Safer Streets Begin With A Vision

May 5th, 2015

Leah Shahum of Vision Zero

Leah Shahum / Image Credit: Melissa Balmer

Whether biking, walking or driving, people deserve to be safe when moving around their community. It’s a concept few would argue with, but who is actually working to make that happen?

Enter, Vision Zero. It’s a concept created 15 years ago in Sweden with the goal of making zero traffic fatalities or severe injuries a priority in major cities. Now several major cities in United States, including Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco, have adopted Vision Zero as a policy goal.

The Vision Zero Network, recently launched by Leah Shahum, is building a movement to support Vision Zero. We know Leah from her days as executive director of the SF Bike Coalition where she shaped the organization into one of the largest bicycle advocacy groups in the country. Now, at the helm of the Vision Zero Network, we’re confident Leah will bring awareness to a problem that needlessly kills over 30,000 Americans annually, by helping major cities work towards zero in their communities.

We caught up with Shahum to learn more about Vision Zero.

PUBLIC: What is Vision Zero?

Leah: Vision Zero is a new way approach to safe mobility. It lays out the expectation that people deserve to be safe as they move around their community, when they’re walking, bicycling, taking transit or driving.

Vision Zero is a concept created in Sweden about 15 years ago and spreading around the world. Vision Zero is a goal – zero traffic fatalities or severe injuries – as well as a strategy and way of thinking to achieve that goal. Cities across America, including San Francisco, New York City, Seattle and others, are realizing that they can – and must – think and act differently if they are to change the situation in which far too many people are dying needlessly on our roadways.

Vision Zero differs from the traditional approach in three major ways. First, Vision Zero acknowledges that traffic deaths and severe injuries are preventable. This is a transformative shift in thinking. You can compare this to the way cultural attitudes have shifted in the past towards preventing drunk driving (zero tolerance) or increasing recycling and other conservation efforts (zero waste).

Second, Vision Zero brings together diverse — and necessary — stakeholders to address a complex social problem. Traditionally, traffic planners and engineers, police officers, policymakers, and public health professionals have not collaborated in meaningful, cross-disciplinary ways to meet shared goals (partly because they literally did not have shared goals for safe streets). Vision Zero acknowledges that there are many factors that contribute to safe mobility — infrastructure, enforcement, individual behavior/education, and policies — and all must be coordinated with a safety-first approach.

And finally, Vision Zero is a data-based approach. Traditionally, improving street safety has involved finger-pointing or resembled a whack-a-mole game more than a coordinated, fact-based strategy. But with the awareness that Vision Zero is raising, communities are starting to treat traffic safety as a public health issue and using data to make decisions.

While we know that people are fallible and will sometimes make mistakes, we can – and must — set up our roadways and transportation systems to make sure that collisions do not end in death or severe injuries.

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Vision Zero in Montreal, Canada / Photo Credit: Payton Chung

PUBLIC: Why are so many cities adopting Vision Zero?

Leah: Cities are realizing that our transportation systems are out of sync with our priorities for increased safety, public health, environmental sustainability and affordability. And local leaders know that they cannot wait for the federal government to come in and change things. This movement for Vision Zero is really coming from the locals, from the ground up, because the issues are so very close to home in our communities.

I also think that city leaders recognize the growing trend of employers wanting to be located in urban environments where their employees can walk, bike, take transit and carshare. They’ve got to honor these choices because this is the way the workforce of America is moving.

And finally, I think a lot of us have been inspired by the changes we’ve seen across the globe that prove that when you build great walking, bicycling and transit infrastructure and set up policies that encourage those ways of moving around, more people choose to do so, which of course is a benefit to the cities, in general. For a long time, the idea of growing biking, walking, and transit trips and decreasing single occupancy vehicle trips seemed impossible to many city leaders, but the proof exists now and leaders are feeling more confident. San Francisco is a great example of that, as private vehicle traffic has decreased in recent years, as biking, walking, transit and rideshare have grown. And there are more car-free households in SF. All of this is happening while the city is growing and the economy is booming.

PUBLIC: 3. After leading the SF Bicycle Coalition for many years, why did you choose to launch the Vision Zero Network?

Leah: Well, I was riding my awesome orange Public bike down Market Street in San Francisco one day….I really do have an awesome orange Public bike (more on that later), but really….

Over the past year and a half since the SF Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF and our partners successfully urged the City of San Francisco to commit to Vision Zero, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of Vision Zero to be a real gamechanger in terms of our communities’ safety and mobility.

First, who can be against safety, right?

Second, the work of Vision Zero includes everyone, all road users, and that’s powerful. This is not a movement that’s aimed just at keeping people safe while they bike or just while they walk or just while they drive. The reality is that most people do a combination of all of these things in a week, and we want them to be safe while doing all of those things. People have a basic right to move safely around their communities. It’s a simple but powerful concept.

And, I’m excited by the idea of different cities pooling their energy and great minds and passion toward a shared goal of Visio Zero. What the Vision Zero Network does is bring together the key stakeholders in cities across America to collaborate and develop and share strategies for what will advance Vision Zero in the urban environment.

While Seattle, San Jose and Washington DC are different places, of course, they also share a great deal of the same challenges and opportunities when it comes to ensuring safe mobility. We have so much to learn from each other. Plus, we can push each other and, together, raise the profile of Vision Zero across the country.

The timing felt right for me to help shape this nascent movement that is so promising and capturing so much attention not just among the “usual suspects” but among a whole new field of important players who need to be involved in this effort for safe mobility for all.

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Sweden Traffic / Photo Credit: Erik Söderström

PUBLIC: You’re currently studying Vision Zero in Europe. How’s that going? What do you say to skeptics who tell you American cities are very different than European cities so you can’t expect the same kind of attention to pedestrians and bicycles in car-centric American cities?

Leah: I’m fortunate to be traveling as part of the German Marshall Fund Urban & Regional Policy Fellowship to research Vision Zero. I’m visiting Berlin, Stockholm and Rotterdam – all in countries that have adopted national Vision Zero strategies, or something similar w/ different names.

To the skeptics – and I totally understand where they’re coming from – I’d explain that what’s interesting me most is not so much how different countries have different cultural attitudes and historical development, which of course they do. One could say, “Oh it’s Europe, it’s different, we’ll never be like that….” And in certain ways, they’d be right.

I think the most valuable lessons are the examples where cities have made their streets dramatically safer in the recent past. For instance, Berlin reduced its traffic fatalities by 80% since the 1970s, while increasing its population. And they’ve tripled the numbers of people biking just in the past 15 years or so. And Berlin’s streets resemble a typical major U.S. city’s more than some of the other European examples that you often hear cited, such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen. So how did Berlin do that? We need to understand that and figure out which strategies can transfer to an American environment. Granted, not everything will be replicable in the U.S., but some things will be.

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Green Bike Lanes in San Francisco

PUBLIC: Is Vision Zero anti-car? How do we move beyond the car vs bikes vs pedestrians debate?

Leah: I’m so glad you asked that question. Vision Zero is pro-safety for everyone, whether they’re walking, biking, driving or taking transit. Everyone deserves to be safe as they move around.

Now, we know that, particularly in urban areas, it is people on foot and bike who bear the worst brunt of traffic violence, and we know that it is in automobiles that people bear the greatest risk of hurting others because of the pure weight and force of a motor vehicle. These are basic facts. So, any worthwhile traffic safety strategy needs to focus appropriate energy toward these realities. So, it’s not a surprise that we see cities focusing particular attention on better training professional drivers of large vehicles, who spend many, many hours each day on the road driving large – and sometimes – dangerous vehicles. But of course, safety awareness is important for all of us when we walk, bike or drive regular-size vehicles. We all need to be safe out there, but some ways of moving about bring more risk and deserve more attention.

One of the things that excites me most about Vision Zero is that it is a way to move past the unfortunate silos that many people have placed themselves or others into in the past. It’s a shame that there have been so many arguments in the past about what’s best for “the bicyclists” versus “the drivers” or “the pedestrians.” Those are unhelpful and unrealistic labels. Most people move around in a variety of ways during the week based on what works, at a practical level, for them for each trip. For instance, what’s most convenient or easiest? What’s most enjoyable and feels comfortable? What doesn’t cost too much money?

We probably all know someone, sadly, who was lost in a traffic crash, whether walking, biking or driving. We all want to prevent that from happening to people we love…or to anyone. This is so much bigger than biking. And Vision Zero certainly is not anti-anything, rather, it’s pro-safe mobility for everyone.

PUBLIC: What specific steps can cities take to make streets safer?

Leah: They can explicitly and publicly make safety their number one priority in making decisions about their transportation system. That means that they use a data-based approach to understand where the problem areas and unsafe behaviors are in their community.

And they bring together the range of people have control over safety in their community – that means not just traffic engineers, but also police officers and public health specialists and educators and school officials and the district attorneys and advocates and other community members. And they work together to set priorities that reflect safety as the top goal. That means roadways are designed with a safety-first mantra. And resources are doled safety-first. And traffic enforcement is guided by safety-first, etc, etc.

Is this always going to be easy? Of course not. Because there will continue to be many competing priorities for all of those limited resources. But if a city is serious about keeping its citizens safe – and I would suggest that’s the very basic premise of government – it needs to make the decisions that reflect its priorities.

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Busy Streets Of NYC / Photo Credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly

PUBLIC: What steps can the average person take (like me, for example) to make streets safer?

Leah: Of course, the most important thing we can all do individually is to move safely and predictably out there. We all have responsibility for our own actions, and we can serve as a model to others.

I’d suggest that interested individuals can also start to raise the idea of Vision Zero in their communities by asking their elected leaders where they stand on this issue and prioritizing safe mobility. And talking with your friends and neighbors about the idea. In the end, Vision Zero really is a shift in the way we all think about mobility. Just like we saw a major shift in the way Americans thought about the need to discourage drunk driving or to encourage recycling, we need to evolve our individual and societal expectations for being able to move around safely.

PUBLIC: Can Vision Zero really be achieved?

Leah: Yes. Now that doesn’t mean that we will prevent all traffic collisions, because people will continue to make mistakes…we’re fallible, it’s just the reality. But we absolutely can design systems and set up policies and practices that ensure that when things inevitably, at times, collide, the worst case scenario is not the result. For instance, if everyone were moving about a community no faster than at 15 miles per hour, we would prevent most traffic fatalities. That’s possible. That’s a choice that cities could make. And we’re seeing more people think about moving in that direction.

Plus, setting a bold, clear goal is important to get people thinking differently. By setting the goal of zero, we encourage people to think about it and to ask: “Can we prevent these deaths and injuries?”
The answer is “yes we can” by making certain decisions and taking certain actions. It’s a matter of prioritizing safety.

Americans are, in general, sadly complacent about the major public health crisis we have on our roadways. We need to start shaking people out of this complacently to commit to safe transportation options or, the alternative is the status quo and we continue to lose an average of 30,000 people in this country each year to preventable tragedies. That’s not an alternative.

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Leah and her PUBLIC M8 Mixte bike / Photo Credit Melissa Balmer

PUBLIC: You’ve been riding an Orange PUBLIC mixte for many years. What do you like about this bike and riding in general?

Leah: I absolutely love my bike. First of all, it’s so fun to ride. And so comfortable for everyday city riding.
And, I will admit that I kind of like the admiring looks the bike gets as I cruise around San Francisco. Even after all these years, people still really notice the bike. I love to watch people’s eyes light up and a smile spread across their faces as they look at the bike. My hope, of course, is that they’re thinking, even subconsciously, “Ah, biking, that looks fun, maybe I should give that a try.”

PUBLIC: Do you remember your first bike? If so, please describe it.

Leah: I don’t remember what kind of bike it was, but I really do remember the freedom. I grew up in the suburbs of Florida and having a bike meant I could cruise around to friends’ houses on my own and experience a sense of independence that was a first as a little kid. Even as a kid, I remember somehow feeling “this is important.”

Tips For Biking With Kids From Moms Who Bike

April 28th, 2015

Biking MomsFrom Left to Right: Naomi of Love Taza, Jen of Pedal Adventures, Lilia of Urban Family SF
We are inspired daily here at PUBLIC by our incredible biking community. As Mother’s Day approaches, we reached out to a select part of that community, biking mothers, and asked for their top tips for biking with children, why they bike with their kids and what being a mother means to them. Their responses were helpful, heartfelt and inspiring.

A huge high five to all biking mothers out there. This post is for you.

And if you’re in need of gift ideas for the biking mom in your life, check out our handy Mother’s Day Gift Guide.


Naomi of Love Taza

Naomi Riding Image Credit: Naomi’s husband Josh / Naomi biking with her and her two year old son, Samson.

Naomi’s 20 Word (more or less) Bio:
Over 7 years ago, Naomi started Love Taza where she chronicles bits and pieces of her life with her family in New York City. She is the mother of three little ones ages four and under. Love Taza celebrates motherhood, family, travel, good food and life’s simple joys! And she rides a PUBLIC dutch bike step-through.

Top tip for biking with kids?
Involve them as much as possible and make it fun! You can try playing a game of “I spy” while riding, or let them choose which way to go.

Why do you bike with your kids?
I’ve always loved biking, so it felt natural to continue to do so after our first little one arrived. It’s our favorite form of transportation, especially in NYC where more bike lanes and trails continue to be added. I think my kids get extra excited when we take out our bikes because they get to be beside us while taking in their surroundings and seeing everything as we explore together.

What does motherhood mean to you?
I don’t know if I can do it justice in just a few sentences! I love and adore being a mother. It means a million different things… It means long days and nights of chaos and spit up and sacrifice and guilt and sometimes I think I’ve gone mad! But it also means joy and love and growth and adventure and having the chance to spend my days with the sweetest little ones by my side. And nothing has ever topped that for me. So far, motherhood has been nothing short of an absolute honor.


Jen of Pedal Adventures

Jen Biking Image Credit: Pedal Adventures / Jen biking with her son.

Jen’s 20 Word (more or less) Bio:
Mom of boys. Consultant. Wanderer. Cyclist. Navigating loss, managing fear, living with courage, and taking the road less traveled. Founder of the inspiring blog about biking, motherhood and more, Pedal Adventures.

Top tip for biking with kids?
Start early, incorporate it into your lifestyle, get them a good bike starting with a balance bike, bring snacks, and don’t force them to ride.

Why do you bike with your kids?
Cycling is my passion so it was easy to introduce it to my kids. I like that cycling provides options for transportation, health, and most of all fun.

What does motherhood mean to you?
Motherhood is a chance to share, grow, and continually work on my patience.

How do you find balance? Is there such a thing?
Balance for me is a combination of achievement and enjoyment. Daily I try to do things that bring me joy, happiness, and enjoyment while also achieving something. Somedays the scale tips more to enjoyment and some days it’s more about achievement but ultimately I feel best when I get both.


Kit of Vie Bikes

Kit Riding Image credit: Jake Donham / Kit’s Birthday treat to herself was riding her eldest child over the Golden Gate Bridge. Silly face was extra bonus.

Kit’s 20 Word (more or less) Bio:
Co-Founder of Vie Bikes, a new San Francisco company helping families get rolling with their kids. I’m the mother of two little people living the good life by bike in the hills of San Francisco. Prior to co-founding Vie, I worked at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Transportation Alternatives in New York City and the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago, and now enjoy riding on the bike lanes I made happen. I started this company because I get stopped constantly by people who really want to know about my family bike. I went to Harvard College and aim to have hobbies again when my kids turn 18.

What’s your top tip for biking with kids?
Find the right bike — usually an electric assist — and choose good routes. Vie offers a free Family Biking Map and sample routes.

Why do you bike with your kids?
It’s just so convenient and a great way to live. We get more places, faster, and feeling great. Our kids spend more time together, enjoying each other’s company, and less time fighting and being crazy than when they’re in a car or on public transportation. I remain grounded in myself, because I’m building me time in to my everyday life, and feeling good physically and emotionally. Life is just so much harder without a bike.

What does motherhood mean to you?
Everything. It’s an indescribable blessing every day, and an enormous responsibility. I love being a mom!


Lilia of Urban Family SF

Lilia Biking Lilia biking with her daughter.

Lilia’s 20 Word (more or less) Bio:
Born in San Francisco, Lilia Scott is an artist and transportation planner. She bikes with her preschooler on an electric bike. You can learn more about her adventures on her blog.

What’s your top tip for biking with kids?
Get the right equipment, even if you have to buy it on credit. You need this more than you need your car.

Why do you bike with your kids?
Most importantly, because biking is fun. I’ve been a serious utilitarian urban cyclist throughout my adult life, and, like any religion, I want my daughter to know my beliefs. Finally, because it’s efficient, convenient, and good for the planet which she will inherit. Every second is precious, and I want her grinning ear-to-ear on a bike rather than strapped down encased in a car.

What does motherhood mean to you?
I asked my daughter what she thought of this question, and she answered “mommy is love,” which is about right. I never knew love like this was possible before becoming a mother. Creating and loving this small being puts everything into perspective, making it easier to drop insignificant irritations and set priorities right. (Of course, that also makes it very stressful — implementing known priorities.)


Dawn, Accessory Buyer/Inventory Manager at PUBLIC Bikes

Dawn Riding Dawn biking with her daughter.

Dawn’s 20 Word (more or less) Bio:
San francisco girl, wife, mama to a 2 year old, animal lover & rescuer of 1 dog & 2 cats, food & wine lover. Dawn rides a PUBLIC M8 Mixte, equipped with a Yepp Maxi Rear Child Seat.

What’s your top tip for biking with kids?
Start early! Make sure you have a double kickstand & a basket.

Why do you bike with your kids?
I bike for the fun and convenience of it and to stay out of the car. We don’t have to go far to daycare or work, so biking just makes sense. Plus, our daughter loves it and she is learning there are other ways to get around besides driving cars.

What does motherhood mean to you?
It’s unconditional love and putting someone else’s needs above all else. Motherhood is a chance for me to be my best self. Being a mother means I’m constantly challenged and pushed to my limits. I want to be a good role model, lead by example, and give my daughter the tools she needs to be a strong, kind and productive citizen.


Rosanna

Rosanna Biking Image Credit: William Henderson. Rosanna biking with her son.

Rosanna’s 20 Word (more or less) Bio:
Author, editor, and cook. Born in Oregon’s coastal range, raised in West Virginia, currently living in Portland.

What’s your top tip for biking with kids?
The really imperative stuff is common sense: make sure your biking arrangement is comfortable and safe for everyone, and go out on it often enough that your kid can anticipate the routine.

Also, a double kickstand is really nice for keeping the bike stable when loading and unloading.

Why do you bike with your kids?
Biking makes us happier than any other form of transportation. I think we all know how charming it is to drive a car with an unhappy kid in the back seat. It sounds incredible, but my son is *always* happy on the back of my bike, and even a trip to the grocery store is a fun outing. Plus, I really like arriving at my destination feeling invigorated and strong.

What does motherhood mean to you?
Helping new humans live happily on this planet without breaking it.

Top Pedestrian Pathways

March 3rd, 2015

We came across the simple video above from City Lab, juxtaposing a 1901 video of New York City with footage from today of the exact same street. The video showed how sidewalks in 1901 were wider and more pedestrian-friendly, and it got us thinking.

While that specific street in New York might not be as wide today, New York has set an incredible precedent with urban design in other ways.

The High Line, New York City’s lofted pedestrian walkway is one great example.

The High Line, NYC. Image Credit: Wikipedia.

And the New York City’s recent transformation of Times Square into a car-free haven with cafe tables, chairs and planters is another.

NYC's Times Square. Image Credit: Snøhetta.

There are so many ways cities around the world are getting it right.

In 2013 Mexico City launched an ambitious project to transform the city center into a better place for pedestrians and cyclists. The below image of Madero Street before and after shows big improvement.

Mexico City's Madero Street. Images Credit: ITDP.

The Shuman Bridge in France, is both a wonder in design and function. It connects walkers and bikers directly to the heart of the historic city, Lyon.

Shuman Bridge, France. Image Credit: Michel Denancé.

The Netherlands is the poster child for innovative pathways for bikes and pedestrians, and the Nescio Bridge is just one example of many. This bridge in Amsterdam links people from the city to the suburbs, rising over the Rhine canal.

Nescio Bridge, Amsterdam. Image Credit: The Botster.

Best New Bike Apps for City Biking

September 19th, 2014

Best Bike Apps for iPhone bike directions and Android apps for biking

In honor of iPhone Day, we put together a list of some of our favorite iPhone bike apps and Android apps for people who bike in the city. The newest generations of smartphones are some of the best bike accessories ever, with some really cool new bike apps now available that make city biking even more fun and easy. From navigation to weather to fitness tracking, here’s a quick list of some of the apps that have earned a permanent place on our home screens.

Got a better app that we should know about? We are always looking for ways to make city biking smarter, easier, and more fun. If you are interested in developing a new bike app or gadget, get in touch. We are always interested in strategic partnerships to develop smart new bike gear.

 

Google Maps for Mobile
Turn-by-turn GPS bike navigation
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
Google Maps bike directions for iPhoneAfter Apple ditched Google’s maps for the iPhone 5, Google soon released their own new version of the Google Maps app for iPhone. It surpassed the original in most ways, and recently it even added bike-friendly directions, something Android users already enjoyed, and Apple’s maps never offered. While its bike directions are still sometimes a bit odd, Google Maps has been continuously improving its map data for a decade now, and it’s one of the only apps available with turn-by-turn voice navigation for your bike, just like in a car. (Pro tip: tuck your phone in your shirt or jacket’s breast pocket to hear the speaker while riding. Also a great way to add some jams to your ride.) The Android version also has some cool extras like an elevation chart to see how steep your route will be. For a quick way to plan a bike ride across almost any city, the Google Maps app deserves a place in every biker’s pocket.

 

Citymapper
All your transit options in one clever app
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
Citymapper public transit bike directions for iPhone and AndroidThe mission statement of Citymapper is to “make cities easier to use,” and at PUBLIC we think that’s pretty cool. Since they recently added directions for the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s quickly become one of our favorite apps for getting around town. It scouts out every available transportation option to help you find the smartest possible routes. You can plan a trip by bike, bus, ferry, train, taxi, or walking, and even city bike sharing systems if you don’t have your own bike with you. It packs in a ton of features without feeling too cluttered, and even makes room for some clever jokes, like showing the calories burned on your bike ride in units of soy lattes or $4 artisanal toast. While the new Bay Area bike directions could still use some improvement, the app overall is very thoughtfully designed, with lots of cheeky details that make your commute a little more fun. Plan a trip by catapult or teleporter and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Bike Maps – by Maplets
Curated, downloadable bike maps for your local area
99 cents: iPhone | $2.99: Android
Bike Maps by Maplets for iPhoneBefore the iPhone era, the state of the art bike maps were on paper, showing the official bike infrastructure of the city. These local maps are often quite carefully designed for city bikers, and they encourage you to build your own knowledge of your city’s bike routes rather than relying on GPS instructions. The Bike Maps – by Maplets app brings these bike maps to your phone, with an extensive list of maps available for your local area. Once downloaded, they can be navigated offline, saving your battery and data plan. My local favorite is the San Francisco Bike and Walking Map, which shades every street in the city according to its steepness. Crucial, because I am a big wimp about hills. You can make notes and draw routes to remember your favorite spots, and some maps allow you to overlay your current GPS location. The map collection is extensive, including parks and off-road trails, so you’re sure to find some new rides. Well worth the paid download.

 

Forecast.io Weather for Bicyclists on iPhone and Android Forecast.io
Crazy good hyperlocal weather reports
Free: Forecast.io web app for all devices | $3.99: Dark Sky app for iPhone
Forecast.io Weather App for Bicyclists on iPhone and AndroidGood weather reports are crucial for bike commuters to know what clothes to wear or pack for a dry day at work. Especially in the legendary San Francisco microclimates, a good weather app should pinpoint your precise location for the most accurate information. Forecast.io is the best designed free mobile weather app I’ve found, with a proprietary API that compiles 19 different sources of weather data to provide a simple accurate forecast at a glance, with a cool scrolling timeline view. When rain is looming, the screen adds a little precipitation chart that predicts how wet the next hour will be – great for picking the best time to ride home in between rain showers. It’s a free web app that works on any smartphone, tablet, or computer just by visiting http://forecast.io in your browser. If you like what they do, check out their Dark Sky app for iPhone which offers rain notification messages.

 

IFTTT Rain Alerts for Bike Commuters on iPhone and Android IFTTT – if this then that
Customizable weather alerts (plus a million other possibilities)
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
IFTTT Rain Alerts for Bike Commuters on iPhone and AndroidIFTTT offers all-purpose internet wiring to connect different websites and online services together and make all kinds of cool things happen. One useful way to use IFTTT for biking is to create personalized weather reports that automatically send you an email, text, or app notification when rain is in the forecast, so you’ll never be caught without a raincoat again. Just sign up for free and make this recipe: If Weather:Tomorrow’s forecast calls for… Rain, Then SMS:Send me an SMS. Instead of a text message, you can also choose an email, or a notification from the mobile app. You can set this all up on ifttt.com, but the mobile apps are also quite slick and they enable some extra features like app notifications. Here’s a link to my recipe if you want to use it to get started!

 

Moves iPhone activity tracker for cyclists Moves
Simple, automatic activity tracking
Free: iPhone | Android
Moves iPhone activity tracker for cyclistsIf you’re interested in activity tracking but aren’t quite ready to commit to a Fitbit, the free Moves app offers simple movement tracking throughout the day using just your phone. Automatically detecting whether you’re walking, running, or biking, it generates an elegant daily and weekly journal of your activity in terms of steps taken, miles traveled, calories burned, and time spent moving, to motivate your fitness goals. (Not for the paranoid – you end up with a detailed list of every place you visit.) You can also use it to record other activities and workouts, and it can share your activity data with more heavy duty fitness apps. It oddly doesn’t include any kind of goal setting features, but at least its simplicity offers a pleasant, zen experience. It thankfully includes a Battery Saving mode to make sure your phone doesn’t tire out before you do.

 

 

Strava bike fitness app Strava
Athletic tracking with friendly competition
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
Strava bike fitness appDefinitely the most popular app for the lycra wearing crowd, Strava turns your phone into a bike computer to calculate all kinds of fitness data while you ride, like calories, miles, elevation, speed, and mapping your route on GPS. It awards you for personal best records and keeps track of your cumulative rides and runs over the course of the year. Our product manager Aaron recently used Strava to track his progress as he rode every street in San Francisco. What makes Strava different is its heavy emphasis on social networking, with a news feed of the rides your friends are taking, local leaderboard rankings of the most popular spots around town, and regular challenges to motivate you to ride. Its ride mapping has also inspired a new genre of bike route art that’s most notably led to a marriage proposal spelled out street by street. Top that one, Aaron!
Strava Marry Me

Did we miss your favorite bike app? Tell us what’s on your home screen in the comments below.

 

Traffic Jams In All Forms

August 28th, 2014

Take a look at these eerie images of cars abandoned in a Belgium forest. These amazing, haunting images by Rosanne de Lange were actually taken at one of the biggest car cemeteries in the world – the Chatillion Car Graveyard in Belgium.

As discussed on this blog, “According to an urban legend these cars were left behind by US soldiers from World War II, who could not ship them back to the US so they decided to hide them in a forest until they could come back and retrieve them. The locals disagree and say that it’s simply an old car dump of vehicles made after the WWII”.

Click on the above images to share them via Facebook.

Traffic has been in the news a lot lately, including the 8+ hours to get to the playa of Burning Man’s Black Rock City to thousands of concert goers missing a Paul McCartney concert at the last event at Candlestick Park due to the Big Jam.

We’ve written about traffic before on our blog. More bicycles, better public transit, and improved walkable neighborhoods helps. But most importantly, we need to recognize that when we get in our cars, we’re not just stuck in traffic – we are traffic. Feel free to share this image out on Facebook.

Congestion and its effect on quality of life is an issue in almost every US city. We’re not going to solve this problem by building wider roads, at the expense of walkable, livable neighborhoods, or encouraging more cars on our already congested roads.

Even in a progressive city like San Francisco, there are people who are determined to reverse the city’s efforts to reduce car congestion and prioritize transit and walkable neighborhoods. In this November’s ballot San Francisco voters will be asked to weigh in on Proposition L. We at PUBLIC are encouraging our customers and fans to vote No on Gridlock (No on Prop L). Learn more here.

 

Bait Bikes, Twitter – Bike Thieves Beware

August 12th, 2014

Bike theft is an unfortunate fact of life all around the globe, but in the Bay Area even the police are using smart phones and social to nab thieves. And it’s paying off.

Officer Matt Friedman of San Francisco and his colleagues are on a mission to blunt bike theft and to do this he’s making bikes smarter, and then posting about it on Twitter.
 
Officer Friedman nabs bike thieves with “bait bikes”, high-value wheels embedded with gps tracking devices that are left outside with the intent of being stolen. Once the bike is stolen, the tracking device is triggered and the police are led right to the thief. This video from The New York Times article, “Police Use High Tech Lures to Reel In Bike Thieves,” even shows a bike thief stealing a bait bike and being apprehended.

After a bike thief is apprehended, Officer Friedman posts a photo of the bad guy to Twitter, using the handle @SFPDBikeTheft. This public shaming of the thief is intentional. Friedman wants to send a message to other bike thieves that “we’re on to your game and you could be next.”

This gets us at PUBLIC thinking that there needs to be more creative ways that technology can be used to deal with this problem. In a world where people can space travel and control drones from thousands of miles away, there has got to be a way for everyday people to keep their bikes safe from everyday thieves.

We’re interested in developing new smart locks to reduce bike theft. We’d like to partner with experienced techies who can help us design and develop some smart products. Send us an email here.

But just as importantly, you should be knowledgeable about the basics of theft prevention. Here is a great theft prevention guide from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

 

How Does Your Bike Locking Grade?

May 12th, 2014

Lock Up Your Wheels The Right Way

Locking up your bike appears a task as obvious as brushing your teeth. Open lock. Thread lock through bike to something solid. Done. But, like teeth brushing, there’s a right way and a wrong way. This freshly cut vimeo highlighted last week in The Atlantic Citiesis the fourth video installment on bike locking from the brutally-honest New York bike mechanic, Hal Ruzal. In this installment Ruzal walks around New York grading people’s bike locking skills from A (well locked) to F (poorly locked).

This video was released in honor of National Bike Month and it’s a good reminder for places like San Francisco where an average of 11 bikes are stolen per day. As we’ve written before, this is a global problem and even bike-focused cites like Denmark see over 100,000 bikes per year stolen. The truth is many of the thefts are related to user error and are avoidable.

In short, Ruzal’s tips boil down to the basics: 1) Get the best quality U-lock you can. We recently released the latest Kryptonite Series 5 Mini U-Lock and highly recommend it; 2) Lock your frame (not just your wheels) to a solid pole or a bike lock—wooden posts and chain link fences don’t count; 3) For quick release wheels either remove the front wheel and lock with your back wheel and frame, carry a cable or extra lock to secure them or purchase a set of locking axle nuts like these so your wheels can’t be quickly removed; and 4) Permanently lock/attached your seat to your bike.

For more resources on bike locking check out the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s thorough page on Theft & Locking. And if you live in a city where you can register your wheels (San Franciscans, head here) make sure you do this.

Bike To Work Bay Area

May 9th, 2014

Supervisor London Breed on Cream PUBLIC C7

Yesterday the Bay Area celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Bike to Work Day with an impressive amount of bikers hitting the road. One major San Francisco thoroughfare tallied that nearly 76% of the trips made on it yesterday were done by bike. Well done, San Francisco!

The month of May is National Bike Month and we’re happy to see so many people participating in Bike to Work Day. Of course, we think everyday should be Bike to Work Day for anyone who works less than 5 miles from home. In the Bay Area alone, more than one million Bay Area residents live within five miles of their workplace.

If you’re considering biking to daily as part of your commute, but not sure where to start, check out the San Francisco Bike Coalition for maps and tips and more. If you’re a bike-to-work regular or just getting into biking, drop us a line and let us know how your bike commute went yesterday

Imagine how less congested our streets would be and how much healthier and happier people would be if more people made the choice to bicycle, walk, or take public transit to work.

We’re lucky to live in San Francisco where bicycling is a mainstream activity and the majority of our local elected officials recognize the value of bicycling. This year, 9 out of 11 local elected Board of Supervisors, our Mayor, and our District Attorney all participated in Bike to Work Day with thousands of other residents. Bike to Work Day helps remind these elected officials to fully fund and prioritize initiatives like Connecting the City which creates safe and accessible bikeways for anyone from 8 to 80 years old.

We know cities can get more people to bicycle if they create separated bikeways like this new one on Polk Street near City Hall. It takes political will and funding to make these changes happen on our public streets.

We encourage you to find out more about your local Bike to Work Day activities – and support your local and statewide bicycle advocacy organizations working to make bicycling better for all of us.


Bike to Work Day 2014 photos by SF Bike Coalition

Be Seen (and Heard!) With Our Flashy New Bells

April 22nd, 2014

Woodpecker Bell New Bells Incredibell Original Bell
New Bells Disco Bell New Bells
Public Bell New Bells Federico Red Brass Bell

The simple bicycle bell is one of our favorite bike essentials. An often-overlooked accessory, a bell adds personality and safety to your ride. Easier than hollering and whistling to announce your presence, bells are a simple way of alerting bikers, pedestrians and cars of your approach. We have a new selection of bells for all styles of riders, from unique bells crafted of cherry wood to bells equipped with flashing disco LED lights. Visit our website to see (and hear!) our fun new bell collection.