Jay Walljasper

12 Reasons Bicycling Will Continue to Soar in Popularity

For too long biking has been viewed skeptically as a white-people thing, a big city thing, an ultra-fit athlete thing, a twenty-something thing, a warm weather thing or an upper-middle-class thing. And above all else, it's seen as a guy thing.

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Bike Breakthrough: Connecting Neighborhoods with Low-Stress Routes

For me, a good bike ride is both relaxing and stimulating—a chance to revel in the passing scenery as I feel the wind blow across my face. But I never expected to experience this in New York City. Navigating Brooklyn and a bit of Manhattan on two wheels for the first time was a sublime surprise. Instead of constantly peering over my shoulder fearful of cars speeding toward me, I actually savored the street life all around while pedaling through town.

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New York's Interference Archive Is the Smithsonian of Resistance

When the latest barrage of bad news out of Washington batters your hope for the future, it’s time to plan a trip to Interference Archive in Brooklyn.

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Philadelphia Story: An Ambitious Campaign to Spread Opportunity Into All Corners of the City

For decades the “Philadelphia Story” was about steady economic decline. That story is being rewritten today as many Americans rediscover the advantages of cities—inviting public spaces, rich cultural diversity and a creative environment that fertilizes start-ups and attracts talent.

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The Surprising Positive Power of Walking

Many things leap to mind when someone mentions walking: fitness, fun, fresh air, relaxation, friends and maybe your most comfortable pair of shoes.  But a word that rarely arises is “power”.

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A More Equitable Economy Exists Right Next Door

Business owners gather at an elegant Montreal event center to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a large-scale economic partnership.  The former chief of Quebec’s largest bank is the guest of honor.

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How One Farm Is Reinventing Agriculture for Better Food and a Brighter Future

Old McDonald of E-I-E-I-O fame would feel right at home on Essex Farm, a 600-acre spread in upstate New York where the future of American agriculture is being radically reconceived. 

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Healthy Snack Invented on Indian Reservation Now Faces Stiff Corporate Competition

The Pine Ridge Indian reservation is not the first place you’d look for good news about creating a new kind of economy that works for everyone. This corner of South Dakota includes several of the poorest counties in America, according to census figures. Ninety-seven percent of Pine Ridge’s Lakota Indian population lives below the federal poverty line, reports the American Indian Humanitarian Foundation. The unemployment rate is well over 50 percent.

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Walking Makes Strides in All Kinds of Communities

Imagine living in one of America’s great walkable communities. Your day begins with a stroll—saying hi to neighbors, noticing blooming gardens and enticing shop windows, maybe stopping for a treat on your way to work.  

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The Surprising 'Medicine' Your Doctor Might Prescribe at Your Next Check-Up

Everyone knows walking is good for you. It’s plain common sense, backed by a wealth of recent medical research. In fact, a major new study found that lack of physical activity is twice as deadly for us as obesity.  

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Health Benefits of Walking Are So Huge, Let’s Make Sure Everyone Can Do It

Mounting evidence that a daily walk helps prevent a host of serious diseases is beginning to influence debates about health care, community vitality, poverty, race and opportunity.

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11 Steps to A Healthier Life

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's recent Call to Action made it clear that walking is the best way for most people to stay healthy and fit. Here’s how to do it more often and make it more enjoyable. (Murthy will be among the many speakers and participants from all walks of life at the 2nd National Walking Summit to be held in Washington, D.C. Oct. 28-30.)  

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Let's Make America a Healthier Place and Start Walking

Walking is moving fast these days.

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How to Rejuvenate a Rural Community

It’s like a small-town scene from Norman Rockwell, updated for the 21st century.

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The Big Shift Needed for Humanity to Protect the Earth: Restore the Commons

At a time when ecological destruction is more dire than ever, the work of protecting the planet depends on dreamers just as much as of scientists, activists, public officials and business leaders.

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What America’s Most Walkable Suburb Can Teach Towns Everywhere

Suburban life has always been synonymous with long hours in the car-- going to work, school, the grocery store, the mall, soccer practice and friends’ homes. Some people even drive to take a walk.

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Walking: The Secret Ingredient for Health, Wealth and More Exciting Neighborhoods

Over recent decades, walking has come to be widely viewed as a slow, tiresome, old-fashioned way to get around. But that’s changing now as Americans recognize that traveling by foot can be a health breakthrough, an economic catalyst, and the route to happiness.

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The Incredible Benefits of Humankind's Most Basic Form of Exercise - Walking

Walking is going places. 

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The Little Thing Our Cities Can Do to Inspire Millions More People to Bike

You can see big changes happening across North America as communities from Fairbanks to St. Petersburg transform their streets into appealing places for people, not just cars and trucks.

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Why Walking Is a Wonder Drug for Your Health

The following is excerted from the booklet Walking As a Way of Life: Movement for Health & Happiness.

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What Bike Lanes Are Teaching Communities About About Race and Equity

Rev. Kenneth Gunn’s ministry at Chicago’s Bread of Life Church covers both the Bible and bicycles. He organized a bike club that regularly rides from the South Side church to Lake Michigan and along the Lakefront Trail. In his spare time, Gunn repairs donated bikes that he gives to kids in the predominantly African-American neighborhood.

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Save the Planet, Starting on Your Own Block

After 40 years of what felt like progress in protecting our environment, the ecological crisis now seems to be worsening. Climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, is heating up. The massive exploitation of the tar sands in Canada might be the tipping point, from which we can never return. Fracking for natural gas and oil threatens underground water supplies. The oceans are being massively overfished. Species extinction is accelerating.

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How to Reclaim Public Spaces for the People Who Use Them

The following are excerpts from On the Commons' new eBook, "How to Design Our World for Happiness" by Jay Walljasper: 
Poor People Need Public Places the Most
It’s easy to dismiss rising interest in public spaces as something that only the wealthy can afford to worry about. But take a look at any bustling place anywhere in the world—from the markets of Africa and Asia to the squares of Latin America to the street corners of Europe and North America—and you’ll find it’s low-income people who depend on public spaces the most.
Enrique Peñalosa—former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia—notes that rich people enjoy the pleasures of big homes, backyards, private clubs, and country houses. Poor people have only their local street to hang out in—and if they’re lucky, a park, library, or playground nearby. He made public spaces the centerpiece of his administration (see “How to Design Our Cities for Happiness”). Since leaving office he has become a globe-trotting ambassador helping out cities from Jakarta (Indonesia) to Dakar (Senegal) improve life for their citizens. 
“Public spaces create a different type of society,” he asserts. “A society where people of all income levels meet in public spaces is a more integrated, socially healthier one.”
The proliferation of autos, and the low social rank afforded anyone who doesn’t drive is an issue all across the developing world, notes Lisa Peterson, formerly with the New York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). “Cars are seen as status for people. Big, fast roads are seen as status for cities. That is still the idea of progress in many places.”
Peterson sees a number of signs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that people are realizing it’s a mistake to pursue the same kind of auto-dominated development that has created environmental problems and eroded the vitality of public life in the West. The World Bank has backed off from its autooriented development guidelines, while cities like Bogotá and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania provide new models of urban development with an emphasis on transit and bicycles A number of places are also creating pedestrian districts. 
“People in the U.S. now recognize there are problems with building cities for cars and not for people,” Enrique Penalosa says, “and we in the Third World need to know that.”
***
Build on What’s Good to Make Things Better in Struggling Communities
The biggest problem in many communities—especially low-income ones— is caused by perception more than reality. A part of town gets the reputation for being “tough,” or “declining,” which is constantly reinforced in the media and local gossip A negative incident happening there is widely reported as more evidence of “social breakdown,” whereas the same thing occurring in another place would be thought of as “an unfortunate event” and quickly forgotten.
Making things worse, many well-intentioned efforts to help these afflicted areas wind up stigmatizing the community even more. The whole focus is on everything that’s wrong: bad schools, bad crime, bad housing, bad gangs, bad economic opportunities. Even the people who live there come to feel negative about where they live and helpless to do anything to change things It’s all just bad. Yet even in the most economically and socially challenged communities, there are a lot of good things going on—shared dreams, community assets, and ways that people come together. These are the building blocks to make things better.
On paper, things looked bleak for the Grand Boulevard neighborhood in Chicago in the early ‘90s Eighty percent of children there lived in poverty, and a third of adults were unemployed. Yet below the surface, not visible in government statistics or a quick drive down its rundown streets, there was reason for hope.
This largely African-American community of 36,000 on the city’s South Side was home to no less than 320 citizens groups working to improve life in the neighborhood 
Grand Boulevard’s residents were not just hapless victims waiting for someone from the outside to rescue them; they were taking matters into their own hands. These community groups—which ranged from church committees to senior citizen centers to mothers’ support groups—were mostly involved in the basic caretaking such as providing support for single mothers or taking in children whose parents were in prison.
Eventually many of these groups organized themselves into the Grand Boulevard Federation, which started addressing more complex issues such as creating jobs in the neighborhood and improving social services. They formed partnerships with government agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses, such as United Parcel Service, which reserved 50 part-time jobs for Grand Boulevard residents needing to get back on their feet. This made a difference in Grand Boulevard—both in concrete economic and social measures, but also the community’s own faith that they can solve their problems.
“For the last 40 or 50 years we have been looking at communities in terms of their needs,” says Jody Kretzmann, co-director of the Asset Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University.
“We have run into a brick wall with that approach.” Kretzmann and his colleague John McKnight of Northwestern pioneered a new approach to urban problems that starts with looking at the assets that exist in a community, rather than just looking at what’s wrong. This empowers people, Kretzmann says, drawing on the abilities and insight of local residents to solve a neighborhood’s own problems. This does not mean, he is careful to note, that troubled neighborhoods don’t need outside help Kretzmann suggests all local revitalization projects begin with an assets inventory—which can be as simple as a list of what’s good about the neighborhood Solicit the opinions of everyone, including youngsters and senior citizens, when compiling your list.
Jim Diers, a veteran activist who has held workshops throughout Seattle to help residents improve their neighborhoods, says, “The assets a neighborhood can build on range from natural features to a school playground, great stores, networks, organizations, artists, and the whole range of human and financial resources, energy, creativity, and ideas. Whether it’s a restaurant with especially delicious food, a gigantic cedar tree, or a longtime resident, a neighborhood treasure is something that makes us glad we live where we do.”
***
The Perplexing Absence of Pedestrian Streets in America
I am bewildered by the almost complete lack of pedestrian streets in North America Why is it that carfree commons—designed for pleasurable strolling, shopping, and socializing—which have become typical 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. (A glance at Wikipedia turns up a few more, although I 
notice many on the list are not truly car-free.)
Look what we’re missing. The heart of most notable German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Scandinavian, and, increasingly, South American cities are bustling pedestrian zones.They stand out as favorite spots for young people to gather, lovers to linger, kids to romp, women to show off their new clothes (and discreetly admire the looks of passers-by), men to admire the looks of passers-by (and discreetly show-off their new clothes), and everybody to feel part of the wider community This is the urban commons at its best.
Our one widespread experiment in reclaiming the streets—the downtown transit malls of the ’60s and ’70s—failed in most cases. That’s because they were usually narrow, last-ditch measures to recessitate fading stores overwhelmed by suburban flight and new shopping malls, rather than efforts to reinvigorate the downtown as a whole Another factor in transit malls’ failure is that most were not actually pedestrian places—big buses rumbling up and down the avenue squelched the carefree, car-free ambience that fosters exuberant street life.
But I am happy to report that I discovered a genuine Euro-style ped street in the most unlikely spot: Calgary, Alberta—a sprawling city whose economy depends, ironically, on the petroleum industry. Yet right in the center of its downtown, among glass skyscrapers and traffic-choked five-lane avenues, you can happily wander five blocks down the middle of Stephen Avenue, passing sidewalk cafes and swank shops, playful public art, and bustling public spaces, unencumbered by cars or trucks during the daytime. (Local residents were no doubt glad to get back to their beloved pedestrian street after the flood waters receded this summer.)
Stephen Avenue proves: If you keep out the cars, the pedestrians will come. The notion that cars are the Kings of the Road is a relatively new attitude. For almost all of human history, the city street functioned as a vital commons welcoming all—it’s where carriages and streetcars traveled but also where youngsters played, teens flirted, dogs slept, and everyone else chatted with their friends. That all changed between the 1920s and the 1960s, depending where you lived, as motor vehicles 
claimed these commons for their exclusive use. 
Still, I am noticing a few signs that this auto-cracy may be weakening, even in North America. The growth of traffic calming and bike lanes means that motorists are learning how to share the road. And many of us are getting a foot back in the street thanks to modest pedestrian projects being created—a block here or a half-block there in spots like Atlanta; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Rochester, Minnesota; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Don’t underestimate what can arise from these small beginnings Even a short stretch of car-free pavement empowers people on foot to realize the road belongs to them too. Jan Gehl, the influential Danish urban designer who helped create Copenhagen’s pioneering pedestrian district in the 1960s, counsels people to start small and add to it bit by bit through the years.
***
Green Lanes Get More People on Bikes
You can glimpse the future right now in forward-looking American cities—a few blocks here or a mile there, where people riding bicycles on busy streets are protected from rushing cars and trucks. These new projects go a long way toward reclaiming North American streets as commons belonging to everyone.
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.”
People on bikes around the world feel more safe and comfortable on busy streets with a physical barrier between them and motor vehicles In some places it’s a plastic post or line of parked cars. In others it’s a curb, planter, or slightly elevated bike lane But no matter what separates people on bikes from people in cars, the results are hefty increases in the number and variety of people bicycling.
“We’ve seen biking almost triple on parts of 15th Street NW since installing a protected bike lane,” reports Jim Sebastian, Active Transportation Project Manager for the District of Columbia. “And we’re seeing different kinds of cyclists beyond the Lycra crowd People in business suits, high heels, families out 
for a ride, more younger and older people.”
Five years ago, these designs were barely on the horizon in the U S , although they’ve been standard in Europe for decades. “Today, cities across the country are looking to green lanes to tame busy streets,” says Martha Roskowski, director of the Green Lane Project, which is showcasing the potential of this 21st Century innovation in six U S cities: Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco, Portland (OR), Austin, and Memphis. 
“The idea is to create the kind of bike networks that will attract the 60 percent of all Americans who say they would bike more if they felt safer,” says Randy Neufeld, a longtime bike advocate in Chicago who is Director of the SRAM Cycling Fund. “It’s about helping people from 8 to 80 to feel safe biking on city streets.”
Many cities are paying particular attention to make sure that low-income and minority communities—where many families don’t own cars and others are financially strapped by the rising costs of operating one—have access to state-of-the-art biking facilities. Danny Solis—a Latino alderman representing a district on Chicago’s West Side with a high percentage of Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans—says good bike lanes are important to improving public safety and economic vitality in lower-income communities. “It increases interaction between neighbors, which is a boost for businesses 
and keeps the gangbangers away.”
Encouraging more people to ride bikes offers substantial rewards for all Americans (whether they ride a bike or not) by using streets more efficiently to move people and offering an economical choices in transportation along with addressing looming problems such as the obesity epidemic and volatile fuel prices. And it gets even better from there—the more people ride, the more benefits we’ll all see.
***
4 Ways Government Can Spark a Self-Help Revolution
Politicians and activists devoted to deep slashes in government spending have an easy answer when asked what happens to people whose lives and livelihoods depend on public programs. They point to volunteerism—the tradition of people taking care of each other, which has sustained human civilization for millennia,
It’s an attractive idea, which evokes the spirit of the commons. Volunteers working largely outside the realm of government—neighborhood organizations, local fire brigades, blood banks, and other civic initiatives—are obvious examples of commons-based sharing and caring.
Theoretically you could picture a society based upon strong incentives for everyday citizens to provide the services now provided by federal, state, and local governments—everything from police protection to the Public Health Service. To actually create such a society, however, would mean some sweeping changes to current economic and social policies.
To truly encourage widespread volunteerism, we’d need to make sure that everyone (not just the wellto-do) have the time to do it Most people today working longer hours for less pay are frantic just to get through the day Finding extra time in their crunched schedules to manage upkeep at the local park or take care of elderly neighbors looks impossible.
Here are four ways we could create a strong society based on America’s great tradition of volunteerism:
  • Dramatically expanded vacation time and family-leave benefits, and the institution of a four-day workweek—along with stringent enforcement of overtime provisions for all people working more than 40 hours a week.
  • A return to the days of the family wage—the period before the 1970s when a middle-class household could get by on one worker’s wages. And unlike those days, minorities and low-wage workers would not be excluded from this social contract. Since we live in a different era now, it’s likely that many couples today would elect to both work half time. But any way you want to do it, this would trigger a volcanic eruption of volunteers.
  • A universal national health care system that goes beyond the insurance reforms of Obamacare.
  •  Most important of all would be a major boost in the minimum wage so that Americans at all rungs of the social ladder would not need to devote all their time and energy to paid work.
These kind of pro-volunteer, pro-commons policies also depend on government playing an important role: Enforcing vacation, family leave, work hours and minimum wage laws, as well as making sure everyone receives adequate health care coverage. Volunteers will not magically appear without positive measures to ensure that all people have time for the common good.

Life in the Green Lane: Protected Bike Lanes Transform the Experience of Riding

How to describe your first time in a green lane?  There’s nothing quite like it. 

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Ending Bikelash: Bicycling Surges Nationwide As Urbanites Support Bike Lanes and Bike-Sharing Programs

Former New York mayor Ed Koch envisioned bicycles as vehicles for the future. In 1980, he created experimental bike lanes on 6th and 7th avenues in Manhattan where riders were protected from speeding traffic by asphalt barriers. It was unlike anything most Americans had ever seen, and some people roared their disapproval. Within weeks, the bike lanes were gone.

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Why It's Time to Visit Motor City

For those of us who love cities in all their giddy gritty glory, the Motor City awaits.  Although struggling in recent decades Detroit still offers experiences you expect from a world-class city: heartstopping architecture, a bustling waterfront, topnotch art, convivial nightlife, great food, picturesque city squares, a jam-packed public market, memorable strolls and a spirit all its own.

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Unexpected Ways That Bicycling Is Proving a Boon for Business

“Biking is definitely part of our strategy to attract and retain businesses in order to compete in a mobile world,” says Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak as we glide across the Mississippi river on a bike-and-pedestrian bridge—one of two that connect downtown to the University of Minnesota. “We want young talent to come here and stay. And good biking is one of the least expensive ways to send that message.”

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I Might Be Disillusioned About Election 2012, But the Stakes for the Country Are Still Huge

As the presidential campaign reaches fever pitch—with Super Pac attacks appearing constantly on TV and both candidates sharpening their debate zingers—I feel guilty about my growing obsession with it all.

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The Great Resurgence of Public Spaces

It’s a dark and wintry night in Copenhagen, and the streets are bustling. The temperature stands above freezing, but winds blow hard enough to knock down a good share of the bicycles parked all around. Scandinavians are notorious for their stolid reserve, but it’s all smiles and animated conversation here as people of many ages and affiliations stroll through the city center on a Thursday evening.

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What Do Republicans Have Against Biking and Walking?

This story first appeared on Shareable.

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How Portland Is Planning to Become the First World-class Bike City in America

It’s become a cliché that Portland is America’s most livable city, a hotbed for innovative ways to support green policies, public spaces, pedestrian amenities, transit, and, of course, bicycles.  In fact some people are growing weary (and the rest of us envious) of hearing about how great things are in Oregon’s largest city.

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