Ultimate Commuter’s Guide for Bike-to-Work Month and Beyond

May 17th, 2017

Happy bike-to-work month! By now, you’ve probably experienced some of the ups and downs of a weekly cycling commute. On one hand, your calves are bulging with new muscles, and there’s nothing like the exhilaration you get bypassing stubborn highway traffic. On the other hand, you’ve had enough sweat-stained shirts for a lifetime—not to mention… Read more »


Happy bike-to-work month! By now, you’ve probably experienced some of the ups and downs of a weekly cycling commute. On one hand, your calves are bulging with new muscles, and there’s nothing like the exhilaration you get bypassing stubborn highway traffic. On the other hand, you’ve had enough sweat-stained shirts for a lifetime—not to mention the day that it rained! To become a real commuting pro, you’ll need to do some hardcore strategizing and invest in the right gear to stay fresh and get to the office in one piece. Join us as we run through all the essentials you’ll need for your regular workday ride for your best work commute ever!

Image courtesy of Modernize.

Safety First!

Running late to a meeting? Don’t let safe cycling practices bite the dust! For starters, you should always wear a helmet and light-colored clothing (or a safety vest for extra protection!) to make yourself more visible to motorists—those are no-brainers. Other tips for safer commutes? Pick low-traffic streets with wide lanes wherever possible, and avoid the impulse to hug the right curb while you ride. In fact, try to stay in the middle of the lane, if you can. Study up on the most common cycling collisions and how to avoid them. Don’t forget about safety accessories, such as front and back lights, mirrors, bells and reflectors. Practice what you preach, too, and hold yourself accountable to the rules of the road. Just because you’re not behind the wheel doesn’t mean that you should text or use your phone while you ride! Need more information? The League of American Bicyclists has an extensive library of safe riding courses and videos, plus a directory of local class offerings, to get you up-to-speed on all the rules in no time.

Avoid Transportation Hiccups

Whether it’s a surprise piece of glass or a sudden hail storm, cycling’s a little more unpredictable than driving. Anyone bicycling to and from work should have some backups in place to keep the process running smoothly. For instance, keep spare tubes and tire levers with you in case of flats—and learn how to change a tire by yourself. It’s not a bad idea to bring along a miniature pump and a traveling tool kit with a multi-tool and wrench, either. That will allow you to make adjustments and address emergency repairs on the fly. Still, you should always have some form of backup transportation, whether that’s a bus pass or a friend you can call up for a ride. If you’re serious about full-time commuting, you may even want to consider a second bike, just in case you have to take your main ride into the shop for a few days.

Give Yourself Extra Time

One of the major pros of a cycling commute is the chill vibe, so don’t kill it by rushing around at the last minute! You never know what you’ll encounter on a bicycle: a flat, a detour, or a brush with an unexpected pothole will all add time to your commute. And if you take your time, you won’t feel tempted to run lights or engage in other unsafe cycling practices to get there faster. Some cyclists even plan on arriving to work early, before the regular 9 to 5 crew shows up. You’d be surprised how much more relaxed you are with a more leisurely commute, and you may even get a lot more work done before the hustle and bustle of the day gets underway!

Stay Dry, Stay Cool

If you’re planning on commuting to work regularly, you may want to do something to contain the sweat—you don’t want to be the smelly one in the office! If you’re lucky enough to have access to an in-office shower, consider investing in a super absorbent chamois towel. It’s a lot more space-efficient than a big bath towel. No shower? No worries! A spare change of clothes, plus a washcloth and soap (or even a package of baby wipes), does a pretty keen job of keeping you fresh. Of course, it’s a lot harder to come in looking decent when it’s just rained, especially if you don’t have the right gear. A waterproof cycling backpack, plus a padded waterproof case for your laptop and phone, keeps your spare duds dry during a sudden downpour. We keep a hairdryer at our office to use after particularly wet rides. If your bike has the eyelets for fenders, they’re your best bet against splashback, so make sure to install them—unless you like the feel of that dirt trail on your back!

It’s Not All About the Gear

Now that cycling everywhere has gotten more popular, there are plenty of tricked-out accessories you can use for your ride. There’s the practical kind, such as cell phone mounts and panniers, to the downright ridiculous (looking at you, bicycle banana holder!). But you should really avoid the “must have” lists and settle on the items that work best for you. Some people can’t stand padded bike shorts, while others wouldn’t dream of riding without them. Some commuters like baskets or racks and panniers, and some prefer to carry everything in a shoulder bag or knapsack. It may take a little trial and error, but you’ll figure out what you need. It’s about the quality of the ride, not the fanciness of the gear.

But a Few Cool Accessories Are Nice

That being said, there’s nothing like the right tool for the job. Since there are some pretty cool accessories out there, there’s no harm in trying out a few if you want, right? Some of the standouts include USB-charging bike lights, a U-lock clamp bracket, and bicycle chain chargers that capture the kinetic energy from your ride and use it to charge your phone and devices. We also think sustainable bike lights that run off 100 percent solar power just like solar panels are pretty cool. And with plenty of patterned bags, helmets, and hats, there are tons of ways to personalize your ride. After all, just because you’re commuting to work doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun along the way!



About the Writer

Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

PUBLIC Partnering With Sony’s Future Lab Program

September 7th, 2016

We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with Sony’s Future Lab Program to help introduce the prototype Concept N to the Bay Area and beyond. Our flagship PUBLIC store in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley will serve as a hands-on demo location between September 15-October 6 where visitors to our 549 Hayes St store can test… Read more »


We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with Sony’s Future Lab Program to help introduce the prototype Concept N to the Bay Area and beyond.

Our flagship PUBLIC store in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley will serve as a hands-on demo location between September 15-October 6 where visitors to our 549 Hayes St store can test out Sony’s new wearable technology Concept N.

You might also recognize our Slate Blue PUBLIC R16 flat-bar city road bike in the video above.

What is Concept N? It’s a neckband-style wearable device, designed by Sony’s Future Lab Program, that allows you to listen to high-quality sound, hands free, through an open-air speaker.


Several of us at PUBLIC have had a chance to try Concept N. We’re particularly excited that you can hear clear voice-navigation to help you find your way around your city, easily use voice-recognition to find resources and places, and even take photos and video of your surroundings without taking your smartphone out of your pocket or bag.

The open-ear headphones, if you choose to use them, allow you to listen to music or news while still hearing what’s happening around you. The device feels very lightweight around your neck. If you wear collared shirts, it can also fit nicely under your collar too.

Right now, the prototype is only available in the Bay Area for a very select, limited number of participants who can provide feedback on how they use the device in their daily lives. Between September 15-October 6, you can demo Concept N at our Hayes Valley PUBLIC store at 549 Hayes.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can apply to participate in the early adopter program for Concept N.

After you apply to be considered for the program, The Future Lab Program will invite potential participants to several special events in San Francisco in late September and October.


Bike to Work in Style, Commute Like a European

May 19th, 2016

In the United States, we tend to be hard on ourselves about our rate of biking to work compared to Europe. However, we have reason to celebrate during this Bike to Work month. In America, the ranks of cycling commuters are only growing: our numbers rose about 60 percent throughout the aughts, from 488,000 bike… Read more »


In the United States, we tend to be hard on ourselves about our rate of biking to work compared to Europe. However, we have reason to celebrate during this Bike to Work month. In America, the ranks of cycling commuters are only growing: our numbers rose about 60 percent throughout the aughts, from 488,000 bike commuters in the year 2000 to roughly 786,000 in 2008–2012, according to the US Census. More recently, biking to work has continued to trend upwards from 2006 to 2013 among workers of all income brackets.

bike to work bicycle commute

Although our patterns of bike commuting are looking rosy, we in the United States still have plenty to learn from Europe so that everyday people cycle as a matter of habit across the nation. Here’s how pedaling commuters get to work in style in the two cities with some of the highest rates of bicycling.

bike to work bicycle commute

Image via Wikimedia Commons


In Copenhagen, almost half of the population cycles to their school or office. We can glean some infrastructure lessons—as well as style tips—from Denmark’s bike to work culture.

bike to work bicycle commute

Image by Tony Webster via flickr

Infrastructure ingenuity

  • Only one percent of Copenhageners mention the environment as the reason they ride. Most of them do it because it’s the easiest way to scoot around town. Strong cycling infrastructure makes the choice obvious.
  • Traffic lights are coordinated for bicycles, not cars.
  • When it snows, bike lanes have priority for cleaning before roads. No wonder the majority of commuters still cycle through Copenhagen’s white winters.
  • City planners made bike lanes the most direct routes to the city center, according to the Guardian.
  • Footrests and railings allow riders to stop at a light without hopping off their seats. (Seattle recently added these—go Seattle!)
bike to work bicycle commute

Image by Bimbimbikes via Flickr

Cycling style

  • Copenhageners prefer bike baskets, storing their work supplies in a way that keeps the burden off their backs.
  • Personalizing the baskets with flowers and stickers gives cyclists a personal connection with their ride.
  • The baskets can be easily taken off the front handlebars, allowing for shopping and moving around.
  • Comfy saddles are standard. Brooks leather saddles can be seen around Copenhagen.

By Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands

About 63 percent of Amsterdammers bike every day. Cycling to work is in their DNA. Here’s how it happened.


Image by Apoikola via Wikimedia Commons

Infrastructure ingenuity

  • Dutch bike lanes are wide enough to allow for side-by-side biking, according to the BBC, allowing you to chat with your “bikepool” buddy.
  • Many cycling routes are offset from cars and the rest of the road, making commuters feel safe.
  • Bicyclists are treated as the first-class citizens they deserve to be. You’ll find signs that read: “Bike Street: Cars are guests.”
bike to work bicycle commute

Image by TCP via flickr.

Cycling style

  • Dutch children start biking as babies in cargo bikes, called bakfiets in Dutch.
  • Bikers don’t consider cycling a lifestyle choice. Rather, it’s a default mode. As such, their bikes aren’t consumer accessories to show off a subculture, but workaday vehicles, according to the BBC. In such a culture, cycling might seem more accessible to the rich and poor alike.
  • Sliding wheel locks allow for cyclists to quickly secure their bike and hop into the coffee shop on their ride to work.
  • Popular dynamo headlights are powered by pedaling—so you don’t have to remember to recharge them or replace the batteries.
  • Commuters bike to work in skirts and heels like it ain’t no thang, thanks to the predominance of Dutch-style step-through bikes. Seeing others do it all the time makes it seem natural… so why not start the trend in your city?

Increasing the number of bike commuters in the United States will have to be a joint effort between policymakers and the people on the streets. Start today to create the cycling culture you’d like to live in: Write a letter to your local representative to prioritize bike infrastructure. Then, slip on your high heeled shoes, put your laptop in your bike basket, and cycle to work with a smile. You might inspire someone else to do the same.

Should You Wear A Bicycle Helmet?

May 8th, 2016

For adults we think riding a bicycle with or without a helmet is a personal choice. This personal decision should be based on the surrounding riding conditions, the rider’s age and experience, the type of riding the person is doing, and someone’s general overall risk assessment. If you’re choosing to wear a bicycle helmet, read… Read more »

bike helmet bicycle

For adults we think riding a bicycle with or without a helmet is a personal choice. This personal decision should be based on the surrounding riding conditions, the rider’s age and experience, the type of riding the person is doing, and someone’s general overall risk assessment.

If you’re choosing to wear a bicycle helmet, read our helpful bicycle helmet safety tips on fit and comfort – and why you should replace your helmet every five years.

There’s a lot already written on the heated topic of whether riders should wear a bicycle helmet, and even if laws should mandate wearing a helmet. Although there’s no federal law mandating that bicycle riders strap a shell on their noggins, 22 states have laws regarding bike helmets.

For different perspectives on the helmet debate, you can read the following articles:

Instead of spending energy debating a personal choice of whether to wear a helmet, we think it’s more important that we, collectively, advocate for safer and better bicycle infrastructure to encourage more people to get on bikes. We believe changing the riding conditions in our cities to make bicycling safer – more protected and separated bike lanes, lower speed limits for everyone, and better designed streets for all mobilities – will ultimately do more to protect riders.

bike helmet lack thereof netherlands

Image via flickr.

In one of the safest cycling countries in the world, the Netherlands, riders rarely wear helmets, according to Co.Exist. That’s because the country’s infrastructure prioritizes cyclists, and as a result, that gear becomes almost superfluous. In countries like the US and UK, having to wear helmets might be a “failure of policy,” according to the British blog Alternative Department for Transport.

How to Bike with Kids on Mother’s Day—and Beyond

April 30th, 2016

On Mother’s Day, there are countless reasons our moms deserve handwritten cards and brunch. For some of us, those reasons include our fond memories of learning to ride a bike. Our mothers patiently guided us as we graduated from child bike seat to balance bike to kid bike with pedals. Just by watching Mom pedal around town… Read more »

how to bike with kids child bicycle

On Mother’s Day, there are countless reasons our moms deserve handwritten cards and brunch. For some of us, those reasons include our fond memories of learning to ride a bike. Our mothers patiently guided us as we graduated from child bike seat to balance bike to kid bike with pedals. Just by watching Mom pedal around town herself, some of us learned to value biking for its exercise, convenience and fun factor.

For all those new mothers hoping to shape their children into cyclists, we salute you. Our figurative flowers for you include tips for teaching your kids the rituals of biking. Aside from the obvious habits that apply to all ages—wear a helmet, use hand signals, bike on the right side of the road—these pointers are kid specific.

With this advice, you’ll help your child safely grow from a bike-seat sidekick to a velodrome champion—well, if that’s what they want to be when they grow up. You can also read riding tips we collected from some of our favorite bike-riding Moms.

how to bike with kids child bicycle

The bike seat years: One-year-old to toddler

  • Before you start adventuring around town with your baby in a bike seat, your child should be one year old. They should be able to hold up their own head with a helmet on and not slump over in the bike seat, according to bikeportland.org.
    Choose a comfortable child seat with a sturdy harness. Once the child is old enough to unbuckle things, make sure they know not to escape from their harness mid-ride!
  • Start small and bike on quiet streets for short rides so that both you and your baby get comfortable.
how to bike with kids child bicycle
  • In addition to putting a helmet on your baby, always wear your own helmet to role model safe biking behavior!
  • This tip comes from the blog of PUBLIC C7 rider Joanna Goddard (past interview here): “If you have one young child, I would definitely recommend a front seat. You feel close and connected, since you can easily chat and point at things and see what they’re looking at. Plus, I find that having that extra weight in the front versus the back of the bike is easier for balancing.”
how to bike with kids child bicycle

The balance bike to training wheels years: Three- to seven-years-old or older

  • Consider a balance bike or push bike. A balance bike has no pedals and helps children focus on first learning to balance on two wheels. Once they have mastered the art of balancing they might be able to skip a pedal kids bike with training wheels all together.
  • After a balance bike, if possible, try to encourage your child to try a pedal kids bike without training wheels. By learning to ride without training wheels, your child will learn balance speed. Keep the seat low so your child can put both feet on the ground. Sometimes it’s easier to start on a gentle slope to get the pedal kids bike moving for balancing and then your child can start pedaling.
  • If your child does not have a lot of riding confidence, a pedal kids bike with training wheels is an option. Training wheels don’t help a child learn the importance of balance speed but they can help a less confident rider get going. All of PUBLIC’s smaller 16″ wheel size pedal kids bikes come with optional training wheels. It might sound contrary, but positioning the training wheels a little higher off the ground than you think will actually create more stability for the child when rolling, says PUBLIC product manager, Aaron Glick.
how to bike with kids child bicycle
  • Even though your child is low to the ground, buy your little biker a normal bicycle helmet, labeled with a certification by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Only let your child explore quiet, safe places—away from dangers such as cars and swimming pools.
how to bike with kids child bicycle

The bicycle years: Seven-years-old and beyond

  • Allow your children to graduate from a training wheels only once they’ve gained the necessary sense of balance, usually around five to seven years old.
  • Kids at 10-years-old and younger are safer riding on the sidewalk than on the street, according to Safe Kids.
  • Teach your young cyclist to make eye contact with drivers before crossing an intersection. They should make sure that the driver sees them and is going to stop.
  • Try a bike-to-school route! One adult could potentially lead the way, picking up children along the path to school to join the caravan.
  • Ditch the tandem bike. Children should be able to match your pedalling power before they tandem bike, which might take until they reach age 12, according to Outside Online.
  • For long journeys, consider a trailercycle, advises cyclist Charles Scott. You can store your supplies as well as resting children in your trailer. Once they’re ready, kids can get back on the bike and feel like part of the team.

Once your kids start pedaling, they might know their way around their neighborhood better than those kids who are only driven around in cars, at least one study has shown. The study also indicated that cycling kids have a richer connection with their community; they remember more spaces where they like to play than exclusively car-driven kids.

how to bike with kids child bicycle

In that case, what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than pedaling around your neighborhood together? You’ll give yourself the gift of fun and exercise—and your children the gift of a more memorable childhood.


Photography credit goes to the talents of Jetkat Photography. Model credit goes to the beautiful family of Copy Cat Chic. And big thanks to Rebecca Huval for making this post possible.

Tips for Biking With Kids From a Bike-loving Dad

June 8th, 2015

We think biking is cool and dads who bike are extra cool. With Father’s Day just around the corner, we asked extra cool dad and photographer Gabriel Harber from Oakland, CA about biking with his two kids, Ellis and Zelda. We learned many tips for biking with kids in our interview with Gabriel. Namely that the key to getting… Read more »


We think biking is cool and dads who bike are extra cool. With Father’s Day just around the corner, we asked extra cool dad and photographer Gabriel Harber from Oakland, CA about biking with his two kids, Ellis and Zelda. We learned many tips for biking with kids in our interview with Gabriel. Namely that the key to getting your kids interested and excited about riding is, quite simply, to keep it fun. For tips on biking with your kids, read the rest of our interview with Gabriel below. And for even more how-to’s on family biking check out our post on moms who bike with their kids.

PUBLIC: You live in the urban city of Oakland. How does biking with your kids fit into city life?
Gabriel: Biking in a fairly flat city like Oakland just makes so much sense. It is fast, fun, economical, and makes me feel like I am doing a tiny bit to help make the world a better place. Biking with my kids is easy and fun. They love to see and smell all the interesting stuff around us. Instead of being stuck in a car seat separated from the people and environment around them, they get to interact, experience, and positively add to their surroundings.

PUBLIC: How many kids do you have, what are their ages, and how do you get your kids interested about biking?
Gabriel: My son, Ellis, is almost 5 and my daughter, Zelda, just turned 3. Ellis started riding a balance bike when he was 2 1/2. He is now working on mastering a pedal bike. Zelda is a beast on the balance bike. We try to make biking fun. Kids like fun.

PUBLIC: How has biking with your kids changed the way you understand or interact with them?
Gabriel: My daughter loves to sing on the bike. My son points out smells and we talk about construction projects that we pass by often. They both love emergency vehicles. It is great being able to converse with them, share experiences, and to realize how much they are aware of and the depth of their curiosity.

PUBLIC: Where do you like to go biking with your kids?
Gabriel: We bike everywhere. We recently biked/barted/and biked some more to the Makers Faire in San Mateo. I rode over 30 miles that day. It was an epic adventure. We have biked out to the port of Oakland and across town to Codornices park in Berkeley. We have biked to first Friday a few times. We go to the park, to the grocery store, and the farmers market by bike. It is fun to bike around town and stop in at friends’ houses unannounced.

PUBLIC: What are your top tips for parents who have not started biking with their kids?
Gabriel: My kids are pretty young and are easier to bike at certain times. I have two bike rigs; one that carries the kids separately (one in front and one behind) and one where they ride together. It is easiest for me to have them separated so they don’t mess with each other. When they are on the bike where they sit next to each other it is easiest riding with them in the morning before they are amped up and tired. A bike with a step through frame will be easier to mount if you are carrying two kids on your bike or one in back. The more simple you can keep your initial set up, the more likely it is that you will start biking with your kid/s. I started with an ibert front carrier on an old Italian road bike and then added a Yepp rear seat when I began biking both kids. The road bike was not suited for carrying myself and two kids so I moved their seats over to a Public bike and replaced the rear wheel with one that could hold the extra weight. You can put a kid bike seat on most any bike. Don’t hold out for the perfect setup. Wear a helmet. Use lights at night. Biking is fun, easy, and will make you and your kids feel awesome.

A New Zest For Life

June 2nd, 2015


In honor of Father’s Day we’d like to share with you a special story about an inspirational PUBLIC rider, Gary Clemens, who is pictured above. We learned about Gary from his son, Deven, who writes about his dad:

“My dad was the primary caregiver to his wife and his mother and during that time didn’t have much of a chance to care for himself. When they both passed, we asked him to move back to the Bay Area to be near his grandkids and his family. He did and we decided to get him a PUBLIC bike so he could be more active. It gave him a new zest for life.”

It had been 30 years since Gary had ridden a bike when he took his first spin last year. Now he rides nearly every day, to do errands, with his grandkids and along the plentiful bike trails in Mill Valley, California just to take in the views. We’re so inspired by Gary and touched that Deven shared this story about his inspirational dad.

We interview Gary below about what biking means to him and how you’re never too old to change your life.

PUBLIC: After 30 years of not riding, what prompted you to pick up riding again?
Gary: The family and I were up in Tahoe and they convinced me that I could ride the bike trail and along the Truckee river. It had been 30 years since I was on a bike.

PUBLIC: How did it feel to ride a bike after being away from riding for so long?
Gary: It all came back to me but I was not steady and I was quite hesitant.

PUBLIC: What do you like best about riding a bike again?
Gary: It gets me out and helps with balance and getting the muscles moving. I feel so much better now that I am riding.

PUBLIC: What tips can you offer those who haven’t ridden in awhile and are interested in getting back into it?
Gary: You have to give it a try. You must find areas that are compatible with bike riding. I prefer flat ground along with small hills. I do not ride fast but I have worked up to a steady speed. I would also suggest that if you are looking to start riding a bike again you get one that is a step-thru bike. If the bike that I use to starting riding again was not a step through I may have not continued.

PUBLIC: How do you benefit from biking?
Gary: I find that riding my bike clears my head, improves my balance and I find that I am not as stiff. When I am walking, I find going up a hill is not a problem. I attribute this to my bike riding.

PUBLIC: Biking is a universal activity, yet it sometimes gets pegged as a sport for the youth. How does biking fit into your lifestyle?
Gary: When I am on the bike trail I see all kinds of people that ride as a sport fast and hard. I also see riders enjoying the outdoors moving slower and taking in the view.

PUBLIC: How does biking offer you freedom?
Gary: When I was a kid I definitely saw my bike as a form of freedom. Now, however, I see my bike as a way to get my exercise in and taking all the back roads that would be missed if you were driving.

PUBLIC: We heard a rumor that you were interested selling your car and just biking everywhere. Tell us a little more about why you would want to do that?
Gary: There are times when I do not take the car out for a week. Then you starting thinking the cars are expensive and you could save a lot of money by just relying on the bike. However I do travel longer distances and the weather can be a big factor so I may still need a car.

PUBLIC: Sounds like you ride with your family often. What family members do you ride with and where do you all ride?
Gary: I have had some great bike rides with my daughter in law and my son. Occasionally I will ride with my grandkids and we will have 3 generations on the bike path in Mill Valley, all on PUBLIC bikes. The whole family takes into consideration that I am moving a little slower than they are so it is nice to have them all around me so we can talk.


Gary Clemens, cruising along in Mill Valley, California.

Safer Streets Begin With A Vision

May 5th, 2015

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… Read more »

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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… Read more »


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.