The Citistates Group presents

Thank you for reading This website is no longer being updated, as of October 2013. We invite you to visit our new site at

Archive: Jay Walljasper

The Surprising Rise of Minneapolis as a Top Bike Town

Jay Walljasper / Oct 22 2011

For Release Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jay Walljasper

Minneapolis’s Midtown Greenway is popular with both commuters and recreational bikers.

People across the country were surprised last year when Bicycling magazine named Minneapolis America’s “#1 Bike City”, beating out Portland, Oregon, which had claimed the honor for many years. Shock that a place in the heartland could outperform cities on the coasts was matched by widespread disbelief that biking was even possible in a state famous for its ferocious winters.

But this skepticism fades with a close look at the facts. Close to four percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work, according to census data. That’s an increase of almost 33 percent since 2007, and 500 percent since 1980.

At least one-third of those commuters ride at least some days during the winter, according to federally funded research conducted by Bike Walk Twin Cities. Even on the coldest days about one-fifth are out on their bikes.
Read More »

Across Generations: Words of the Commons to Inspire

Jay Walljasper / Jan 22 2011

For Release Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jay Walljasper

“I believe that for all of our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

These words from President Obama struck a chord with many Americans, even those — on both the right and left — who remain skeptical of his policies on health care, war, economic policy, the role of government and more.

He touched many of us, still reeling from the Tucson tragedy, when he eulogized 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green as “a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday too she might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.”
Read More »

Barcelona’s Streets: The Supreme Public Life Of a Great City

Jay Walljasper / Oct 24 2010

For Release Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jay WalljasperBARCELONA — Once dismissed as a grimy, dull town, this Mediterranean city is now mentioned in the same breath as Paris, London and Rome as a must-see destination for anyone seeking to experience Europe at its best. What happened?

The city sports gorgeous architecture, both in the charming tangle of medieval streets and turn-of-the-19th-Century masterpieces by Antonin Gaudi and other geniuses of the Modernisme movement. The Mediterranean Sea splashes right at its doorstep, creating a vibrant downtown waterfront where you can stroll past a harbor full of tall-mast sailboats and broad beaches crowded with well-toned sunbathers. Barcelona is ringed with mountains, laced with Parisian-style boulevards and dotted with lively nightspots. And there’s no doubt — the 1992 Summer Olympics and an outpouring of civic inventiveness has boosted its international reputation by leagues in the last two decades.

But what struck me as its greatest asset on a recent visit was the exuberant public life that sweeps everyone up in the festivities. Read More »

Cycling to Success: Lessons from the Dutch

Jay Walljasper / Sep 23 2010

For Release Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jay WalljasperI joined a team of latter-day explorers in the Netherlands this month on a quest to discover what American communities can learn from the Dutch about transforming bicycling in the United States from the largely recreational pastime it is today to an integral part of our transportation system.

Patrick Seidler, vice-chairman of the Bikes Belong Foundation, sponsor of this fact-finding mission for transportation officials from the San Francisco Bay Area, announced we were in search of the “27 percent solution” — the health, environmental, economic and community benefits gained in a nation where more than a quarter of all daily trips are made on bicycle.

Of course, the bicycle enjoys certain advantages in the Netherlands, notably a flat landscape and a long cycling tradition.
Read More »

Detroit City Limits

Jay Walljasper / Aug 12 2010

For Release Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jay WalljasperAs the son of a geography teacher, who spent endless hours of my youth poring over maps, I’ve always been fascinated with border lines. As a kid I imagined that crossing from, say, Nevada into California, would offer an immediate change of scenery from desert to Redwood trees.

I later discovered that off the map, the world is not so dramatic. At least that’s what I thought until recently when I visited Detroit with a team of seasoned urban observers from the Citistates Group. We were meeting with the Kresge Foundation about its ambitious plans for revitalizing the city, and two Kresge program officers — Wendy Jackson and Benjamin Kennedy — graciously offered to give us a tour. Despite big hopes for the Detroit, the two of them — who both live right in the city — did not spare us the sight of utterly devastated neighborhoods where most of the houses and people are long gone.

Stretches of Detroit look like an urban ghost town, with only two or three houses remaining on a block. But we also saw neighborhoods alive with people and well-kept businesses or homes: downtown, the midtown area around Wayne State University, the Indian Village historic district, Northwest Detroit, Lafayette Park and others.
Read More »

What If The Next Round of “Recalls” Targeted Defective Urban Planning?

Jay Walljasper / Apr 16 2010

For Release Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jay Walljasperl

What if mistakes in urban design and policy could be “recalled” – just like a broken gas pedal on a Toyota? City streets turned dangerous speedways declared obsolete and dangerous? Local zoning codes shelved where they bar the building of livable, walkable communities? Blank, dull building walls sent back to their unthinking architects for a second, smarter try?

The idea sounds facetious. But let’s face it: Misguided planning decisions can pose the same kind of safety risks to people as malfunctioning consumer products. And they’re dangerous to the livability, the environment and the prosperity of urban areas, too.

So why not recalls? This idea began as a joke, cracked by my Project for Public Spaces (PPS) colleague Ethan Kent as we sat around the office brainstorming ideas for the annual April Fools edition of our newsletter. But the more we thought about it, the more made sense. Right now, with the American economy in need of further stimulus, what better time to “recall” defective urban planning and go for some smart fresh starts?

So here are some news flashes we should watch for:

Read More »