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

May 17th, 2017

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

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

Image courtesy of Modernize.

Safety First!

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

Avoid Transportation Hiccups

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

Give Yourself Extra Time

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

Stay Dry, Stay Cool

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

It’s Not All About the Gear

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

But a Few Cool Accessories Are Nice

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

 

 

About the Writer

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

Do Good By Bike: Vol 7 – Taking Protected Bicycle Lane Advocacy To The Streets

May 16th, 2017

#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. You can read our past #DoPublicGood profiles here. May is Bike Month and for #DoPublicGood we’re celebrating the people who standing up for bike safety across… Read more »

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#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. You can read our past #DoPublicGood profiles here.

May is Bike Month and for #DoPublicGood we’re celebrating the people who standing up for bike safety across the country. Last week we participated in a street action that we think could be replicated in many other cities to call attention to the need for more protected bicycle lanes.

A group of volunteer safe street activists in San Francisco showed up to form a human protected bicycle lane on the popular Valencia Street commuter route. Ever since the City of San Francisco installed bicycle lanes on both sides of Valencia Street in 1999, the street was generally viewed as a bicycle-friendly route, even featuring timed “green wave” traffic signals that allowed bicyclists to keep rolling through green lights as long as they averaged ~13mph bike-riding speed.

But especially with the rise of car share services like Uber and Lyft, which has transformed every bicycle lane or even street into a pick-up and drop-off location, many streets like Valencia Street have become notoriously unsafe for anyone traveling along the corridor. With many popular restaurants, bars, and shops on Valencia Street, it’s very typical for bicyclists to be forced to weave in and out of the bicycle lane because of cars temporarily blocking the bike lanes. Valencia Street, once considered a poster child for a bike-friendly street, is now considered a bicycling safety problem – and really, a problem for vehicular drivers too.

Many cities have been slow to respond with regulations and enforcement to respond to the rising problem of blocked streets and bicycle lanes, especially resulting from ride share cars stopping and going. This is why volunteer advocates are organizing to highlight these issues – and to pressure city officials to take action to make streets safer, including advocating for protected bicycle lanes. You can read about how “Safety Vigilantes Strike Again on Valencia” on Streetsblog.

Even in places like Omaha or Wichita, safe street advocates are resorting to gluing plungers to demonstrate the need and effectiveness of protected bicycle lanes.

If you live or work in San Francisco, the next human protected bike lane action is planned for Thursday, May 25 from 5-7pm. Sign up here receive communication.

If you’re fed up with lack of action in your city for protected bike lanes, maybe you can organize a small group of like-minded people to form your own guerrilla street group similar to SFMTrA. All you might need are some plungers, glue, cones, signs and passionate people.

Do Good By Bike: Vol 6 – San Francisco Yellow Bike Project

April 4th, 2017

#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate…. Read more »

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#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate.

We’re taking part too. Follow our Instagram Story (@publicbikes) each Thursday as we bike-courier food from a restaurant to shelter in San Francisco, CA.

san francisco yellow bike projectMobile Bike Shop at Civic Center Plaza in SF offering bike repairs. Photo by Mary Kay Chin.

In Volume 6 of #DoPublicGood, we interview Nathan Woody, Executive Director of The San Francisco Yellow Bike Project (SFYBP) in San Francisco, California. SFYPB works to empower the community through the bicycle, by refurbishing bikes for the young and young at heart and offering Earn-A-Bike programs. Read on for our full Q&A with Nathan to learn more about the inspiring work done by SFYPB.

PUBLIC: Please describe what your project is all about?
Nathan: The San Francisco Yellow Bike Project is a grassroots, pop-up, do-it-yourself, community-building machine that brings dead bikes back to life and puts more city dwellers on two wheels. It’s a healthy revolution for San Francisco.

We offer community shop nights, access to inexpensive bike parts and refurbished bicycles, bike swaps for kids, and other programming that lowers to barriers to riding and creates a sense of community around the bike.

san francisco yellow bike projectPaddy showing volunteer, Lauren how to level a bike saddle. Photo by Nathan Woody.

PUBLIC: Talk to us about your Earn-A-Bike Program?
Nathan: Our Earn-a-Bike program is a way for people with limited financial means to acquire a bicycle. The participant pays a low sliding scale program fee then refurbishes the bicycle themselves, learning some mechanical skills along the way. In some cases volunteers complete administrative tasks or other non-mechanical jobs that Yellow Bike needs to have done. The only catch, with our tiny shop, is that participants take the bike with them from the shop after the program fee is paid.

PUBLIC: Please describe the Kids Program?
Nathan: A couple of times each year we gather up 10-20 kids’ bikes and get them fixed up and ready for their next owner. Working with a partner organization (like a school or neighborhood center) we identify a group of kids with bikes they’ve outgrown or non-functional bicycles and hold a Kids’ Bike Swap for them. They bring their old bike and swap it for a new-to-them bike that fits. Those without a bike to swap can pay $0-$40 on a sliding scale to pick one up that works for them. We have no other program that provides more excitement and hope for the future, and it’s one of our volunteers’ favorite programs–it brings smiles galore to everyone who participates, kids and volunteers.

san francisco yellow bike projectHoward, learning to ride at a Tenderloin Kids’ Bike Swap with a bike he received from SFYBP. Photo Mary Kay Chin.

PUBLIC: Can you highlight a few examples of people your program has helped?
Nathan: We have helped people who range from kids from the Tenderloin to SF City Supervisors Eric Mar and Jane Kim, and treat everyone with equal respect. We have helped people with $0 in their pockets to get their bike up and running. We have helped people with a functional bike find a community where they are welcomed and a part of something that allows them to give back. We have helped empower countless shop users with our DIY approach to bike repair that demystifies the machine and creates access to tools and knowledge.

Specifically Howard comes to mind. He was 5 years old and came to a Tenderloin bike swap with nothing. He left having learned how to ride without training wheels on his new-to-him bike. Or perhaps Ellis, a neighbor who became a shop user, who became a volunteer, who became a key holder, until eventually we all just became “yellow bike fam”, his bicycling community. Or Mia, a Swiss traveler that bought a bike, strapped her backpack to it, and a couple days later, rode to Los Angeles.

PUBLIC: In your words, why is the bicycle able to change lives?
Nathan: The bicycle is a perfect form of transportation for humans. Efficient, affordable, and reliable, bicycles are very much the ultimate utilitarian vehicle. It is a social medium, a therapist, a political statement, an environmental protest or celebration, a personal trainer, a dear friend, an emergency vehicle, and so much more. The bicycle changes lives because it provides freedom to people that use it. I understand that the bicycle doesn’t “suit” everyone, and that’s ok. The people it does suit are rewarded in many ways and the world is better as a result.

san francisco yellow bike projectCore SFYBP volunteer, Rezz picking up donated bikes and moving them into storage. Photo by Nathan Woody.

PUBLIC: How can people get involved with San Francisco Yellow Bike? Are you looking for volunteers?
Nathan: SFYBP is always looking for more people with time and energy to support our cause!. We’ve made it 6 years in SF as a 100% volunteer-run, donation-based organization thanks to the dedication of our community and volunteers. We are seeking all levels and kinds of involvement, everything from non-profit administration down to fixing flats and teaching kids how to ride. One piece of our core mission is education through volunteerism, so if anyone wants to learn bike repair in a low-stakes environment they should come to our community shop nights, currently 6-9 pm Monday. Wednesday and Thursday evenings (and consider becoming a regular shop night volunteer!). To provide help on the administrative level, please email our Executive Director, Nathan Woody at Nathan@sfyellowbike.org

san francisco yellow bike projectMia, a traveler from Switzerland, bought a bike from SFYBP and headed to LA on it the next day. Photo by Nathan Woody.

PUBLIC: Anything else you’d like to add?
Nathan: SFYBP was founded in 2011 as a response to the SF Board of Supervisors’ goal of reaching 20% bicycle transportation mode share by the year 2020. In a city suffering from social justice inequality and wealth stratification, SFYBP exists to serve all those that want our help. We do not judge by gender or race or socioeconomic status. We help people that respect our shop, our tools and our time. We help, we help others, we help others help, we help others help others.

Reconquest of the Seine – Biking in Paris

March 17th, 2017

Written by PUBLIC founder, Rob Forbes “We are leading a more global fight against the monopoly held by cars in our city and in our lives,” declares Hidalgo. “We want to create a peaceful city, free from the hegemony of private cars, to give public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians their rightful places. Reducing car traffic… Read more »

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Written by PUBLIC founder, Rob Forbes

biking in paris

By Pline, CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia.

“We are leading a more global fight against the monopoly held by cars in our city and in our lives,” declares Hidalgo. “We want to create a peaceful city, free from the hegemony of private cars, to give public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians their rightful places. Reducing car traffic will help make Paris more pleasant and more full of life.”
– Anne Hidalgo, Major of Paris, France

I just returned from Paris having not been there for almost ten years. I went to see the sights, check-in on the Parisian biking scene and see how the Velib city bike sharing program was holding up. When Velib launched in 2007 it was radical and exciting.  It became a model for many cities to follow and was one of my biggest inspirations for PUBLIC bikes.

biking in paris

In the ten years since its launch, the Velib system has done nothing but improve. In my opinion, it leads the modern world in age, reach, efficiency and elegance. When you’re biking around Paris you see people of all ages and backgrounds using the Velib bikes in all corners of the city. The amount and diversity of riders in Paris is also likely because the bike lanes there are more extensive and respected there.

biking in paris

Major of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. By I. Rcsmit, CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia.

The Velib bikes themselves, as well as the stations they are housed in, are kept in great shape.  The bikes are neutral in color which keeps them from becoming an eyesore.  When you are in Paris you want to look at the public spaces, architecture, parks, fashionable Parisians, not at the bikes.

biking in Paris

A PUBLIC Bike spotted on Rue De Rivoli in Paris, France.

Like fashion and architecture, why does Paris pull off the city bike system so well when other cities can’t get it right?

There are numerous cultural and historic reasons.  Paris is blessed with an amazing urban design and a democratic public consciousness that dates back to the 19th century when Napoleon III gave Baron Hausmann the nod to redesign the city. Paris is respected internationally for its layout like no other modern city.  It enforces strict building codes and constraints that help keep capitalist developers in check.  Parisians are lovers of beauty and fiercely protective of their “look and feel.”

biking in paris

That said, in the late 20th century, Paris suffered mightily from the influx of cars and suburban commuters that brought a surge of traffic and pollution to the city. Thus, in 2007 Paris embarked on various campaigns to take back the city. It implemented bike lanes to help improve traffic congestion, continued the growth of its elegant and cheap Metro, reserved parking for e-cars, built special taxi-only lanes and so on.

hidalgo

Major of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. By Von Inès Dieleman via wikimedia.

The city even closed some major central thoroughfares to improve the pedestrian flow and rallied behind other initiatives such as the “reconquest of the Seine” led by mayor Anne Hidalgo, the first woman elected mayor of Paris. Hidalgo was elected in 2014 and has earned broad respect across political lines despite her Socialist background. She’s doing for Paris what Michael Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan did for New York .

biking in paris

Today, France is undergoing much of the same political uncertainty that we’re facing in the USA, and it has a major election coming up in April.  But seeing the positive social change that is taking place in Paris reminds us that acting locally may be the best solution to this uncertainty. Mayors make a difference.

Do Good By Bike: Vol 5 – Good Karma Bikes

February 28th, 2017

#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate…. Read more »

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#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate.

We’re taking part too. Follow our Instagram Story (@publicbikes) each Thursday as we bike-courier food from a restaurant to shelter in San Francisco, CA.

do good by bike

In Volume 5 of #DoPublicGood, we interview Cindy Ahola, Vice President of Operations at Good Karma Bikes in San Jose, California. Good Karma Bikes is aptly named, it’s a full-service, second-hand bike shop whose proceeds support under-resourced youth, low-income families and the homeless. Read on for our full Q&A with Cindy to learn more about the inspiring work done by Good Karma Bikes.

good karma bikes

“We believe bicycles provide an ability to make a living, to be independent, and to make contributions to your world.”
– Cindy Ahola

PUBLIC: Please describe what Good Karma Bikes is all about?
Cindy: Good Karma Bikes is a nonprofit social enterprise. We are a full-service, second-hand bike shop that’s open to the public. Our revenue supports programs serving low income families, homeless individuals, and under-resourced young people, with a special focus on the support and education of former foster youth.

We started in 2009 as a mobile operation fixing bikes for free at shelters, soup kitchens and encampments. In 2013, the social enterprise was born and the sale of bicycles supported expanded free services for our clients. In 2014, we recognized a common factor among the clients we were serving — many of them had been in the foster care system. It was then we knew we had to add a new focus: prevention.

We serve and enhance our community by offering safe, reliable transportation with refurbished bicycles kept from the landfill. Today, not only do we continue to provide the same services we established at the very beginning, but we also work toward preventing the very issues our current clients confront; homelessness, incarceration, insufficient education and more.

good karma bikes

PUBLIC: Talk to us about your College Outreach & Opportunity Program?
Cindy: 70% of California inmates are wards of court or were in foster care, and nationally 50% of the homeless population spent time in foster care.* In our two-year program, former foster youth move from feeling disenfranchised and vulnerable to becoming self-sufficient, confident, and productive members of society.

Youth receive intensive two-year case management, both in-house and with our partners. As part of this program, youth are stably housed, trained in bike mechanics and retail, work in our shop, attend life skills seminars, prepare for and attend college, volunteer in the community, and become mentors to new youth entering the program.

PUBLIC: Please describe how your Bike Voucher Program works?
Cindy: Good Karma Bikes has several programs whereby low-income individuals can acquire a bicycle at low or no cost. Our most popular program is our Work-To-Earn Bicycle Program. Any individual can volunteer for six hours at Good Karma Bikes and earn a $100 bicycle. While they work, the bicycle fitting their needs is refurbished by another volunteer. Upon completion of required hours, they can ride away on their “new” bicycle. We’re proud of the fact that so many continue on to volunteer, even after they’ve earned their bicycle.

do good by bike

PUBLIC: Can you highlight a few examples of people your program has helped?
Cindy: Many of our Work-To-Earn volunteers and Free Repair Clinic clients are low-income and homeless individuals who have jobs and rely on bicycles as their primary transportation. A missed day of work can mean the difference between keeping that job and losing it. Having a reliable mode of transportation each day means one more day of success. A volunteer recently shared how important it was for him to know he could “get up and go to a job and be something each day.”

Some of our Work-To-Earn volunteers feel they don’t add value to the world. As a volunteer, they can learn basic repairs and fix others’ bikes. Many tell us how glad they are to learn a useful skill and how good they feel doing something for others.

One of our program youth began two years ago shy, overweight, knew little about and rarely rode a bicycle. Less than one year in the program, he’d overhauled and upgraded his bike to the envy of all in the shop. He rode everywhere (even 20 miles to school), talked to people at red lights, lost weight, mentored new mechanics, and inspired his family and friends to ride. He even won Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s Commuter of the Year in 2016**. He’s since graduated the program and is in school full-time. This young man changed the course of his life with a bicycle.

We are privileged to work alongside so many people as they change their lives and the lives of others.

do good by bike

PUBLIC: In your words, why is the bicycle able to change lives?
Cindy: In order to survive in this world, you have to have transportation. We believe bicycles provide an ability to make a living — to be independent and to make contributions to your world.

good karma bikes

PUBLIC: How can people get involved with Good Karma Bikes?
Cindy: All of our bicycles are donated. If you would like to donate a bicycle, we will gladly take yours and provide a complete overhaul and warranty for its new owner. Check our website for information and shop hours

We rely heavily on our amazing team of volunteers to make all this magic happen. And you don’t even need to be a bike mechanic! We can teach you that. Or come in and help us behind the scenes. If you’re interested in volunteering, email volunteer@goodkarmabikes.org.

Of course, we’d love to say hi and tell you more in person! Visit our shop at 460 Lincoln Avenue in San Jose or email us at goodkarma@goodkarmabikes.org.


* California Senate Office of Research, December 2011 Policy Matters “State survey of California prisoners: What percentage of the state’s polled prison inmates Were once foster care children?”

*Foster Focus Online Magazine “Foster Care and Homelessness” By Shalita O’Neale.

**Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. Connecting Our Communities, “Meet Silicon Valley’s 2016 Bicycle Commuters of the Year” by Carlos V., May 11, 2016

Petal Power: Bike Flower Couriers

January 31st, 2017

What’s something that can elicit almost as many “Ooohs and Aaahs” as a puppy or baby? Spotting a bike flower courier whose front basket and messenger backpack are overflowing with beautiful bouquets. As Valentine’s Day approaches we’ve been seeing more and more of these petal pushers spinning through the city. So in partnership with BloomThat (responsible… Read more »

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Bike Flower Couriers

What’s something that can elicit almost as many “Ooohs and Aaahs” as a puppy or baby? Spotting a bike flower courier whose front basket and messenger backpack are overflowing with beautiful bouquets. As Valentine’s Day approaches we’ve been seeing more and more of these petal pushers spinning through the city. So in partnership with BloomThat (responsible for the gorgeous blooms pictured) and with the help of photographer (and biker!) Pamela of Pamela Palma Photography we hopped on our bikes and followed a few bike flower couriers as they pedaled (and posed) with flowers around San Francisco. Read on to learn about each of the bike couriers and see more photos.


BIKE COURIER 1: MONICA
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: Tell us a little about you. Who you are? Where you’re from?
MONICA: I’m a bay area native. Born and raised in the east bay
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC:How did you become a bike courier?
MONICA: Pedal Express in Oakland was hiring and I happened to be looking for a job.
PUBLIC: What’s the best part about being a bike courier?
MONICA: Having better knowledge of the streets is pretty tight.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the worst part of the job?
MONICA: Dealing with the diverse forms of traffic on the road is rough. Between ride sharing, public transportation and lost drivers, you have to be on your toes all the time.
PUBLIC: Any tips for navigating city traffic by bike?
MONICA: Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t hesitate to be vocal and ring your bell to make sure cars know you’re there.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever carried via bike?
MONICA: The craziest thing I’ve carried was really the distance I had to go with the order. I had to pick up a package in the Diamond Heights neighborhood of San Francisco and drop it off miles away in Daly City. It felt like that job took forever.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the best reaction you’ve received from couriering flowers by bike?
MONICA: Ladies love it, and so do people with kids. Flower deliveries are usually the most appreciated of deliveries.
PUBLIC: What’s the best way to carry flowers on a bike?
MONICA: Definitely by a mess {messenger} bag. You can just expand those things and stuff it full and even put some flowers in the side pockets of the bag.


BIKE COURIER 2: SAM
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: Tell us a little about you. Who you are? Where you’re from?
SAM: I’m Sam Spicer. I’m from Portland, OR and I now live in San Francisco.
PUBLIC: How did you become a bike courier?
SAM: I became a courier back in Portland. Most of my dudes were already working as couriers. I had an opportunity to try it and, of course, fell in love with it.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the best part about being a bike courier?
SAM: The best part about being a bike courier is that it’s the best excuse for looking super weird talking to yourself from a far on the bike. But really your just talking into the radio.
PUBLIC: What’s the worst part of the job?
SAM: Worst part of the job is finding the bathroom during a busy, busy day.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: Any tips for navigating city traffic by bike?
SAM: Stay loose and ride smart. Always ride like no one sees you.
PUBLIC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever carried via bike?
SAM: Two things stick out in memory. Up in Portland I had to deliver a 6 foot roll of carpet. That was awkward. Then recently with TCB I had to pick up a pillow up in the Haight district of San Francisco that was going to the Mission District. At pick up, I found out that it was a smiley face kid’s pillow that was taco themed.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the best reaction you’ve received from couriering flowers by bike?
SAM: All the smiles are really the best ones
PUBLIC: What’s the best way to carry flowers on a bike?
SAM: Whatever is comfortable for you. Bag, rack, etc. Depends on how many in the end!


BIKE COURIER 3: ANTONIO
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: Tell us a little about you. Who you are? Where you’re from?
ANTONIO: My name is Antonio. I’m from the sucka-free city, 415 {San Francisco area code}.
PUBLIC: How did you become a bike courier?
Bike Flower Couriers
ANTONIO: I first noticed bike messengers when I got an internship at Pedal Revolution on 21st and South Van Ness in San Francisco. I loved the idea of riding a bike for a living; how you can make ends meet and be free from an office job or the regular 9-5 routine. I fell in love with the whole bike culture and I learned to ride everywhere I go. Before that I was a knucklehead (still kinda am) without much determination or direction. But now you will never see me without my bike, and I can truly say it saved my life.
PUBLIC: What’s the best part about being a bike courier?
Bike Flower Couriers
ANTONIO: Riding your bike everywhere. Riding through the city and not being tied down and stuck indoors.
PUBLIC: What’s the worst part of the job?
ANTONIO: Rainy days
PUBLIC: Any tips for navigating city traffic by bike?
ANTONIO: Make sure your brakes are on point. Always stay aware of your surroundings and watch out for doors opening . AT NIGHT USE LIGHTS.
PUBLIC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever carried via bike?
ANTONIO: I helped a good friend of mine move out of her apartment on Hyde and Turk in San Francisco to a place way out on 2nd Ave and Anza. Lots of hills and lots of weight (clothes and plates and stuff like that). Lol.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the best reaction you’ve received from couriering flowers by bike?
ANTONIO: I always get lots of ooooohs and aahhhhhs when I deliver flowers. People are happy to get flowers 99.99999% of the time. You always get smiles.
PUBLIC: What’s the best way to carry flowers on a bike?
ANTONIO: Fat stack on the front rack every time.


BIKE COURIER 4: IAN

Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: Tell us a little about you. Who you are? Where you’re from?
IAN: Ian McDonnell, Tucson Arizona.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: How did you become a bike courier?
IAN: Just another job.
PUBLIC: What’s the best part about being a bike courier?
IAN: Free elevator rides.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the worst part of the job?
IAN: Taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).
PUBLIC: Any tips for navigating city traffic by bike?
IAN: Always hold the lane and take lefts early. Don’t get pinned in the right lane, especially parallel to right turning cars. Stay 3 feet away from parked cars. Watch out for doors opening.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever carried via bike?
IAN: A freshly removed mouth’s worth of gold teeth.
Bike Flower Couriers
PUBLIC: What’s the best reaction you’ve received from couriering flowers by bike?
IAN: One time a lady freaked out because the flowers were sent by someone she had a restraining order against.
PUBLIC: What’s the best way to carry flowers on a bike?
IAN: Securely.


All photography by Pamela Palma Photography . Big thanks to BloomThat for providing the blooms and to all the couriers who took part in this post!

Do Good By Bike: Vol 4 – New Standard Cycles

January 29th, 2017

#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate…. Read more »

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#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate.

We’re taking part too. Follow our Instagram Story (@publicbikes) each Thursday as we bike-courier food from a restaurant to shelter in San Francisco, CA.

new standard cycles

In partnership with Blessings in a Book Bag, a nonprofit that provides services to children in need, SBC refurbishes bicycles and distributes them to kids every holiday season.

In Volume 4 of #DoPublicGood, we interview John Bennett, executive director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign in Savannah, Georgia and founder of New Standard Cycles (NSC). NSC is an inspiring program that refurbishes donated bikes and, with the help of a local nonprofit, gives those bikes to people in the community to whom a bike could change their lives. They also offer bicycle repair classes and bicycle repair options for those who can’t afford it. Read on for our full Q&A with John and more pictures of the incredible work NSC does.

new standard cycles

New Standard Cycles volunteers sort parts and prepare them for reuse.

“Our nonprofit partners know their clients and recognize that bicycles can be life changing for them.”
– John Bennett

PUBLIC: Please tell us a little about where you work and what you do.
John: I am executive director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, a nonprofit bicycle advocacy organization founded in 2008 in Savannah, Ga. I’ve served in this position for about three and a half years. I was one of the organization’s co-founders. In my job I work with government officials to improve and expand our bicycle infrastructure network, provide education programs for children and adults, and organize events to encourage people to make bicycling a healthy part of their daily lives.

new standard cycles

Jen Colestock of SBC’s New Standard Cycles program introduces recently arrived refugees to their new bicycles. The recipients, who are chosen by Lutheran Services of Georgia’s refugee services office, use the bikes to start new jobs and new lives in our country.

PUBLIC: What does New Standard Cycles do?
John: Our program accepts donated bicycles, which are then refurbished by volunteers. We have established partnerships with nonprofit organizations and they identify recipients, for whom a bike can be the deciding factor in getting and keeping a job, going to school, remaining in a treatment program, or staying out of jail. Our nonprofit partners know their clients and recognize that bicycles can be life changing for them. Along with each bike, we also provide lights, a lock, a helmet, and a reflective vest. We also do a holiday bike drive, which provides bikes to children in underserved communities. Finally, we offer bicycle repair classes through a program called the Society of Important Cycling Knowledge (SICK). The goal is to teach people to handle basic bike repairs and maintenance tasks to keep their bikes running safely and smoothly in a friendly and fun environment.

new standard cycles

Savannah has the highest bicycle commuting rate in Georgia and SBC works to encourage more people to ride to work and other destinations.

PUBLIC: How did the idea for New Standard Cycles come about?
John: New Standard Cycles is based on a program operated by our friends at Bike Athens in Athens, Ga. We took their model and adapted it to Savannah. We have the highest rate of bicycle commuting in Georgia and many households that do not have access to motor vehicles. This is a city where thousands of people travel to work and other important destinations by bicycle every day. The building in which we are located began its life as a Standard Oil gas station in 1925, so the name New Standard Cycles is meant to acknowledge that history, but also reinforce the idea that bicycles can provide a new standard of mobility and economic empowerment for people in need.

PUBLIC: What do the people who receive donated bikes from NSC use them for
John: Our first bike went to a client, identified by Lutheran Services of Georgia’s refugee relocation service, who had served as a translator for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. He and his daughter were relocated to Savannah and he was hired at a hotel. Commuting to work by bike is faster and more flexible than taking public transit, so the bike we gave him allows him a viable way to get to his job, but also allows him to spend more time with his daughter before and after his shift. A more recent recipient was referred by Emmaus House, an organization that provides meals and other service to homeless people. She had recently moved out of a homeless camp into a more stable housing situation and was entering a job training program. The bike she received from us came along at just the right time for her. And this is what makes our relationships with other local nonprofits so effective. They watch for those precise moments when having safe, affordable, and dependable transportation can make all the difference in the world for someone who’s striving for a better life.

new standard cycles

SBC offers education programs for children, including bicycle rodeos and safe cycling programs at Girl Scout Camp.

PUBLIC: To date, how many adult and kids bikes have you given out?
John: At this point we refurbish about 100 bikes per year. We also provide minor repairs for people who cannot afford to have their bikes serviced at local bike shops.

PUBLIC: How can people get involved in NSC?
John: We have weekly volunteer sessions, which are managed by professional mechanic. Our volunteers are a mix of people who are capable bike mechanics and those who want to become more competent in maintaining their own bikes. They learn while serving others. We welcome anyone who wants to make life better for their fellow citizens.

new standard cycles

SBC organizes casual, family friendly rides to encourage people to explore Savannah by bike.

PUBLIC: Anything else you’d like to add?
John: Savannah has great potential as a cycling community. We have level terrain, a mild climate (except for July and August), a beautiful natural environment, and historic and cultural resources that attract tens of millions of visitors to our city every year. Savannah’s original city plan, developed by Gen. James Oglethorpe in 1733, has proved durable and sensible guide and is being used as a model by cities around the globe today. Although Oglethorpe predated bicycles by more than century, his city plan creates calm, beautiful, bikeable streets. Unfortunately, parts of his historic plan were obliterated to make way for automobiles. Working with our community partners, we aim to restore and expand the Oglethorpe Plan to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can live comfortably in Savannah without a car.

Do Good By Bike: Vol 1 – Introducing The #DoPublicGood Project

October 31st, 2016

There’s a lot of good in this world and we want to make it known. Starting this month, we’re launching the #DoPublicGood project. Each month we’ll highlight people or organizations that do good by bike. And we’ll be taking part ourselves. Follow us on Snapchat (publicbikes) and every Thursday watch our story as we pick up donated… Read more »

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do public good

Image via Blog Spot

There’s a lot of good in this world and we want to make it known. Starting this month, we’re launching the #DoPublicGood project. Each month we’ll highlight people or organizations that do good by bike. And we’ll be taking part ourselves. Follow us on Snapchat (publicbikes) and every Thursday watch our story as we pick up donated food and bike it to a shelter in the Bay Area through Food Runners.

If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected, we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate.

do public good

Image by Jenny Oh Hatfield

For November we thought it fitting to highlight a very special Bay Area bike event that takes place just once a year around this time called Supermarket Street Sweep. It’s an “allycat” or urban bike race-style event where volunteers courier pounds of food from participating grocery stores via their bikes to a local food bank.

Supermarket Street Sweep is in its 11th year, and it almost went into extinction until the San Francisco Cycling Club decided to take up the reigns just a few months ago. (Kudos to you SFCC!)

One of Supermarket Street Sweep’s original founders, Jenny Oh Hatfield, explains the premise, “For our event, participants buy food from a list of participating shops and that food is directly donated to the SF & Marin Food Banks at the end of the event. Cyclists can compete in three categories: SPEED (bring back the required amount of food the fastest within the race’s time limit); CARGO (bring back the most food); TEAM (this is a new category and up to 5 people can work together to bring back the most food.) Racers carry back their hauls — via backpacks, panniers, cargo bikes and trailers — and all of the groceries are weighed by the food bank and our team of volunteers.”

do public good

Image by Jenny Oh Hatfield

You don’t have to be a hardcore cyclist to participate. Hatfield says that part of the fun is seeing the diverse group of riders that this event brings. “We get road racers, commuters and even kids who have a ton of fun helping such an important charity. We structure the format so if you wanted, you could spend the afternoon riding around with your friends and bring back as much food as you like to the food bank.”

do public good

Image by Jenny Oh Hatfield

And the amount of food people transport on two wheels for the event is incredible. In 2015 over a hundred racers took part and hauled more than 12,200 lbs of food. One racer alone carted over 1,000 lbs!

Registration is open for this year’s Supermarket Street Sweep that takes place on Saturday, December 3rd 2016. Stay up to date on announcements and prize previews on Instagram and Twitter (sfstreetsweep). If you’re not in the Bay Area, you can still get involved by visiting cranksgiving.org to find a similar event in your neighborhood.

A Beginner’s Guide: Top 5 Bike-Friendly Travel Destinations

August 2nd, 2016

International bike travel sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? It’s hard enough to get your passport renewed and pack everything for a regular trip abroad. Add to that the hassle of packing a bicycle and navigating a city you don’t know (where you don’t speak the language)… it’s enough to make a beginner cancel their flight. But let’s say… Read more »

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international bike travel Shimanami_Kaido_Bikeway_Japan

Shimanami Kaito Bikeway. Image by redlegsfan21 via wikimedia.

International bike travel sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? It’s hard enough to get your passport renewed and pack everything for a regular trip abroad. Add to that the hassle of packing a bicycle and navigating a city you don’t know (where you don’t speak the language)… it’s enough to make a beginner cancel their flight.

But let’s say the idea still calls to you. You’re enticed by the notion of landscapes with rolling hills and foaming waters, dotted with ruins and small villages and new ways of life. You imagine sailing with the wind in your face and no windshield to obstruct your view, communing directly with the world! In that case, we’ve got some bike-friendly spots abroad in mind just for you.

We’ve rounded up our top five bike-friendly destinations for international bike travel. These places are great for those contemplating their first bike tour abroad or want to attempt international bike travel with their kids. The following locales are laid-back enough that you’ll be able to explore on two wheels and unwind on your vacation.


Danube Bike Path in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary

international bike travel

Camp site at Passau, Germany. Image by Chris Bainbridge via wikimedia.

Perfect for families, this pleasantly paved biking trail snakes through Germany and Austria and lands in Budapest, Hungary. The well-trodden route is part of EuroVelo6, the famous French cycling route. It follows the Danube River from its source all the way to the Black Sea, but there’s no need to take the entire route. Tackle the stretch that seems appropriate for you and your cycling pack. You might choose just the secluded German section or the popular Austrian trail. In Austria, cyclists soak in the urban sophistication of Vienna and pedal alongside clear water. Then, between observing green valleys in the countryside, they snack on Austria’s delectable dumplings and sample wines in taverns.


The Shimanami Kaido in Japan

international bike travel

Shimanami Kaido bike route in Japan. Images via wikimedia here and here.

Clocking in at only 40 miles, this serene trail is set off from the main road and connects Hiroshima’s islands, giving riders vistas onto the Seto Inland Sea. Some travelers complete the trip in a day, but it also accommodates tranquil wandering with campsites and hotels. There are 14 bike rental shops, which means you can skip the cumbersome bike luggage and rent your two wheels.


Otago Peninsula in New Zealand

international bike travel

The Otago Peninsula. Image via wikimedia

Start from the Victorian and Edwardian college town of Dunedin and venture into the countryside. The second half of this trail is grueling—so you can skip it! Just stick with the easygoing first half. The trail swirls around the coastline, and you can stop at the acute right turn that signals the start of the steep hill. Go during the drier months, from September to May.


Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy

international bike travel

Image via wikimedia.

Smooth pedaling alongside vineyards and benign hills make this Italian route a family pleaser. In northeast Italy, you can rest in piazzas and drink its famed varietals of white wine. The last leg rewards your hard work with a view of the Istrian coast.


Galway City to Spiddal in Ireland

international bike travel

Lovely route in Galway. Image by C O’Flanagan.

A total of 25 miles—from the harbor city of Galway to the charming village of Spiddal—this trek presents one big climb in the beginning. After this, writes local cyclist Pat O’Donnell, “it’s plain sailing.” If you’re blessed with a clear day, you’ll see the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. In Spiddal village, take a breather with a snack in the crafts center, and then turn back to Galway.

Bike Camping 101

July 5th, 2016

You love biking, and you love camping. But you’ve always been afraid to combine the two and actually go bike camping because it sounds so daunting: a heavy load on a long ride, gathering that gear list, and making sure that you definitely have all your supplies (so you don’t end up exclusively noshing on energy… Read more »

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bike camping 101
You love biking, and you love camping. But you’ve always been afraid to combine the two and actually go bike camping because it sounds so daunting: a heavy load on a long ride, gathering that gear list, and making sure that you definitely have all your supplies (so you don’t end up exclusively noshing on energy bars since the propane burner never made it into your pack).

Fear not. Bike camping is a lot simpler than it sounds because there are a variety of different levels of bike camping. There’s absolutely no need to jump right into multi-day bike camping, freeze dried food and purifying your own water. You can start out very simply, without a tent even (see credit-card bike touring, below). And once you’re ready to pitch a tent, you’ll just need to gather the lightest version of your camping supplies, get a rack for your bike, sturdy bike panniers and bike bungees to secure all supplies. Oh, and find just the right camping spot, of course!

bike camping 101

First step, even before assembling a packing list, is to decide what type of bike camping you’re after. Here’s a nice round-up of different types of bike camping/touring options from REI and some pros and cons to each:

  • Credit-card bike touring: Carry only your basic gear. Then, pay for things like hotels and meals along the way (hence, “credit card”). This method makes for a light ride and less stress about whether you remembered everything. Think of it as “glamping”: You tour in the luxury of warm showers. But you’ll pay more for a hotel than a campground on the dirt, and more for restaurant meals than a packed PB&J.
  • Self-supported bike camping: Pack and pedal everything yourself. Store all of your camping supplies and meals in panniers attached to your bike rack or a bike trailer behind you. This method is affordable and gives you the breezy feeling of self-reliance. But it also means you carry everything on your own muscle power.
  • Car bike camping: Have a friend bring up the rear with a van full of your camping gear! You can be free of your heavier supplies, and if you get caught in a downpour, you’ll have instant shelter. The challenges include: finding a friend who would agree to experience the views from a car instead of a bike, and not being able to offroad it with your bikes—or the car would be left behind.
  • Organized bike camping: In a paid bike camping tour, all the headaches are someone else’s problem. You get to meet new people, and in some cases, you don’t have to carry the camping supplies yourself. The accommodation and navigation are all taken care of. The downside? These tours can be expensive, and you don’t get to choose your own adventure.
bike camping

Once you’ve decided on your trip style, packing becomes simpler. If you choose to do a self-supported bike camping, you’d need the maximum gear. Here’s everything you’d need to make it happen from Bike Overnights and REI:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pad
  • Pillow
  • Tent
  • Food
  • Toiletries
  • Map
  • Flashlight
  • Pocketknife
  • Matches
  • Raingear
  • Towel
  • Two pairs of biking clothes
  • Two pairs of non-sweaty clothes
  • Patch kit
  • Pump (like this one or this one)
  • Cycling multi-tools (like this one)
  • Sturdy Bike Rack (like this one or this one)
  • Bicycle Pannier Bag (like this pair)

That’s it! And even those items are optional: Not everyone would feel the need to bring a towel or multiple pairs of clothes, especially if you aren’t overnighting over numerous days. Some rugged adventurers can do without a camp pad or air mattress. And others might happily sleep in a camp hammock instead of a tent.

bike camping

Once you’ve narrowed down your checklist, pack all of your supplies in panniers, baskets, and/or a bike trailer. For some wild inspiration, check out these DIY bike trailers. You can also buy one that’s readymade. If you’d rather skip the expense of a trailer, just strap your tent to your rear rack. Organize your items into panniers by category, such as sleeping and cooking (and use other packing advice from this seasoned Canadian traveler).

Then, you’re ready to bike the world!