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The Cities That Play Together Stay Together

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

By riding a bike, you instantly become a more connected part of your community and a little happier. It’s the reason why one of our taglines is “Ride a Bike. Smile More.” Since the concepts of fun and urban engagement are important to us, we took notice when a recent article on the importance of “play” in cities passed by our monitors.

The article from The Guardian entitled “Playable Cities: the city that plays together, stays together” makes the case that our culture is becoming increasingly more isolated by technology. So by cultivating activities in your city that bring joy – like “Zoobombing” every Sunday on a zany bike in Portland – you create an environment that’s active, happier and paves the way for a more cohesive city. This article specifically highlights quirky, city-wide events like those illustrated above and below.

Play in cities takes many forms. Here are a few we found and a few we snapped with our own cameras.

Open Streets: NationwideAn increasing number of cities around the world organize Open Streets, which opens public streets for people to walk, bicycle, play, and connect with each other. They’re called Sunday Streets in San Francisco and Berkeley, CicLAvia in Los Angeles, and Sunday Parkways in Portland, Oregon.

Bring Your Own Big Wheels: San Francisco, CA – Adults don costumes and zoom down one of the curviest and steepest streets in San Francisco on big wheel bikes every Easter.

ZooBombing: Portland, OREvery Sunday night adults on kid’s bikes and art bikes careen down a hill near the Oregon Zoo.

Art Installation: Chicago, ILA water art installation geared towards children (but clearly adults were having fun too).

Break Dancing on the Streets in BarcelonaThe simple act of dancing in the streets is a sign of play in the city of Barcelona.

 

Best New Bike Apps for City Biking

Friday, September 19th, 2014

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Robin Williams: A Reflection

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

Rob Forbes

Please send any personal comments to me here.

Riding The Roads Less Ridden

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Images from top to bottom: A tiny, hidden alley in North Beach; Pops of color in the Bayview; A golden sunset in Sutro Heights; and fly fishing in Golden Gate Park.

You know him through the bikes he develops at PUBLIC, but in his spare time our bike designer, Aaron Glick has been working on a very public side project, biking every single street in San Francisco and tracking it on his GPS. He completed his project just last month and we checked in with him about why in the heck he did it and what he learned.

Aaron has a self-proclaimed fear of getting lost when biking. And part of his motivation for riding every SF road was to overcome this fear, “I thought if I rode every street I would never be lost again, right?” A daily commuter and trail biker, he also thought that because he rode regularly, he had been all over the city. His GPS route data proved otherwise, “I was in a cycling rut. I thought that if I attempted to ride every street I would surely shake things up and discover new routes and interesting places I’d never heard of.” He was also inspired by Brett Lobre, a San Franciscan who had previously tackled riding every road in San Francisco in his Ride Every Road project.

More than just adding a blue line to his GPS tracking, Aaron’s ride connected him to the community around him in a way he wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. “The public housing/projects were some of the most interesting parts of the city to me. Some of them were in awful condition and their confusing street layout and made them feel separated from the more affluent buildings and homes around them.” Others, he found were in prime SF locations atop hills with great views and were exceptionally well-maintained.

His ride also took him through a variety of unusual spots, like hidden gardens in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, congested alleyways in China Town, a recycled art garden in the Bayview and a huge sundial in Ingleside.

Have a question for Aaron about biking? Leave your comment on our blog and Aaron will respond!

 

World Cup. Bikes and Brazil.

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

The World Cup is upon us. Futbol is on the minds of millions around the world. I’m lucky enough to be in Salvador, Brazil right now, taking in the World Cup games as well as the biking culture here.

Like many places around the world, the car dominates and congests the streets in Salvador while bicycling is viewed more as recreation than a means of everyday transportation.

Some World Cup host cities, like Salvador, are encouraging people to bicycle to the games by providing arena bike parking and information on where to locate Bike Salvador bike share stations nearby.

The brightly colored orange Bike Salvador bikes and stations are prominent near central public plazas and greenways. Both men and women use these shared bikes. Even a few streets in Salvador feature separated bikeways with clear signage for bicyclists. These efforts show some level of attention to city bicycling by local officials.

Despite these efforts to encourage bicycling, it’s clear urban bicycling has a ways to go in Brazil. – a similar challenging situation to many other countries around the world including the United States. Yet progress is happening in various smaller and larger Brazilian cities, as our friends from Momentum Magazine published in the article “The Bikes in Brazil: With a booming economy, is Brazil thinking bike?

Salvador is in full World Cup celebration mode right now, emphasized by the heavily decorated plazas and flags strung about everywhere. So while the World Cup is on the minds of Brazil for the next few weeks, I sincerely hope city planners and government officials continue to keep the bicycle in mind when redesigning public streets and spaces. And why not since the bicycle is almost as universal as the world’s love of futbol?

PUBLIC World Cup Correspondent,
Dan

PUBLIC Pooch Photo Shoot

Monday, June 9th, 2014

We’re hosting a pooch photo shoot at our new Hayes Valley store, at 549 Hayes Street. If you have a dog and a bike, bring them over on Friday, June 20th from 5pm–7pm or Sunday, June 22nd from 10am-1pm. We’ll have a backdrop, a photographer and a prop bike (if you don’t bring your own) for you and “fido” to pose with. We’ll send you home with a digital portrait or two, share the pictures out on our our social media platforms and feature them on the big screen in our Hayes Store.

We want to ensure that we have adequate pet treats and scheduling time, so please RSVP with your name, your pet’s name and the day and time you’ll be coming by. Local photographer Akshay Sawhney will be taking the photos and on Sunday we’ll even have Beverly Ulbrich, aka the Pooch Coach, helping to coax a smile out of your dogs. If you can’t make it, we’d still love to see your puppy pics so send them over via email to (rsvpATpublicbikes.com) or share them on facebook or instagram, tagging @publicbikes.

Alright Mr. DeMille, we’re ready for our furry close-ups.

PUBLIC Puppy Photo Shoot
PUBLIC Bikes, 549 Hayes St.
Friday, June 20th. 5pm-7pm
Sunday, June 22nd. 10am-1pm
RSVP HERE

Compare & Contrast: PUBLIC V1 and PUBLIC D8i

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

We make a variety of bikes to suit a variety of riders and wallets, and the question we get asked frequently is what differentiates our bikes from one another? Here’s a comparison-contrast of two popular models with the same diamond frame style: our most affordable single speed PUBLIC V1, and our best commuter bike the eight-speed internally geared PUBLIC D8i. Both bikes ride like butter and have lifetime warranties on their frames, but there are noticeable differences.

The PUBLIC V1 is the bike built for the minimalist. It has a classic steel frame and a single, carefully selected gear that’s calibrated for comfortable flat cruising and modest hills. You’ll use this bike for about town jaunts, smooth rolls to work and coasting through the park on a Sunday. It has color matching fenders and cream tires, along with contrasting red cable housing on the royal blue model and black cable housing on the red model. Its stem has an elegant rise for a more comfortable, upright riding position. We just introduced this bike with a special introductory price of $299 (regularly $449) and at that price it even makes a great gift. Father’s Day, perhaps? Or maybe that special graduate?


Our PUBLIC D8i is a workhorse set of wheels, built with the everyday, power commuter in mind. Its lightweight 100% chromoly steel tube set is strong and durable enough for everyday use and its eight gears are ready to power you up any hill. The new polished silver Shimano Alfine internal hub makes shifting silky smooth and the encased gears reduce the chance of bike grease marring your pants. Polished silver alloy fenders contrast smartly with the black tires and black cable housing and gives it a more serious and masculine personality than our brightly colored bikes with cream tires. The lower rise handlebar stem imparts a more powerful riding position. This bike is new this season with special introductory price of $899 (regularly $1249).

Our Sweet New Spot in Hayes Valley

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Talk to any local San Franciscan and the Hayes Valley neighborhood of today is nothing like it was 20 years ago. As we’ve written about before, the demolition of the Central Freeway that once ran right through Hayes Valley led to a revitalization of the neighborhood that continues to this day. We are so enthusiastic to be a part of that growth with our newly opened store in Hayes Valley.

Hayes Valley is a draw for so many reasons like top-notch restaurants and a wealth of unique, independent retailers that lend vibrancy and true neighborhood charm to this urban street. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, Hayes Valley won’t disappoint. Watch your ice-cream get freshly churned at Smitten or choose your own frozen yogurt blends at Loving Cup. Pick your favorite macaroon purveyor from multiple locations and ogle at chocolates too pretty to eat (well, almost) at Christopher Elbow. Take the cake with a slice of chocolate nemesis or the light-as-air russian honey cake or the always picture perfect strawberry tomboy. Then indulge by the spoonful with over 108 flavors of bread pudding (probably not all at once).

When you’ve reached your sugar high, stop by our new Hayes Valley store and take a test ride–either to work off the treats or make room for more. We’ve got sweet new rides and accessories that are perfect for hauling all sorts of goodies, think nifty bungees and baskets perfect for pie toting and cup holders ready to be filled with sweet New Orleans Iced Coffee.

Bike To Work Bay Area

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Supervisor London Breed on Cream PUBLIC C7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bike to Work Day 2014 photos by SF Bike Coalition

Commute in Style With Our New Rickshaw Bags

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014


Rickshaw Duo Pannier Bags

May is national bike month and this Thursday San Francisco celebrates the 20th anniversary of Bike to Work Day. Thousands of people will be rolling to work that day and to help all bikers out in their commutes we’re excited to announce the pre-order of our new Rickshaw Duo Pannier, perfect for everyday commuting and handmade right here in San Francisco.

This new duo pannier is the most stylish and functional you’ll find on the market and is designed by Rickshaw Bagworks, a local San Francisco company who has been producing superb quality, handmade messenger bags and more for over six years. Customize the flap of this duo pannier in five snappy houndstooth fabrics crafted in the USA from recycled bottles in colors specifically chosen to compliment PUBLIC’s new 2014 color lineup. And if you’re into matching, snag a color-coordinating houndstooth Metro Tote (or two) designed specifically to be used with the duo pannier.

Little details are what set the Rickshaw Duo Pannier apart from the rest:

  • Simple and sturdy velcro tabs make for easy attachment and removal of the pannier from the back rack.
  • A removable shoulder strap is included for carrying the bag into the office or around the farmers market.
  • Load this pannier with up to two bags of full groceries and cinch them in tight with a drawstring closure underneath the top flap.
  • Smartly located snaps allow for pannier straps to be snapped into place so they don’t fly around.
  • Empty panniers can be neatly folded and snapped closed.
  • Interior is supported by a heavy-duty plastic frame, so bag does not slouch and can support a heavy load.
  • Webbing loops are provided for attachment of rear safety flashers on both sides.

Pre-order our new Rickshaw Duo Pannier today for $249.

New Rickshaw Metro Tote

Keep the interior of your pannier extra-organized with our matching Rickshaw Metro Tote. This tote comes in the same unique houndstooth fabrics as the flap of the pannier and was designed specifically for use inside the duo pannier.