralds this new style of bike lane as one way to improve urban mobility in an era of budget shortfalls. “They’re dirt cheap to build compared to road projects.” (more…)

Rebuilding the Commons

October 29, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Jay Walljasper

Principles and Practices for Reinvigorating Shared Spaces

by Jay Walljasper

Elinor Ostrom shared the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009 for her lifetime of scholarly work investigating how communities succeed or fail at managing common pool (finite) resources such as grazing land, forests and irrigation waters. Ostrom, a political scientist at Indiana University, received the Nobel Prize for her research proving the importance of the commons around the world. Her work investigating how communities co-operate to share resources drives to the heart of debates today about resource use, the public sphere, and the future of the planet. She is the first woman to be awarded the Nobel in Economics. (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…)

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…)