ABOUT | BLOG | PRESS | CONTACT888-450-0123Items: 0

Author Archive

WeiWei Good

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Every now and then a person or an event comes along that makes us appreciate just how profound and provocative the combination of art and public space can be. Usually it’s an artist that shapes that vision. I have had a few peak experiences in my life to support this, like when I saw Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC and Donald Judd’s works in Marfa for the first time. Both of these installations have made permanent impressions on me.

Just a few weeks ago I had a similarly profound experience on Alcatraz. Artist Ai Weiwei was recruited by Cheryl Haines (SF Art Gallery owner and FOR-SITE founder) to use Alcatraz as a location for his artistic and political expression.

Ai Weiwei is well known internationally for his art installations. He has used the bicycle as a metaphor in these installations in Tokyo, Taiwan and Italy. This amazing exhibit, currently on display at the Palazzo Franchetti in Venice is a great example.

The installations on Alcatraz do not incorporate bikes, but they contain many of the fundamental themes relevant to bikes, freedom being at the core of this.

Much has been written about this phenomenal show in the media, including the thorough article from The New York Times “Art Man of Alcatraz: Ai Weiwei Takes His Work to a Prison” that includes a terrific slide show as well.

There are seven installations total on Alcatraz. They range in scope and depth from porcelain flowers in toilets (shown left) to sound systems in jail cells. All must be experienced first-hand to be appreciated. They are not easily summarized.

The Lego installation has received a lot of media attention. It features over 176 Lego portraits of many “prisoners of conscience” that have been jailed, tortured or like Ai Weiwei, prevented from escape (like the inmates of Alcatraz). It includes people like Edward Snowden and many other less well know “dissidents.”

I found this installation particularly powerful upon learning that Ai Weiwei intended this to not only be impactful to adults, but children as well. Many children visit as tourists with their parents. Ai Weiwei hopes to get inside their little minds. How many artists take on the challenge of provoking thought in adults and kids alike?

Alcatraz is a legendary prison with an inherent comment on public space that’s compelling to visit on its own. But these installations take the experience of being there up to another level. It’s worth coming to SF just to see this show. Kudos to Ai Weiwei and Ms. Haines for pulling off the San Francisco event of the year, in my humble opinion, that rivals the Golden Gate Bridge in drama.

Ai Weiwei’s installations are currently on display on Alcatraz through April 26. Tickets aren’t easy to come by, but you can book yours here.

Robin Williams: A Reflection

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

 

With Robin Williams’ passing this past month, the San Francisco Bay Area lost one of its best ambassadors to the world at large and also to the world of biking. I had the privilege of meeting him a few times and knowing him a little.  I am not unusual in this regard.

Robin was a very accessible person, especially to those with a love for bikes.  Many local bike shop owners and bike related charities were also acquaintances of his. He rode the same Marin County routes like Paradise Loop that Bay Area riders frequent. He loved bikes on a number of levels and his obsession was as legendary as his humor.

Robin gave me a tour of his 50+ bike collection at his 60th birthday party. He housed his bike collection in a big garage in Napa and it was filled with amazing road bikes dating back several decades.  In this garage he was “a kid in a candy store.”

Robin had a few bikes by the celebrated Italian bike builder Dario Pegoretti, a bike builder we both respected and admired.  I saw the two of them at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in 2008. The header image and the shot below are ones I took of Robin with Dario at the Portland show.

Read this excellent The Wall Street Journal article about Robin and Dario and you’ll learn about yet another legendary side of Robin Williams – his generosity and heart.

He even once gave a bike to Conan O’Brien to cheer him up. He was like that. Watch Conan tell his funny story.

Robin Williams was well known at Bay Area bikes shops for his patronage. He spread his good will around, exemplified by his generous contributions to non-profits and support for the arts in general. Trip for Kids, a San Rafael based charity that takes bike donations and gives the bikes to needy kids who cannot afford new bikes, was an organization that Robin continually supported.

We all know Robin Williams’ unique talents as an actor and comedian.  At heart he was an enthusiastic boy who loved bikes for the same reasons that we do – the freedom they bring, the jolt of a little friendly competition and rebellion, and a lot of smiling. As Jason Gay from The Wall Street Journal recounted, when asked “why he loved riding a bicycle so much. I’ll always remember his answer, because it was wonderful and true. He said it was the closest you can get to flying.”

I wouldn’t use the phrase Rest In Peace for Robin Williams.  He was too high energy for resting in peace. His spirit is perhaps on a bike somewhere, making those fortunate enough to be biking along side him buckle over in laughter.

Best,

Rob Forbes

Please send any personal comments to me here.

Halfway Is Not Enough

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Bike-able Bridges

Images courtesy of Rob Forbes, The Botster and Ipv Delft

PUBLIC is headquartered on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, with a new flagship store and design studio in Hayes Valley, SF, and a distribution center and office in Jack London Square, Oakland. I often enjoy taking the ferry across the bay to our Oakland office, but sometimes the best choice is to drive across the Bay Bridge.

Every time I sit in bridge traffic returning to San Francisco from the East Bay, I have two conflicting emotions. First, how majestic, elegant, and inspirational the new bridge is aesthetically –and second, how unfortunate, even cruel it is that even after spending $6.5 billion on the modern new eastern span that opened last fall, a person still can’t ride a bike across the bridge from the San Francisco to the East Bay. For those unfamiliar, you can only ride half way across!

Riding the bike lanes on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, you’re treated to a gorgeous, expansive view with incredible vistas that are a treat for tourists and locals alike. But there are no definite plans to complete the bike connection on the existing western span to San Francisco, which is an opportunity unfulfilled. Take Copenhagen, it’s already awash in bike-able bridges and it’s now considering creating the 2nd largest bike bridge in the world.

Bay Bridge Lights Image Courtesy of Greg Del Savio

We have made some world-class bridge designs in the Bay Area, the Golden Gate Bridge at the top of the list. It gets over 10 million visitors every year, and the bike ride across it is epic and loved by locals and tourists alike. The recent Bay Lights project on the west span of the Bay Bridge rivals any urban lighting you’ll see in Copenhagen or anywhere else in Europe.

The vision behind these grand works casts a shadow for cyclists with the halfway solution of the new Bay Bridge redo, and makes us realize that we are still playing catch up to many European cities when it comes to comprehensive progressive transportation solutions. At PUBLIC we sincerely hope there will enough public pressure on politicians and government executives who make transportation planning and funding decisions to eventually make the Bay Bridge fully open to bikes and pedestrians, not just cars.

They Don’t Come Back

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Image courtesy of wellandgoodnyc.com

I was in New York earlier this month and rode from my Chelsea hotel through downtown and over the Brooklyn Bridge to visit our dealer, Joe Nocella who runs 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn. Riding in New York keeps getting better and better with excellent signage, more riders and respectful taxi drivers. Well, at least two of those three statements are true. Honestly now, riding in New York is a pleasure compared to most other cities. And riding over the Brooklyn Bridge is epic, even more so than our Golden Gate Bridge because of its history.

Joe’s bike shop, 718 Cyclery is cool – really cool. Joe calls it the “inverted” bike shop, meaning that they turned the concept of the traditional bike store upside down. His innovations range from teaching bike classes, working on bikes with customers, and creating an atmosphere that is super customer friendly, the way your neighborhood café is.

718 Cyclery Inside View

718 Cyclery does high-end custom bikes, everyday city bikes, and everything in between. Joe has been selling a lot of our bikes for years. When I asked him why, he said, “They don’t come back”. Basically, the quality is such that customers don’t return with the quality problems that plague other city bikes. We love getting these compliments, and we love having bike professional like Joe getting our bikes out on the streets where they belong.

We select our bike dealers the way we design our bikes – with great attention to detail. While out bikes rarely “come back” for quality problems, they need servicing and tune ups, and all of us need our local bike shop. For a list of other great dealers click here.

Header image courtesy of wellandgoodnyc.com.

Better City Spaces. Why Should it take an Earthquake?

Friday, 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

Wednesday, 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.”

Is Dog Your Copilot? Portraits of Pets Who Pedal

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

Iconoclastic Crosswalks in Montreal

Friday, 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.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights, and Public Space

Monday, January 20th, 2014

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we wish to acknowledge the achievements of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement in a genuine, non-commercial manner. We believe that the spirit behind our mission – to increase awareness of the value of public spaces, and reclaiming our streets for people – is at the very foundation of democracy and social equality. Public space is where our society’s diversity should be welcomed, encouraged and made visible. Many of the enduring images of the Civil Rights Movement are of people claiming their right to use public streets, plazas, and public transportation systems without fear. Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech is so powerful because of his eloquent message, but also because of the significance of the public space where it was delivered. The Lincoin Memorial, honoring a president whose legacy of emancipation remains unfinished, looks out onto one of the most noble and generous public spaces our country had designed. We are all greatly indebted to Dr. King, legions of civil rights activists and supporters, and his enduring inspiration in the continuing effort for greater equality and democracy in civic life.