Repurposing Public Space

August 24th, 2015

Public streets account for as much as a third of land in a city.  They have often been viewed as more of a domain for cars rather than people, sadly. But progressive cities around the world are repurposing these spaces into places for people, conversation, food and play. Some examples that we’ve written about before are New York… Read more »

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PROXY / Photo by envelope A+D

Before PROXY, 2006 / Photo By Matt Baume

Public streets account for as much as a third of land in a city.  They have often been viewed as more of a domain for cars rather than people, sadly. But progressive cities around the world are repurposing these spaces into places for people, conversation, food and play. Some examples that we’ve written about before are New York City’s inspiring High Line  and Times Square Plazas (that we hope stay that way).

Another example located just near our PUBLIC Hayes Valley Shop is PROXY, an urban pop-up space that combines retail, food, art installations and outdoor events, in a plot of land that till PROXY was a parking lot and 20 years prior engulfed under the shadow of the Central Freeway.

We interview Douglas Burnham, founder of envelope A+D the design group that envisioned PROXY to learn more about how public spaces can be transformed into a dynamic places for interaction.

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PROXY / Photo by envelope A+D

PUBLIC: The importance of reclaiming public space as walkable, livable and community-based are some of the founding principles of PUBLIC. Your team takes a similar approach with your projects—using architecture to create an immersive environment that transforms people’s experience with a space. Our flagship store in Hayes Valley is nearby one such of your projects, PROXY. Please talk to us about the PROXY project.

DOUGLAS: PROXY is a temporary two-block project located on lots that were left vacant after the removal of the 101 Central Freeway. In 2010, we responded to a request from the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (OEWD) for interim uses on the Octavia Boulevard vacant lots. However, as we kept getting enthusiastic green lights from the city and the neighborhood, we quickly realized that we would need to figure out a way to make PROXY a financially viable project before we got carried away with soaring plans removed from reality.

People often don’t realize that while the space is publicly accessible, the project is privately funded and managed by our office. We act as the developer, fundraiser and steward of the two lots. We’ve spent the last several years taking enormous risks and grinding away to resolve issues that are inherent to experimenting live in the city without a safety net. It’s been an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience for the entire office.

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PROXY / Rendering by envelope A+D

In proposing the project, our goal was to create a concentrated, constantly changing experience of both culture and commerce in a zone that was previously invisible—a perceptual void—in peoples’ experiences. PROXY was conceived as a placeholder for a more permanent development—these lots will eventually be built with both market rate and below market rate housing. Our lease on the larger lot runs through 2020 and we are in the process of extending the lease end date through 2020 on the smaller Biergarten site as well.

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PROXY / Photo by Anne Hamersky

PROXY has established an emerging model of urban planning that demonstrates how recasting seemingly insignificant, underused urban spaces using temporary interventions can quickly and effectively transform portions of the city into thriving centers of ingenuity and fun. Though Hayes Valley was in the midst of a renaissance that had begun in the early 1990s with the neighbor-led push to remove the freeway, PROXY has helped to reinvigorate the neighborhood after the long economic downturn that lingered after the 2008 Stock Market crash.

Everything we do at PROXY is guided by our motto “HERE FOR NOW”. The world is always changing, so a healthy city needs to be able to adapt quickly and smartly to the circumstances at hand. The motto speaks to our goals for inhabiting the city as residents and is a call to action. By creating a vibrant mix of culture and commerce, we hope to encourage engagement with the city and the present moment in a heightened way.

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PROXY / Photo by envelope A+D

On the commerce side, one important aspect of PROXY is its role as an incubator of micro-enterprise. Aether, Smitten, Biergarten, Basic Training, and SOSF all had their first physical brick-and-mortar (or steel-and-glass) spaces here and have really grown their businesses out of their initial presence at PROXY. Ritual and JuiceShop have also benefitted from the pedestrian-friendly open-air experience that PROXY has created. The vendors at PROXY have come to be our cohorts in an urban experiment of temporary activation. They have taken risks alongside us in making a go of it in small spaces on a limited timeline.

On the culture side, we have had many different art installations at PROXY, from the now-concealed “BRIGHTERFASTER” mural by Ben Eine, to installations by the Museum of Craft and Design and the Hayes Valley Arts Coalition. Our next foray into cultural production at PROXY is the realization of an outdoor movie and live music venue in the asphalt plaza area at the heart of PROXY. We ran a Kickstarter campaign this summer to raise enough money to complete the movie screen and purchase an outdoor-rated digital projector and sound system. We didn’t end up making our goal—and therefore didn’t get the pledges—but the campaign generated a significant amount of interest in the project and we were able to harvest enough donations to complete the screen (which is underway right now).

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PROXY / Photo by envelope A+D

Ever the optimists, we are planning to do a scrappier version of a Fall Film Festival on the first four Fridays in October. The PROXY walk-in movie theater will be a place where everyone will be able to share in the experience of watching a movie with their neighbors in the open air. We’re still looking for donations — all of which our tax deductible through our 501c3 nonprofit HERE FOR NOW. (Go to HEREFORNOWsf.org to support our efforts to bring free outdoor movies to San Francisco!)

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Superkilen / Photo by Superflex

PUBLIC: What are some of your favorite, inspiring examples of reinterpreted public spaces? (Like the High Line in NYC, for example.)

DOUGLAS:  The High Line, of course, is the premiere example that everyone knows about. Yet, on my recent vacation I was lucky to be able to visit Superkilen—a new linear park in Copenhagen (being made famous enough from the iPhone photo of the glorious ribbons of white lines on asphalt that cover a portion of the park). Superkilen is really great because it operates right at street level and has amenities that are for the people that live right there — places to play chess, informally gather, play, skate, skateboard, swing and box (yes, there’s a boxing ring!). The design is more “pop” than the High Line and appropriately so as it serves the local residents in their daily lives in an economically diverse section of Copenhagen. There is a high degree of joyful invention that encourages play, social interaction, as well as safe passage through the park.

This kind of community-serving linear park is what we’re hoping to do with our transformation of the waterfront edge at the Hunters Point Shoreline. In NOW_Hunters Point we are transforming the site of a former PG&E power plant using strategies similar to those of PROXY. There, the process of engaging the neighborhood is more robust. Our team is actively prototyping possible interim uses that are tested though events. Working with Studio O, RHAA and John Greenlee & Associates, we are creating a string of several gathering zones for learning, playing and contemplation of the natural beauty on the Bay’s edge. This enhanced public access amenity is part of the transformation of the former power plant site and is taking a narrow existing access zone, widening it to roughly one-hundred feet, and threading a wider Blue-Greenway standard combined bicycle and pedestrian path through an enhanced landscape of grasses, flowers, trees and coastal shrubs. The layered history of inhabitation of the site, including the history of the power plant and its removal initiated through direct action of the Hunters Point residents, will be legible through didactic elements distributed along the path. The goal of the project is to support access to the Hunters Point Shoreline by the residents of Hunters Point as well as being a part of a system of regional open space that encourages the experience of the Bay and celebrates the specific history of the site.

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High Line / Photo by David Berkowitz

PUBLIC: How can the average person help to support projects that work to make public spaces more livable?

DOUGLAS:  Our wider goal for PROXY and for future project is to truly empower people to take a piece of the city, to become a steward of that place and to change it through direct action. Sure, it helps that we are architects doing this work, but we are also inventing so many things beyond our training and standard roles as architects. Because of this, I know that it really just takes passion combined with a vision of how something—your street, a neighborhood park, a vacant lot, a whole sector of the city—can be not just better, but can be something great. Mostly, it just takes knowing that you can make a difference and a certain amount of tenacity.

The guys that came up with the idea for the High Line were just people who cared about something that they saw as a treasure (and that other people, city officials included, saw as a blight to be erased). They applied the skills that they had, in both persuasion and finance, to rally their neighborhood behind their vision for a raised linear park 40 feet above the street. Their action, their risk, their initiative has literally transformed that sector of New York City into a thriving hub for both residents and tourists. Who would have thought?

We are inspired by citizens who act upon the cities where they live and we hope that our work also inspires people to take their own actions to contribute to the health and vibrancy of the city.

Color Story: Interview With Monling Lee

July 27th, 2015

Vibrant, emotion-packed color? We applaud. Creative use of public space? We rejoice. Here at PUBLIC you can be sure that if someone or something is making an statement with color in a clever and impactful way we take notice. Those reasons made it inevitable that our paths should cross with architect, designer and fashion maven,… Read more »

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Vibrant, emotion-packed color? We applaud. Creative use of public space? We rejoice. Here at PUBLIC you can be sure that if someone or something is making an statement with color in a clever and impactful way we take notice. Those reasons made it inevitable that our paths should cross with architect, designer and fashion maven, Monling Lee — who creates vivid, color blocking photography in and around her hometown city of Washington DC.

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We discovered Monling Lee when we came across this article “Washington DC: Discover Under The Radar Public Spaces With Fashion Maven Monling Lee“. Monling generously said yes to an interview and we jumped at the chance to pick her brain about all things color and design related.

PUBLIC: As an architectural/urban designer you are constantly called upon to come up with new ideas and solutions for creative problems. Where do you find inspiration?

Monling: As an architectural and urban designer, I am constantly looking towards the built environment and the myriad ways citizens engage with it for inspiration. Take Washington, D.C., a city where I reside, for instance. It is a city full of well-known historic monuments and French-inspired public spaces that often have an overtly formal connotation that discourages informal uses. The recent injection of a younger demographic to the District however, brings about a demand for social third spaces and a renewed energy to historic spaces that have previously been off-limits to contemporary interpretations. One extremely successful reuse of a historic space that is currently ongoing is the National Building Museum’s Great Hall during its annual summer installation. The Beach, this summer’s installation designed by New York firm Snarkitecture, prompts thousands of diverse visitors every day to engage with this revered and often intimidating space in an unexpectedly gleeful way, which has been a joy to witness.

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PUBLIC: Your website, colorindex.us is overflowing with the most vibrant, color-blocked photography. Clearly, color and fashion are important to you. What inspires your color choices?

Monling: COLORINDEX is a means to explore and catalog the intersection of two of my interests—fashion and the built environment—through a highly colorful lens. The series began as an exercise on Instagram in 2012, as an informal visual blog capturing what I wear and what I see. Color combinations were selected from various color reference guides in the beginning, from which I would then match pieces from my wardrobe and moments in the built environment. With the launch of the website in late 2014, the production process has gradually evolved to require more effort in planning and execution. The process of developing color combinations, however, has become less clinical and more intuitive. Anything can prompt the beginning of a color story, including seasons, narrative angles, a beloved piece of clothing, or a newly discovered space.

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PUBLIC: You’re a pro at creating tableaus of colors. How do you come up with your color compositions on COLORINDEX? Do you start with an inspiring setting? Or an outfit?

Monling: The beginning of a color story can be inspired by anything that I find compelling for the project: a particularly interesting moment in an urban landscape, a fun piece of clothing in a vibrant hue, or more likely, the partnering product being featured. While the starting points are usually more direct and intuitive, developing the compositions requires more careful study by going through a mental and digital catalog of colorful spaces in the city, consulting various color guides when necessary, and sketching out various looks and scenes until the desired color balance is achieved.

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PUBLIC: What’s your favorite color at the moment?

Monling: I have always had an affinity towards very bright colors, and usually would set one highly saturated color against three or four other colors of equal strength to maximize their combined visual effects. Like wearing a superhero costume, my mood can be instantly lifted when wearing an exceptionally colorful outfit. Lately though, I have come to find seasonal and foliage changes in DC streets to be great sources of inspiration, and have started to appreciate quieter colors for their subtlety and range. Colors like dusty rose, light blue, sage, or pale yellow are great neutral alternatives for they still retain very specific color personalities even when saturation levels are dialed way back.

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PUBLIC: Out of all our bikes, you selected the PUBLIC C7 in Limited Edition Peach. What drew you to that color?

Monling: PUBLIC C7 comes in many fresh and delicious colors, but selecting the Limited Edition Peach was a quick choice. I have always favored variations on the color orange, which is a brilliant hue that is also fairly gender-neutral. The Limited Edition Peach, however, has a bit of pink understone, making it just slightly more feminine and a great color for summer!

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

Monling: It has been really great working with and getting to know companies with compelling and compatible products such as PUBLIC. Going forward, I will continue to collaborate with both small and established apparel and accessories brands in this current editorial photography format. While I love to create visual narratives through color stories, my longer term goal is to collaborate with brands as early as the product design and development stages. After all, I am a designer by training and trade!

Meet Elly, Our New Portland Manager

June 9th, 2015

Portland, hello! We’re so excited to have made our way to this vibrant and bike-friendly city. On Friday, June 12 we’ll open the doors to our first ever PUBLIC Showroom in Portland at 828 NW 23rd Street (adjacent to awesome Marine Layer). Read more about our Portland Showroom here. We had a chance to catch up… Read more »

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Portland, hello! We’re so excited to have made our way to this vibrant and bike-friendly city. On Friday, June 12 we’ll open the doors to our first ever PUBLIC Showroom in Portland at 828 NW 23rd Street (adjacent to awesome Marine Layer). Read more about our Portland Showroom here.

We had a chance to catch up with our PUBLIC Portland Showroom manager, Elly Swope. She’s a fun loving individual who works at PUBLIC by day and fronts a band at night! Read on to learn more about Elly and her band, Focus! Focus! and make sure to swing by our PUBLIC Showroom and say hi to Elly and the team.

EllyPORTLAND SHOWROOM MANAGER, ELLY

PUBLIC: Tell us a little about yourself.
ELLY: I’m originally from Missouri, and I moved to Portland in 2010. I’m a musician and I had heard great things about the PDX music scene. After a few years here, my partner Vikki and I moved to LA to learn more about the music industry there. But it wasn’t long before we missed beautiful Portland, and we moved back in Fall of 2014.

PUBLIC: Where did you work before?
ELLY: I’ve been in music retail for about 9 years. Most recently, I worked for Guitar Center in sales and management.

PUBLIC: What do you like best about Portland?
ELLY: I love how inclusive this city is; about passions, about identity, about career dreams. In Portland, you are given the space to be whoever you are or want to be, and you can usually find other people like you. Also, the beer and coffee are great.

PUBLIC: Tell us some fact or background about yourself that might surprise people.
ELLY: I’ve been playing music for almost 20 years. I started playing drums first, when I was a kid, and I learned guitar later on. I started writing songs when I was in college, and quickly realized I wanted to make a career out of it. So I spend most of my time writing, recording, and performing with my band, Focus! Focus!

PUBLIC: What’s your experience riding bikes in Portland?
ELLY: I love biking here! I biked in LA, and it was terrible. The drivers didn’t want you there; the air was hard to breathe. In Portland, I feel safe and I feel like I’m part of a community.

PUBLIC: What are your favorite routes or places to visit by bicycle in Portland?
ELLY: I like biking on the Eastside, where I live, scoping out the houses, and daydreaming about owning one someday. One of my favorite rides is from my neighborhood in outter NE, down to a coffee shop called Crema in inner SE, down Ankeny to 28th. The big craftsman houses on the route are gorgeous!

PUBLIC: What are you looking forward to in leading the new PUBLIC Portland showroom?
ELLY: I’m excited to help connect PUBLIC to the Portland biking community, and to help new riders connect to the community as well!

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 »

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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

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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.

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Gary Clemens, cruising along in Mill Valley, California.

Designer Interview: Ghislaine Viñas

May 19th, 2015

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… Read more »

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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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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

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 »

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Leah Shahum of Vision Zero

Leah Shahum / Image Credit: Melissa Balmer

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC: What is Vision Zero?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC: Why are so many cities adopting Vision Zero?

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, who can be against safety, right?

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

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

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

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

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Sweden Traffic / Photo Credit: Erik Söderström

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

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

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

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

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Green Bike Lanes in San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Busy Streets Of NYC / Photo Credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly

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

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

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

PUBLIC: Can Vision Zero really be achieved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips For Biking With Kids From Moms Who Bike

April 28th, 2015

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

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

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


Naomi of Love Taza

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

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

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

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

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


Jen of Pedal Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kit of Vie Bikes

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

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

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

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

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


Lilia of Urban Family SF

Lilia Biking Lilia biking with her daughter.

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

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

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

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


Dawn, Accessory Buyer/Inventory Manager at PUBLIC Bikes

Dawn Riding Dawn biking with her daughter.

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

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

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

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


Rosanna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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