Designer Interview: Ghislaine Viñas

May 19th, 2015

Ghislaine Viñas

Ghislaine Viñas / Photo By Andy French

I first met award-winning interior designer Ghislaine Viñas on a PUBLIC group bike ride in Manhattan during the ICFF event that draws designers from around the world. She was there looking very Dutch (she was born in the Netherlands) on an orange PUBLIC mixte bike and riding with her Mom. Given how the Dutch lead the way when it comes to biking, we always feel especially complimented when the Dutch select our bikes.

It was at this ICFF event that I discovered Ghislaine and I had many shared personal interests, like an obsession with color and pattern. You can see this in her remarkable interior design work, and of course in the bike she rides 😉.

Read our complete interview with Ghislaine below.

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Rob Forbes

PUBLIC: As the owner/creator of an interior design studio you are constantly called upon to come up with new ideas and solutions for creative problems. Where do you find inspiration?

Ghislaine: Its true that coming up with new ideas and creative solutions is a huge part of the job, but it’s the part I enjoy the most. I feel lucky to live in NYC and be surrounded by creativity and inspiration and I don’t need to go far to find it. But traveling is what really gives me inspiration.

I just came back from Panama and was really inspired by Panama City and the islands I visited when I was there. The Kuna woman of the San Blas islands wear the most beautiful traditional outfits that are crazily patterned and reverse embroidered. They originally used to paint their bodies with these geometric patterns and then as they westernized they transferred the patterns onto fabric. The Kuna women are tiny and wear these gorgeous bright red and yellow headscarves and lots of mixed patterns and colors. I had never heard of this tribe so it was a lovely discovery for me.

I love finding this kind of inspiration. I’m always planning and plotting my next adventure with my family especially during the cold winter months.

PUBLIC: What are the first steps you take when solving an interior design problem?

Ghislaine: I usually just tackle something head on and use my intuition, diving right in without thinking too much. I know that my first inspiration is just a starting point and I keep on developing and often changing an idea until I get it right. Sometimes I can’t really explain why something isn’t right so we just keep on going. It’s always a process and sometimes it takes designing a room countless times before it feels right.

PUBLIC: How does bicycling fit into your lifestyle?

Ghislaine: My bike IS my lifestyle. No matter what the weather, I ride my bike to my appointments and meetings and just everywhere I go. A lot of my activities are in downtown Manhattan and it’s just the easiest, fastest and most convenient way for me to get around. I know some people put their bike away for the winter but mine never goes into storage.

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Interior by Ghislaine Viñas / Photo By Eric Laignel

PUBLIC: Color plays an important role in your work. What inspires your color choices?

Ghislaine: Color has always made me feel very happy and I love surrounding myself with colorful happy things so at first it was just innate. My color choices are often driven by how I want a space to feel. I know that color can drive the way that spaces make us feel and my designs work with that energy. Creating good solid neutrals in a room are important so that it creates a backdrop for me to incorporate color. We are always experimenting with color, and playing with nuances. But my work with color is something that is always evolving. I was very inspired by Dutch Design Week last year and was introduced to some really inspiring color combinations and ideas. I think I’m only at the beginning of my experimentation with color and hope to keep working and evolving in this area of my designs.

What’s your favorite color at the moment?

Ghislaine: I don’t have a favorite but I’ve always loved greens and am really intrigued with mixing super vibrant greens with more muddy ones. Recently I was in a tiny little village called Salt Creek on Isla Bastimentos in Panama. It’s the home of the still intact indigenous Indian Ngobe-Bugle people, and I noticed that a lot of the very crude and simple buildings that the locals had built were painted with vibrant greens. The buildings were pretty primitive looking but I loved the mixture of greens with which some of the houses were painted. I also love orange. I’m a sucker for bright vibrant clear colors.

PUBLIC: We notice that your PUBLIC bike is Orange ;-). How does your PUBLIC Bike reflect your personal style?

Ghislaine: Well, my bike is orange and since I was born in the Netherlands I feel like I am representing. 😉 My PUBLIC bike feels like it was made for me personally and I think it’s strange when I see someone else with a bike like mine. That’s how personal the bike feels to me. I’ve always been drawn to color and riding a bright orange bike fits my style.

PUBLIC: Describe your perfect day on a bike?

Ghislaine: Since I use my bike in the city on a day-to-day level I’m not going to pick that as a perfect day (even though it certainly can be). My perfect day on a bike is waking up in the Netherlands and jumping on bikes with my parents, husband and kids and spending the day riding through the countryside, past windmills and into tiny villages. Stopping for coffee and lunch and ice cream along the way. We have been doing this since my girls were babies, riding in the kids seat connected to our bikes. Our kids would fall asleep and take their naps in the kids seats. Springtime in the Netherlands is amazingly beautiful and there is something so pure and simple about the bike rides we take in North Holland. We will be there again in a month so I’m really looking forward to breathing in the crisp fresh spring air and taking lots of bike rides.

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Ghislaine biking around NYC / Photo By Jaime Viñas

PUBLIC: Are bicycles an important part of the community you live in?

Ghislaine: I’ve lived in my neighborhood Tribeca for 24 years and for a long time there weren’t too many bikes around, but in the last 5 years or so biking has become super popular. It’s so nice to stop at a stop light and have another bike pull up next to you, that didn’t happen until more recently. I think that drivers and taxis are also paying attention more and learning to share the road. It can be pretty scary riding in the city so it feels good to have a community of riders on the road. I wish we had better bike lanes and that the roads here were safer but it has never stopped me. Of course Citibikes has also doubled the amount of bikes on the roads.

PUBLIC: What makes your work unique?

Ghislaine: I’m so passionate about design and everything I do comes from my heart so its a really personal expression. When I am designing rooms I don’t think of furniture, rugs, and window treatments but I think of spaces as compositions. The solutions we offer our clients is always informed by what they tell us about themselves and what they want their space to feel like. So our interiors are always unique creations for those specific clients and that way our work remains fresh and unique.

PUBLIC: How do you keep your designs fresh and relevant?

Ghislaine: I’m a curious person and have a pretty short attention span. This means I am usually looking for something new and different to keep me occupied. It’s in my nature to try new things constantly.

PUBLIC: Any upcoming projects/partnerships/designs that you are excited about?

Ghislaine: I am currently collaborating with furniture designer and friend, Brad Ascalon on a furniture line for Loll. Loll is a fantastic, environmentally conscious furniture design company out of Duluth, MN and its been fun working on an upholstered line for them which we are hoping launches in the next 3 months. I feel lucky to be collaborating with Chet Callahan again. He is an architect in LA and our first project together was a project I am really super proud of so its great to be working on a second. I’m doing my 8th project with my good friend and client Paige West. I adore working with her and I always get excited when she tells me she has a project up her sleeve. I’m just really happy and proud of what we are doing in my office and the great team of people I get to work with every day. My husband Jaime is a great collaborator too and we are working with him on a number of projects too.

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.”

PUBLIC Comes to Capitol Hill

April 17th, 2015

PUBLIC SEATTLE THE PUBLIC STORE IN CAPITOL HILL COMING TOGETHER

Wow – we’re almost across the finish line. After months of planning and construction, we’re proud to announce that we’re officially opening our PUBLIC store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Saturday, April 25 starting from 11am-7pm. Check out our Seattle store hours after April 25.

We had the chance to sit down with Mike, our new Capitol Hill Store Manager. Mike’s enthusiasm and vast experience in the outdoor retail world makes us confident that PUBLIC Bikes in Seattle is going to be one fun, friendly and knowledgable store. Read on to learn more about Mike (he’s hiked that Appalachian trail!) and make sure to swing by the store to say hello.

MikeCAPITOL HILL STORE MANAGER, MIKE

PUBLIC: Tell us a little about yourself.
Mike I was born in Maine and bounced up and down the east coast as a kid (Navy brat) before settling in North Carolina as a young adult. After six years in NC, my wife DeeAnna and I wanted to check out the west and I landed a position managing the Patagonia store in Portland, OR. After six years in Portland, DeeAnna realized a long time dream of pursuing a Master’s degree at a school in Seattle. We’ve been in Seattle for 4.5 years now.

PUBLIC: Where did you work before?
Mike: I just finished a stint as a sales rep for six great outdoor brands throughout Washington and Oregon. Being a sales rep was fun for the flexibility and getting to drive all over a terrific region of the country but all that travel was wearing me down!

PUBLIC: What do you like best about the Seattle?
Mike: It’s a long list. Here’s a few things: laid back culture, landscape, coffee, weather, beer, food, wine. I think it’s the prettiest city I’ve ever been to (no offense, SF).

PUBLIC: Tell us some fact or background about yourself that might surprise people.
Mike: I’ve got some hobbies (and quirks)…I love to cook and sew. I like to make messenger bags, small satchels, and hats. I made a little bag for my wife to carry around her hospital job and have ended up selling several to her friends in the hospital. I also love music and can be very opinionated on the matter. And an old, fun fact. When I was 18 I bought a cheap Porsche and loved it. When I was 19 I left the Porsche behind and hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

PUBLIC: What’s your experience riding bikes in Seattle?
Mike: While living in Portland, I bike commuted religiously for six years. As a sales rep based in Seattle, I haven’t ridden much and getting back to a bike commute was a huge priority for me in joining PUBLIC. My ride to work is pretty long but I couldn’t be more excited about it!

PUBLIC: What are your favorite routes or places to visit by bicycle in Seattle?
Mike: I live in north Seattle and the route to Ballard and the Ballard Farmers Market is the best. Heading from there to Gas Works Park, then along the Burke-Gilman and Lake Washington to loop back towards home makes for a lovely day off.

PUBLIC: What are you looking forward to in leading the new PUBLIC Seattle store?
Mike: I’m really excited to bring the PUBLIC story more fully to Seattle. So many people prioritize relaxing on days off and the bikes we make are going to fit in so well in Capitol Hill and Seattle. The ride from our store to Pike Place Market is going to become a favorite for so many people and I can’t wait to hear those customer stories and see the photos!

Marine Layer + PUBLIC Giveaway Winner

April 17th, 2015

Lynn GIVEAWAY WINNER LYNN

We’re pumped to announce the very lucky winner of our Marine Layer + PUBLIC giveaway is singer/songwriter Lynn Cardona from Los Angeles, CA.

When Lynn is not behind the microphone she can be found hiking up to Griffith Observatory in LA, hitting a yoga class, or spending a lazy Sunday morning reading comics with her boyfriend, Arthur.

Lynn doesn’t currently have a bike and can’t wait to take to the roads on her new PUBLIC bike and “go for spins around Los Feliz when the weather gets nicer.”

Congratulations Lynn and many happy trails!

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Interview With Designer Eric Heiman

April 14th, 2015

Eric and his PUBLIC ERIC HEIMAN AND HIS PUBLIC BIKE / BY CHRISTINA JIRACHACHAVALWONG

Designers tend to be opinionated, aesthetically conscious and self-professed perfectionists. So when a designer like Eric Heiman selects a PUBLIC bike for his life, we feel especially complimented.

Eric and his business partner, Adam Brodsley run Volume Inc, a design agency that “specializes in creating artifacts, systems and experiences that activate people.” Eric has a background in architecture and music and teaches at California College of The Arts.

Eric has been a part of the PUBLIC family since early on by contributing one of his designs to our PUBLIC works project, and recently designing my new book, See for Yourself. But long before I knew Eric, he knew PUBLIC. He was one of our first customers back in 2009 and still commutes daily on his PUBLIC bike.

Eric was game enough to let us interview him about all things bike and design related.

Read on to learn more about Eric, one of the top talents in design today.

Rob Forbes

 

 

VOLUME INC YBCA ERIC HEIMAN / BY MARIKO REED

PUBLIC: How long have you been riding bikes?

Eric: Since I was a wee pup growing up in small town Pennsylvania.

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

Eric: Yes. I was 5 or 6 and it was a red Schwinn with a banana seat. My dad put me on it a bit prematurely, and I proceeded to have a traumatic wipeout out on the sidewalk in front of our house. I worked my way back via training wheels for the next few months.

PUBLIC: How did you come to love bikes?

Eric: I think it was more out of necessity than anything else. If I wanted to get from point A to point B (especially in the years before I could drive) outside of walking the bike was the best option. When it wasn’t winter, anyway.

These were the days when we kids could run wild as long as we were home by dinner. It was good exercise, too! I also went through the inevitable “dirt bike” phase of popping wheelies, ramp jumps, etc. Had a few mishaps there, too, and I’m amazed I didn’t get seriously hurt.

Those were the days of ignorance-is-bliss parenting, which needs to come back! Eating dirt as a kid builds character! (Then again, I’m not a parent.) I had a classic blue Schwinn ten-speed all through high school, and then got a Bianchi mountain bike (which, coincidentally, the first design firm I worked at created the graphics for) in college. A bike has been a preferred form of transportation all my life, really.

PUBLIC Works Poster PUBLIC WORKS POSTER BY ERIC HEIMAN

PUBLIC: How did you come by your PUBLIC bike?

Eric: I actually have two. When the first PUBLIC bikes warehouse moved in across from our old studio space on Harrison Street, I walked in one day and was struck by both the bikes and the congenial staff. I had been looking for a new commuter bicycle after years of riding in the city on my mountain bike. After one test ride I was sold!

The second one I received for contributing one of the PUBLIC Works posters, and it is the one I ride now. The first one has become one of the communal bikes we keep around the Volume office for anyone to use.

PUBLIC: How does bicycling fit into your lifestyle?

Eric: Cycling is my main way of getting around town. I usually bike to and from work plus everything in between, client meetings included. It’s my main form of physical exercise. The hills in SF are no joke. I’ll take the fresh air and a little traffic over a gym any day. My car is almost 13 years-old now and has barely 45,000 miles on it. I should probably just sell it already.

PUBLIC: How often do you ride?

Eric: Almost every day, weather permitting. I’ll sometimes do longer rides on weekends, like to the beach and back.

PUBLIC: How does your PUBLIC Bike reflect your personal style?

Eric: I’ve never been a “flashy-style”-type of person—I would never ride a “fixie” bike or wear tennis shoes with a suit, just to name two things that come to mind. (Though I do like to sport orange pants every so often…) But, obviously, I do care about good design and for me that’s always been about a balance of style, function and accessibility to more than just an elite cadre of the high-minded. The PUBLIC bikes check off all these boxes.

PUBLIC: Describe your perfect day on a bike?

Eric: A day when I don’t have to wear layers! Haha. Any day I’m on my bike—minus riding through a rainstorm—is a perfect day, really. I’m easy. It’s such a great grounding and stress-alleviating activity for me.

Also, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is try the bike share programs in other cities. The last time I was in Paris, New York and Minneapolis, I barely took the subways or cabs. Even late at night. You see so much more a bike.

PUBLIC: Are bicycles an important part of the community you live in?

Eric: Relative to other American cities, San Francisco and the East Bay have pretty great bike cultures. But compared to some European cities—Amsterdam, Copenhagen—we have a long way to go before biking is as embedded into everyday life as it is in those cities. Most drivers here still seem to view us as nuisances that are in the way, not as equal partners on the road.

Masters of Design VOLUME INC MASTERS OF DESIGN / BY ROBERT DIVERS HERRICK

PUBLIC: How would you describe your creative style?

Eric: Modern (in the classic sense) and understated, but always with a flash of the idiosyncratic, unique and current. The Steve Zissou-like red cap I often wear and our YBCA campaign from a few years ago both fit this description, I think. Personally, I don’t like to call attention to myself too much. At the same time I don’t want to be like everyone else. I want to feel free to express myself as I truly am. So, yes, I will dance like a mad fiend if the right music is on. Or take the karaoke microphone if it’s handed to me and there’s a song I want to sing. In my work, I want to create something unique and engaging, but not at the expense of what it was originally commissioned to do. “Authentic” is a word that is way too overused today, but that’s the ideal I try to hold myself and our work to.

PUBLIC: Where do you find inspiration?

Eric: I tend to be a sponge in terms of inspiration, and the internet age has wrought havoc on my ability to actually stop absorbing and start making things. But I definitely gravitate more towards populist narrative forms—literature, film, music, graphic novels—than I do rarefied art and design (though as a graphic designer, my love of visual culture is hard coded into my DNA). I’m as much interested in the emotional and experiential potential of my work than I am the object nature of it. Getting it out to audiences beyond just other creatives is important, too. At Volume we always like to say, “It’s not what the design is, it’s what it does that’s important.” I like a beautiful, well-crafted item as much as the next person, but I’m equally interested in how design can enable, inspire, and provoke. I love the physical and visual quality of vinyl LPs and sleeves, but I still buy them primarily to enjoy the music. I love my bike because I can ride it (plus that awesome gear-shift mechanism!), not just ogle it behind a showroom window.

Inspiration also comes from just doing the work. It’s harder for me these days as the co-principal of a (depending on the day) 7-10 person studio to focus as much on the actual doing of the work. But when I do get the chance—even if it is just throwing ideas around in our weekly collaborative meetings or doing rough sketches—the best feeling in the world is watching design manifest through making. Today, it feels like there’s never been more books, seminars, email subscriptions, websites, and conferences on how to be happy in life and how to be inspired in your work. I realize I’m very fortunate to have this creative life I’ve made for myself, but for me the solution has always been simple: Figure out the work you want to do and then just do it.

PUBLIC: Any upcoming projects/partnerships/designs that you are excited about?

VOLUME INC YBCA VOLUME INC YBCA PROJECT / BY GABRIEL BRANBURY

Eric: We’re doing a lot more environment and exhibition-related work at Volume now. Even though the scale of these jobs makes them tough to wrangle at times, the larger scale and experiential possibilities are really appealing. I also think the design we collaborated on with your founder Rob Forbes for his book, See for Yourself, turned out well and I’m excited to see go out into the world. (Yes, that was a shameless plug, but I really am proud of that work!)

On a more personal note, I’m trying to get a writing project about my love of music off the ground in the coming year. Not sure what the format will be yet, but I’m guessing it will be influenced in equal parts by Nick Hornby, Chuck Klosterman, the “33 1/3” book series, and “Freaks and Geeks.”

If you enjoyed this interview with Eric Heiman, check out our interview with designer Erik Spiekermann.

Erik Spiekermann: Type Geek, Bike Geek

March 18th, 2015

Erik's bike collection in Berlin

Since day one, many designers have been involved in shaping PUBLIC into what it is today. But none of them are more fanatical about bikes than Erik Spiekermann. He’s the only guy I know who has more bikes (a total of 13) and rides more often than I do. He rides daily in either of his two bike centric residences in Berlin, Germany and Tiburon, California.

Erik and I go back about a decade, starting when I had him design some house numbers for DWR. I learned then that he was opinionated about many things and a perfectionist in everything he touches. He contributed to the core elements of the PUBLIC brand including our logo and the original stripes on our bikes. He is a world renowned designer with numerous awards and typefaces under his belt, a master Tweeter, a modernist extraordinaire and a good friend.

Below is our interview with Erik where he shares how both design and bikes inform his life. Enjoy.

Rob Forbes

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

Erik: Yes. My neighbor gave it me when I was about 10. I painted it green and it had silver spokes and no gears. It had just one little rubber pad for a brake on the front wheel. And it was too tall for me so I couldn’t sit on the saddle but had to stick one leg under the crossbar to get to the other pedal. All that said, it got me to school.

PUBLIC: How did you come to love bikes?

Erik: They offered independence. I would cover distances that were too far and boring to walk and I could carry things without effort, like books, to school. If the weather got really bad, I would go and take a tram. So we never needed a car (not that we had one while I lived with my parents). My dad drove a 20-ton truck and I learnt to drive on one of them.

The main thing about a bike for me has always been that I use them all the time, not just for sports and not dressed in Spandex. I get on my bike in whatever I’m wearing, even if it is a Tuxedo for a posh reception. It is the most efficient and fun way to get around.

PUBLIC: How often do you ride?

Erik: Every day. In Berlin, I take my bike to work and for errands, including shopping (that’s why I need different bikes for different tasks). In London, I cover distances much faster than I would by public transport. Here in Tiburon, I take my bike to the ferry over to San Francisco and run my errands there on my PUBLIC D8. And we ride the Paradise Loop as often as we can on our steel road bikes. But I wish I had more reasons to use the bike every day.

2010 PUBLIC Stripes

PUBLIC: You designed the original identity stripes featured on every PUBLIC bike. Please talk to us a little about your inspiration for the stripes.

Erik: Stripes are a classic bicycle theme and also prevalent in other sports (Adidas et al). They are a good way to identify a bike without it taking over the whole frame, like the classic bike brands do. Stripes work well on bike tubes where there is a lack of real estate. The stripes can be adapted in colour and frequency and also used on other media. It’s more subtle than repeating a logo.

PUBLIC: Why do you have 13 bikes?

Erik: They are in 4 locations (1 Amsterdam, 2 London, 2 SF, 8 Berlin) and most serve a different purpose. A few are just there because they’re beautiful.

PUBLIC: How does bicycling fit into your lifestyle?

Erik: I ride to work in Berlin and I get around on a bike in the other cities as well. Just practical.

PUBLIC: Describe your perfect day on a bike in Germany?

Erik: Going to the studio, running errands. Not a special effort, no spandex gear, no special shoes, just moving around the city.

Erik on a PUBLIC bike prototype.

PUBLIC: How does your PUBLIC bike reflect your personal style?

Erik: It’s practical and effortless to use. It has a few gears for San Francisco and a luggage rack to carry my shopping and other gear.

PUBLIC: What does the word “public” mean to you?

Erik: Bikes are for everybody, not just for sports

PUBLIC: Where do you find inspiration?

Erik: Life. Travel, people, read, listen.

Poster designed by Erik for PUBLIC.

PUBLIC: You mention that Apple could do better than Helvetica. What font would you suggest?

Erik: One that I would design for them. A lot of people are using my Fira typeface as system font on Apple Yosemite. We originally designed Fira for Firefox/Mozilla and it is now Open Source. The hack for the system replacement is on Github.

PUBLIC: Any upcoming projects/ partnerships/ designs that you are excited about?

Erik: Yes, a letterpress studio in Berlin.

PUBLIC: Anything else you’d like to add?

Erik: Bikes are practical, fun and healthy. They get you around, you see things and they make you feel good.

Tips From a Pro For Winter Bike Riding

February 11th, 2015

Jen and her PUBLIC C1 during an Ottawa winter / © Dwayne Brown the loveOttawa project

When scrolling through our Instagram feed a few weeks ago, we came across a series of pictures from a PUBLIC rider named Jen Dykxhoorn and took pause. There she was, with her PUBLIC C1 and Porteur Rack in the snowy cold of a typical Canadian winter, riding to work. Inspiring. We wanted to know more. Like, why the heck she rides in the snow and what tips did she have for others on biking in winter weather?

We picked Jen’s brain about all things winter riding-related and she was game enough to answer in wonderful detail. For all you need to know about riding in the snow and safe winter bike riding, read on.

PUBLIC: Biking in the winter seems challenging. Why do you do it?

JEN: For so many reasons. I know this sounds contradictory, but for me, winter is both a wonderful adventure and a calming meditation.

The Adventure

I think adventure can be found everywhere, if you are willing to look for it. One of the reasons I bike through the winter is it gives me a little adventure “fix” every day. On my bike, I can challenge myself mentally and physically, explore parts of the city, and spend my day feeling more alive, alert, and happy. By the time I roll into work in the morning, I feel like a champ who has taken on winter and won. My coworkers/friends shake their heads at my “crazy” winter biking, but underneath their incredulity, I think they think it is rather cool.

The Meditation

At the same time, I also find biking in the winter to be calming and nearly meditative. Particularly in the winter, you need to be aware of what is going on around you, and to concentrate on cycling. It is the only part of my day where I am not expected to multitask – flipping between emails, phone calls, and tasks with 10 tabs open on my browser. It is refreshing to only focus on a single task – the simple, rhythmic experience of pumping your legs up and down. You don’t need to worry about what is to come, you only need to tackle the current challenge that is in front of you – from finding the best track through snow or tackling the big hill.

Jen bike commuting during the winter / © Dwayne Brown the loveOttawa project

And also, there is magic. There is something magical about riding home in the evening as the perfect “movie” snow falls around you in big, white, fluffy flakes. Moments like that make winter biking an absolute joy.

PUBLIC: What simple tips and suggestions can you offer for getting one started on biking in winter weather?

JEN: The great news is that you don’t need to be a “hard core” cyclist to ride in the winter, and that all of the reasons you love to ride the rest of the year are true even when the snow flies.

I think most people don’t realize that winter biking is not that hard or foreign, and it is totally within reach. You just need to give it a try! The hardest part is deciding to bike, all the rest is just a matter of logistics.

There are some simple things you can do to make the transition to winter riding a pleasant one:

Clothing:

  • Cover your skin. While there are tons of special clothes and products you can buy, you don’t really need most of them for short rides. I think the most important thing is to cover your skin as the wind will find ways into any gaps.
  • Work clothes are fine to ride in. I actually ride most days in my work clothes. If I am wearing a dress, I will throw on a pair of wind-resistant pants underneath for the ride. If I am wearing dress pants, I will layer with a pair of merino wool long johns.
  • Special outerwear is not a requirement. The outerwear is no different from what I would wear out-and-about in town. I have a vintage fur coat that is excellent for riding, I wear leather mittens that block the wind and are cozy, and wrap a scarf around my head and neck, which is thin enough to fit under my helmet, but adds enough protection to keeps my ears warm.
  • Equipment:

  • The other thing to remember when biking in the winter is that the days are shorter, so make sure you have a good set of lights to be visible. I make sure I bring all my lights inside, because the cold can suck the life out of batteries really quickly.
  • The only other piece of equipment that I would put in the “nearly mandatory” category is a good set of fenders.
  • My “luxury” items include a pair of ski goggles for the really cold days and a studded tire on my front wheel, which adds additional traction when the conditions are slick.
  • PUBLIC: How to you keep your wheels from slipping all over the place?

    JEN: The best advice I have for that is to slow down a little and ride in a straight line. Trying to brake quickly, ride quickly around corners, or make sudden changes in direction would be when you might get into trouble.

    The golden rule of mountain biking applies to snowy conditions – look where you want to go! Look for the best route through the snow, and your wheels will follow.

    I also put a studded tire on my front wheel, which adds quite a bit of additional traction, particularly for cornering.

    PUBLIC: When riding in the snow, where in the road should you be riding?

    JEN: When I am on the road I like to ride approximately where the right wheel track for cars would be (approximately 1 meter or 2 ½ feet from the curb). If you get too close to the curb, there tends to be lots of slush and debris there, which can be very hazardous.

    I find that it is much safer to take the space you need on the road, which means you can ride in a predictable manner and that you are visible to other road users.

    I am lucky to live in Ottawa, where the city has made a commitment to clearing some of the bike lanes as part of the “winter biking network.” For a portion of my commute, I get to ride a lovely separated bike lane, which is kept relatively clear as part of the city’s regular snow clearing.

    Jen, sporting her "mascara saving" ski goggles / © Dwayne Brown the loveOttawa project

    PUBLIC: I notice you bust out some serious goggles. Talk to us about those.

    JEN: While most days, I am fine with a scarf coving 80% of my face, Ottawa can get REALLY cold. For the extra frigid days, picking up a pair of downhill ski goggles was one of my best winter biking decisions. When the mercury dips below -10*C, the goggles keep my eyes positively cozy.

    The additional perk of wearing ski goggles is that your mascara won’t freeze on your lashes, only to melt all over your face as soon as you get inside a building. This happened to me on my 2nd day at a new job, and let me tell you, it was not a pretty sight!

    PUBLIC: Your bike probably gets really dirty with all the wet and snow. How do you maintain your bike?

    JEN: If you are going to ride through the winter, you need to show your bike some love, as the sand and salt can be really bad for your bike! I like to give my bike a good sponge bath every week to get off the worst of the salt and gunk.

    I also use a wet chain lube on my chain and also in the freewheel to keep things from seizing up.

    The salt is a particularly destructive force, so be come spring, I will bring my ride into my local bike shop for the “full spa treatment.” I am sure some parts will have to be replaced, but that is fine. I am a much happier person for being able to cycle in the snow, so springing for a new chain or some upgrades when the spring comes is completely reasonable.

    If you are looking for an all-season ride, I love my single speed PUBLIC C1. I don’t need to worry about gears in the winter, and the upright positioning gives me great positioning to be aware of what is going on around me.

    PUBLIC: Are fenders helpful?

    JEN: Oh my gosh, I think fenders are absolutely essential. I would be drenched and miserable without fenders. They are two bits of metal that separate misery from comfort and protecting me from the misery having a “skunk tail stripe” down my back of dirt and a face full of slush. I think fenders are absolutely essential for a winter bike. I have seen very creative DIY fender solutions, but I am so grateful for my full fender set.

    PUBLIC: Anything you’d like to add?

    JEN: It is OK to take a day (or two) off winter riding. Some days there are brutally cold arctic winds that just existing is hard, or the occasional massive snowfall dumps. Knowing what days to hop on the bus and what days to battle through the conditions is an art.

    Stay safe and enjoy the ride!


    Additional information:

    All photos courtesy of Dwayne Brown for the Love Ottawa Project

    Read more about Jen’s love for winter biking on her blog.

    We’re Hiring In San Francisco & Seattle

    February 7th, 2015


    We are a small team of urbanist bike lovers quite serious about our mission to change the world and quite serious about having fun while making that happen. Now in our fifth year we have plans to expand our business and we could use your help. Maybe you fit one of the job descriptions below or maybe you know someone who does? If you lead us to someone who meets the qualifications for any of the full-time positions we’ll give you the PUBLIC C7 or V7 of your choice. Job summaries and links to full descriptions below.

    Thanks,
    Rob Forbes, PUBLIC Founder

    Director of Merchandise – Full Time (San Francisco)

    For this position we’re looking for a hands-on team player with 5-10 years of product management experience, specializing in web centric retail businesses. We’re looking for someone who will oversee all aspects of merchandise, product development and inventory. If you’re a visionary with an entrepreneurial attitude and a good sense of humor, please drop us a letter of interest at jobs(at)publicbikes.com. Learn more about the position on our website.

    Retail Store Manager – Full Time (Seattle)

    Yup, we’re hiring for Seattle because we’re expanding this Spring and opening our first store outside of California in Seattle, Washington. If you’re a talented and enthusiastic leader, with 3+ years experience in specialty retail management, we’d love to meet you. Send over a letter of interest to storejobs(at)publicbikes.com. Learn more about the position here.

    This Free Bird: Most Inspiring Customer Story of 2014

    December 27th, 2014

    At the heart of our mission at PUBLIC is our connection to our customers. Over the years we’ve heard countless touching stories about customers incorporating our bikes into their life events: engagements, weddings, birthdays, graduations, and yes, even as part of memorials.

    This year we learned an especially poignant story about a customer named Carrie, who suffered a stroke but by late October she had regained enough of her strength to get back on her bike.

    As she wrote on her blog after the ride, “I RODE MY BIKE AROUND THE BLOCK…I have to tell you, it felt great to be outside. ON.MY.BIKE…I couldn’t go far and was pretty shaky, but I did it. And then I cried all the way home.”

    The first image shown above is of Carrie with her arm triumphantly raised in the air after that first loop around the block.


    For most of us, getting on our bike for our daily commute or weekend ride is not a big deal. But for someone like Carrie, it’s another story. Check out her blog, This Free Bird, for the complete story.

    Carrie wrote to us saying, “My bike is a source of pure motivation and joy. That bike has given me such a sense of freedom.”

    May the New Year be filled with optimism, new adventures, free birds, and let’s never take even the simple act of riding a bike for granted.

    Bike Light Up Your Holiday

    December 18th, 2014

    Why stop at trimming your tree with lights? Your bike is a prime candidate for a little more glow this holiday season. We amassed a few shining examples of festive bikes below and we’d love to see yours! If you’re decking out your bike with lights this holiday, send us a picture or tag us @publicbikes on social media.

    1. Cruiser bikes get a nighttime makeover with neon lights

    2. A vintage bike makes for a sweet holiday light show

    3. An amazing bike “tree” blinging with Christmas Lights

    4. A simple way to get festive, wrap colored lights around your bike basket

    5. Transform an old bike by wrapping it in white lights and turning it into a planter

    6. A long exposure and LEDs make a great bike light show