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Monday, July 17, 2017

The Coming Tsunami of Bikes

Bike sharing has become a global phenomenon, with companies that didn’t even exist a few years ago, like Ofo, Mobike, and Bluegogo renting some 20 million bikes a day in China. And these private-sector companies are now coming to America. Renting in a little more than one day the number of bikes rented in the U.S. last year, these bike-sharing operations have a business model that floods cities with inexpensive bikes at a very low – or no - cost. Whether pervasive and nearly free bike sharing turns Americans into cyclists, it will have a huge impact on our streets and public realm, with more dedicated bike lanes, parking lots, and support infrastructure. This will change not only how Americans move around, but also how American cities look and function. Tom Fisher

Dutch Design

I spent a week in and around Amsterdam, Holland, getting my fill of one of the great cities of the world. Two things stood out as lessons for the United States. First, that city has made biking an integral part of its infrastructure, with streets layered with different paving for pedestrians, bikes, cars, and trams. While sometimes seemingly chaotic, those multi-modal streets are where the rest of the world is heading. Second, that city has some of the most sophisticated multi-family housing in the world, with mostly well-designed, multi-story buildings allowing for a wide variety of sizes and types of apartments, stores, and offices behind simple, well-detailed exteriors. The best of Dutch housing will be the subject of an exhibition next academic year in Rapson Hall. Tom Fisher

Design and the Liberal Arts

I gave a keynote address on design thinking and the liberal arts to the Associations of Departments of English and of Foreign Languages Midwest meeting and joined my colleagues Virajita Singh and Remi Douah in leading afternoon design-thinking workshops. The workshops generated a lot of creative ideas, such as the “gamification” of the liberal arts in which students would read literature in order to play educational games. And I argued, In the keynote, that while STEM fields have overshadowed the liberal arts, the former have triggered their own demise as repetitive and predictive knowledge gets converted to software. What can’t be digitized?  The creative and caring skills of a liberal-arts education.  Tom Fisher

Friday, April 21, 2017

Anti-terrorist urban design

As terrorist attacks continue to happen, most recently in Paris, we need think more creatively about how we respond to such attacks and what they mean for our cities. This piece in the magazine, World Finance, contains an interview with MDC Director, Thomas Fisher, about how urban design can offer some important anti-terrorism strategies.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Importance of Street Trees

This piece in Minneapolis's Star Tribune on the proper planting and care of street trees is part of a larger effort at the MDC on creating healthy communities, in which environmental, social, economic, and human health are inseparable and essential. Here is the link to the article:

Monday, December 5, 2016

skyways and streets

MDC Director wrote the following letter published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on December 5, 2016 in response to an editorial written about Eric Dayton's efforts to get people out of the downtown skyways and into the streets:

They are but one reason walkers opt against using street level

The point to make about Minneapolis’s skyways is not whether they are good or bad; they are, as the Star Tribune Editorial Board says, here to stay (“Find ways to improve skyways, streetscapes,” Nov. 28). The real issue is why Minneapolis has so many unpleasant streets. While the new Nicollet Mall, now under construction, will draw people out of the skyways, few other downtown streets ever will as long as they remain devoted to moving a maximum number of vehicles as fast as possible. We might learn from central Barcelona, Spain, in which through-traffic gets routed around “superblocks,” where the streets in multiblock areas provide vehicle access only to parking ramps, freeing up nearly 60 percent of the public right of way for pedestrians. Great cities have great streets, and if we want to be the former, we need more of the latter.

Tom Fisher, St. Paul

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Design Thinking Approach to Infrastructure

MDC Director, Thomas Fisher, was interviewed by Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns about the work that the MDC is doing to bring fresh ideas to our thinking about 21st century infrastructure. The podcast of the interview is available at: