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Bikes are Up, Traffic is Down in San Francisco

April 15th, 2014

City Leaders and Bike Advocates on Bike to Work Day. Traffic on Bay Bridge.

Many of us accept punishing traffic situations on a daily basis. Traffic can seem as inevitable as having to file your taxes every April. But while we haven’t figured out a better solution for the 1040 form, traffic is a problem that can be solved. Cities all over the world are being reconfigured to be more pedestrian friendly, limiting car traffic by a number of means, with amazing results. The latest news from the SF Chronicle is that commuter traffic has improved all over San Francisco in the past couple years, with fewer cars on the streets and shorter waits at lights. How did San Francisco manage to reduce automobile congestion? We made our streets better for bikes.

According to the Chronicle, car traffic is improving because more residents and commuters are choosing bicycles and public transit, and leaving their cars at home. The number of people biking in San Francisco has doubled since 2006, thanks to the advocacy of the SF Bike Coalition; the city’s improvements in bike infrastructure like green bike lanes, signals, and parking; and bikes like ours that are designed to be easy for all kinds of people to ride.

The new Bay Area Bike Share is a good “last mile” solution for transit riders to get to their final destination, and regional commuter train BART now allows people to bring their own bikes on board during peak commuting hours (finally!). There are many other forces at work to help solve the traffic problems, such as charging more for parking, creating pedestrian zones and congestion pricing, but bikes are proving to provide the most simple and affordable solution.

These bike-positive changes are happening all over the country, from big cities like ChicagoDC and New York to small towns like Edinburg, Texas. And no matter where you live, it’s a movement you can be part of. Joining a state or local bike advocacy group like the California Bike Coalition is a great way to start. And of course, choosing to ride a bike or take transit instead of driving a car is the easiest way you can curb traffic in your city.


Better City Spaces. Why Should it take an Earthquake?

April 4th, 2014

Across the world, people are waking up to the reality that cities designed for people are far better places to live than cities designed for cars. A recent article by Alissa Walker, “6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever” brings this point home with its opening case study, the Ferry Building in San Francisco, a perfect example of citizens taking back public spaces that were previously dominated by cars.

Today the Ferry Building is home to world-class restaurants, a bustling farmers’ market, and one of the city’s crown jewel public plazas. 25 years ago it was a different story, few people even knew it existed. The towering Embarcadero Freeway filled with honking and polluting automobile traffic blocked the spectacular waterfront views. A deplorable state of affairs that might have persisted if the “design firm” of Loma Prieta and Associates* hadn’t come along.

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake led to tragic loss of life and widespread destruction. After the tragedy, however, bloomed growth. The Embarcadero Freeway was destroyed beyond repair and instead of reverting to the status quo and simply rebuilding the freeway, enough forward-thinking city leaders championed and won the opportunity to transform the space into one of public revitalization—the vibrant and beautiful world-class marketplace we enjoy today.

Octavia Street, San Francisco. Before and After Central Freeway Teardown.

The Loma Prieta earthquake was also partially responsible for creating another terrific urban space in San Francisco, an oasis in the city along the Octavia Street corridor called Patricia’s Green after legendary urban activist Patricia Walkup. Stroll through Patricia’s Green on a Saturday fortified with a freshly whipped cone of Smitten ice-cream and consider that instead of the blue sky above, just over 10 years ago a concrete freeway would have been overhead. This gathering space in the middle of the thriving Hayes Valley neighborhood is where PUBLIC will be opening a new store this Spring.

San Francisco isn’t the only city making strides in reclaiming public space for the better. There are numerous examples of this all over the world. Naples, Italy, is a dense gritty city, yet when visiting there recently I found that their subways have become super clean art galleries.  In car-centric, freeway-focused, Los Angeles communities like Santa Monica are boldly converting streets to bike friendly corridors. New York City’s Highline, which we’ve written about before, is one of our favorite examples of reclaimed public space.

Call it Enlightened Urbanism, the Livable Cities Movement or just Common Sense, the fact is people are moving back to cities in record numbers and opting for an urban lifestyle where car travel isn’t daily and green space trumps the concrete-kind every time. We started PUBLIC as a way to contribute to this movement toward more livable cities, and we applaud all the countless others who are working toward these same goals. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. And we need your help to get there.

*There was of course no design firm lobbying to scrap the Embarcadero Freeway. Despite much public opposition local business fought to keep it in place.  The saga is a great read. We are fortunate that Mayor Art Agnos held his ground.

(For more on these issues, we recommend Jeff Speck’s book “Walkable City”, and Malcolm Gladwell’s talk “Place Matters” as two great places to start.)

Think The Unthinkable: Cities Without Cars

March 26th, 2014

CicLAvia 2013

It is not a stretch to conceive of a time — a few decades from now — when people look back on the 20th century and the onslaught of cars into our cities, and ask “what were they thinking?” After all, who would knowingly lay out cities to prioritize the rights of cars over the rights of people? Who would construct surface level parking lots over precious real estate and not put parking underground?

Fort Mason Parking Lot, San Francisco

Here is an example from my neighborhood, a swath of underutilized asphalt in San Francisco that looks out onto the gorgeous San Francisco Bay. This decision is almost as absurd as putting a prison—Alcatraz—on one of the most scenic islands in the world.

But making the world a better place for cars was pretty much what happened in most US cities in the 20th century, all fueled by low gasoline prices, and the “modern” belief that car mobility was more important than community building. If we were designing cities from scratch today, wouldn’t we park cars on the outskirts, employ efficient mass transit to move people quickly and conveniently, and keep the city human scale safe and friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists?

This inconvenient truth is becoming obvious as cities cope with increasing traffic, congestion, pollution, and a crumbling antiquated infrastructure. The adage “you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic” rings true in almost every city where the car dominates our public spaces.

The good news is that major change is afoot all around the world.

Groups as diverse as CicLAvia in Los Angeles and the city fathers in Hamburg, Germany both give us examples of how this problem is being confronted. Hamburg’s “Green Network Plan” goes so far as to call for a phase-out of automobiles in the center of the city altogether over the next two decades. The Hamburg concept is especially noteworthy because Germans love their cars almost as much as we do in the US. Read more here.

CicLAvia in Los Angeles and Sunday Streets in San Francisco are also great examples of how change is occurring in the US. These groups stage events all over the city, open streets for people, and encourage us to rethink our public spaces. These “open streets” initiatives have grown dramatically all over the world in a few years. The concept started in Bogotá, Colombia over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets.

You can support CicLAvia and Sunday Streets with a donations. We would love to get some customer pictures from anyone who participates in CicLAvia’s April 6 event on Wilshire Blvd. or Sunday Streets’ April 13 event in the Tenderloin.

The more you read about places like Hamburg and Open Streets groups like CicLAvia and Sunday Streets, the more you realize that the US is still playing catch up to most of the modern world when it comes to smart transportation design and Livable Cities. But perhaps our time has finally come as more people embrace Lewis Mumford’s ideal:

The chief function of the city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity.

Or as he put more succinctly, “Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.”

Meet Lisa: Our PUBLIC BionX Electric Bike Winner

March 21st, 2014

PUBLIC BionX Electric Bike E-Bike Contest Winner

She’s smiling because she’s the lucky winner of the PUBLIC BionX electric bike contest that just ended, and we just delivered the good news. (Thanks to all of you who entered the contest.)

We interviewed Lisa yesterday on how bikes fit into her life, and here are a few quotes:

“I commute every day on my bike and it has a lot of benefits, it’s really the fastest way I can get to my office. I could take a bus, but I’d have to walk ten minutes on both ends, and it would take 45 minutes instead of 15. I could drive, but parking is really hard these days, and really expensive.”

“There are three big hills on my commute, I always count ‘em… one more block, one more block, and sometimes I’m just not in the mood to do that last little push up the hill at the end of the day. So this e-bike is perfect! It enables me to go places I wouldn’t think about going on my bike.”

“Today I’m wearing nicer clothes because I had a meeting. I don’t want to arrive sweaty from my bike ride, so this will allow me to ride more leisurely, and look a little bit more professional. I like that.”

“I’m surprised at how much it’s just like riding a bike, but with a little bit of a boost. It just feels a little bit easier, and lighter. It’s nice! You have the benefit of the e-bike, but still have all the style, and the design, and the performance, of a regular bike. For me that’s pretty appealing.”

We’re thrilled that Lisa is so excited about her cool new electric commuter bike from PUBLIC. If you haven’t got to try one for yourself, we have test ride e-bikes at our San Francisco stores. You can come by any time to take one for a spin, and we also have a free overnight loaner program so you can take one home and see for yourself how much fun your commute could be.

Is Dog Your Copilot? Portraits of Pets Who Pedal

March 11th, 2014

Meliza and BuddyWe often have dogs hanging out with us at the PUBLIC store, and we know the only thing more fun than riding a bike, is a bike ride with a four-legged friend. That’s why we want to do a bike photo shoot that features our customers with their dogs – or any other bike-loving pets! Here are a few examples from Copenhagen Cycle Chic and one of our own. Whether or not you’re available for our March 29-30 shoot, please get in touch as we may schedule a few photo sessions. And if you don’t live near a PUBLIC store, but you know a dog who likes to bike, please send us a photo too. We love seeing your pet photos and if we gather some good ones, we’ll do a feature on our blog soon.

(Speaking of photos, we’re also looking for humans who bike for a spring photo shoot, the weekend of March 29-30. Learn more here.)

Casting Call: Show Us Your Bike Style

March 11th, 2014

Seeking Bike Models
At PUBLIC we design our bikes for all kinds of people. But if there’s one thing all PUBLIC owners have in common, it’s their personality and original sense of style.

So whenever we photograph our bikes we prefer to shoot them with our real customers and fans. You really make our bikes look great, just like we hope our bikes look good on you too.

We’re getting ready to debut a new spring collection of bikes and colors, so we’re once again reaching out to our community of PUBLIC owners and friends and inviting a few local Bay Area people to participate in a bike photo shoot at the end of March. If you’re available in the Bay Area on the weekend of March 29-30, have a good sense of humor, like riding bikes and being on camera, drop us a note at models@publicbikes.com.

Be sure to include some photos (headshots and full figure shots). We look for diversity. If you are selected, we’ll follow up in the next week, and everyone who participates will receive $150 in store credit and our promise to make the shoot a fun adventure. We’ll be shooting for one day that weekend in either San Francisco or in the East Bay.

If you want some more inspiration for your bicycle couture, Copenhagen Cycle Chic and The Sartorialist are a couple of our favorite places to start.

PS: Got a pet who loves to pedal? We’d like to do a photo shoot of dogs on bikes. Learn more here.

Internal Gears: What Makes Our Best Bikes Better

March 7th, 2014

PUBLIC Bikes C7i Shimano Nexus Internal Gear

When customers ride a PUBLIC bike for the first time, they’re often amazed at how much smoother and easier our bikes feel compared to the clunky old bikes they’ve tried before. 

One of the big reasons our bikes ride better and last longer is the Shimano Nexus internally-geared rear hub. Internal gears have become the standard in Europe and wherever people want seriously good commuter bikes for city riding. They are catching on in the US, and there is a reason for this.


With internal gears, shifting from one gear to the next is smooth and quiet. You can even switch gears when you’re sitting still at a stoplight, something you can’t do with a derailleur gear system. And because the gears are all sealed off inside the rear wheel, the moving parts are not exposed to elements like snow, salt, water, and other gunk on the road, making them very low maintenance. And there’s no annoying slack in the chain, so you won’t have to get your fingers greasy trying to put back a chain that’s jumped off the gears. Their simplicity also adds an aesthetic element too: they make your bike look really classy.

Our internally-geared bikes are great for urban commuters and everyday riders and they are terrific for someone who’s just getting back into biking. And right now every PUBLIC bike with internal gears is on sale – up to $300 off. That includes our dutch style step-through PUBLIC C7i, our PUBLIC M8i mixte model, and our classic double-diamond PUBLIC V7i 7-speed and premium 8-speed PUBLIC D8i. Shop our all sale bikes now and see how much smoother your commute could be.

PUBLIC C7i $799 $599 PUBLIC V7i $799 $599 PUBLIC M8i $1099 $799

A Smarter Bike Light: PUBLIC + Revolights Kickstarter

March 1st, 2014

PUBLIC Bikes + Revolights Arc Kickstarter

We are excited to announce our partnership with Revolights and to support the launch of their third Kickstarter project: the Revolights Arc, a smarter approach to the bicycle taillight.

Revolights is an innovative Bay Area bike light design company, and we’ve been fans ever since they launched their first product on Kickstarter in 2011. So we were honored when they approached us to collaborate on a line of theft-resistant, commuter bike lights designed around the fenders that come standard on our PUBLIC bikes. This innovation alone is noteworthy, but they went even further to design a platform that could provide brake lights and turn signals as well. We think it could be a game changer for city cyclists.

You can watch Revolights co-founder Kent Frankovich appear on Shark Tank this upcoming Friday, March 7 at 9pm on ABC.

PUBLIC is proud to participate by offering our PUBLIC V1 and PUBLIC V7 bikes as special rewards for backers of the campaign. From now until April 22, you can order a PUBLIC bike (at a special Kickstarter price) with the Revolights Arc integrated into the bike’s fenders. And if you already ride a PUBLIC bike (thank you!), you can get the Revolights Arc as an easy addition to your current bike.

Watch their video below and support to their campaign to help make this smart new concept a reality. Leading the revolution to make bicycling safer and more fun is what both Revolights and PUBLIC are all about.

Iconoclastic Crosswalks in Montreal

February 28th, 2014

Roadsworth Street Art

“I was provoked by a desire to jolt the driver from his impassive and linear gaze and give the more slow-moving pedestrian pause for reflection.” —Roadsworth

These urban images are the work of Montreal artist Roadsworth, a city dweller and bike rider inspired by many things including the environmental art of Andy Goldsworthy. He playfully draws attention to the ubiquitous traffic signage systems that shape our lives but often go unexamined. While critics may question the safety implications of these altered traffic markers, we appreciate his iconoclastic attitude for reminding us that our urban surroundings are too often designed to serve the needs of cars instead of people. And perhaps this playful approach can help mitigate road rage. His work reminds us of French artist Clet Abraham, about whom we have written before. Is it coincidental that these two artists come from French culture? Read the full article at Atlantic Cities.

Our Medalists in Bike Style at Sochi

February 21st, 2014

While you won’t see bicycles on the official program at the Winter Olympics, all over Sochi this year there are bikes of every color proudly representing their home countries. Our unofficial judges at PUBLIC scored every country’s contenders, and we congratulate our 2014 medalists in Bicycle Style.

Gold Medal: Netherlands
Not only did the Dutch roll out a fleet of orange step-through bikes for their all of their athletes to get around the games, but the King and Queen themselves have been riding everywhere in Sochi with coordinated orange outfits. While some of our US presidents have been known for their bicycle enthusiasm, clearly we still have plenty to learn from the Dutch.

Silver Medal: Finland
The Finnish men’s hockey team is a strong runner-up this year, sporting blue step-through bikes and bright blue team hoodies. While scoring a little lower in elegance, they earn strong marks for generosity by autographing and auctioning each of their bikes for charity. With two weeks of bidding left, national hockey star’s Teemu Selänne’s bike has already raised over 5,000 euro.

Bronze Medal: Sweden
Sweden’s men’s hockey team earns an honorable mention this year, with high scores from our judges in both the formalwear and fun categories. How could you help but smile when you’re riding your bike in a sharp suit and shades?

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