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Archive for the ‘Sustainable Transportation’ Category

Halfway Is Not Enough

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Bike-able Bridges

Images courtesy of Rob Forbes, The Botster and Ipv Delft

PUBLIC is headquartered on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, with a new flagship store and design studio in Hayes Valley, SF, and a distribution center and office in Jack London Square, Oakland. I often enjoy taking the ferry across the bay to our Oakland office, but sometimes the best choice is to drive across the Bay Bridge.

Every time I sit in bridge traffic returning to San Francisco from the East Bay, I have two conflicting emotions. First, how majestic, elegant, and inspirational the new bridge is aesthetically –and second, how unfortunate, even cruel it is that even after spending $6.5 billion on the modern new eastern span that opened last fall, a person still can’t ride a bike across the bridge from the San Francisco to the East Bay. For those unfamiliar, you can only ride half way across!

Riding the bike lanes on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, you’re treated to a gorgeous, expansive view with incredible vistas that are a treat for tourists and locals alike. But there are no definite plans to complete the bike connection on the existing western span to San Francisco, which is an opportunity unfulfilled. Take Copenhagen, it’s already awash in bike-able bridges and it’s now considering creating the 2nd largest bike bridge in the world.

Bay Bridge Lights Image Courtesy of Greg Del Savio

We have made some world-class bridge designs in the Bay Area, the Golden Gate Bridge at the top of the list. It gets over 10 million visitors every year, and the bike ride across it is epic and loved by locals and tourists alike. The recent Bay Lights project on the west span of the Bay Bridge rivals any urban lighting you’ll see in Copenhagen or anywhere else in Europe.

The vision behind these grand works casts a shadow for cyclists with the halfway solution of the new Bay Bridge redo, and makes us realize that we are still playing catch up to many European cities when it comes to comprehensive progressive transportation solutions. At PUBLIC we sincerely hope there will enough public pressure on politicians and government executives who make transportation planning and funding decisions to eventually make the Bay Bridge fully open to bikes and pedestrians, not just cars.

Travel In The World’s Most Bike Friendly Cities.

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

When traveling, biking is a superior way of getting around (no pricey cab fares or metros to navigate) that’s only getting better. Cities around the world are making it easier than ever to hop on two wheels and explore with improved bike infrastructure and convenient bike share programs. We have several perspectives listed below.

Click on the colorful grid above for the definitive list of 25 Bike Friendly Cities across the globe from Copenhaganize; Amsterdam (Netherlands), Copenhagen (Denmark), Utrecht (Netherlands), Seville (Spain) and Bordeaux (France) receive the highest ranking, and less obvious cities like Budapest (Hungary) and Tokyo (Japan) make the list.

What makes these cities truly bike friendly are the ample dedicated bike lanes, some that go for miles, bike share programs that are well used by the community and a hard core commitment to building out better bike infrastructure in the future.


Bike sharing is really coming around and for travelers this is an awesome perk. Momentum Magazine lists it’s top cities for bike share and the ones in the US that get nods are New York, Miami and Chicago. Lonely Planet highlights cities around the globe with significant bike share programs and the likes of London (England), Paris (France), Montreal (Canada) and Hangzhou (China) top the list.

So, as this travel blog with it’s own list of top 10 bicycle friendly cities quotes, “The next time you find yourself in a bike-friendly city, skip the car rental and let your legs do the driving.”

Riding The Roads Less Ridden

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

World Cup. Bikes and Brazil.

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC World Cup Correspondent,
Dan

Bike To Work Bay Area

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Supervisor London Breed on Cream PUBLIC C7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bike to Work Day 2014 photos by SF Bike Coalition

Bikes are Up, Traffic is Down in San Francisco

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

City Leaders and Bike Advocates on Bike to Work Day. Traffic on Bay Bridge.

Many of us accept punishing traffic situations on a daily basis. Traffic can seem as inevitable as having to file your taxes every April. But while we haven’t figured out a better solution for the 1040 form, traffic is a problem that can be solved. Cities all over the world are being reconfigured to be more pedestrian friendly, limiting car traffic by a number of means, with amazing results. The latest news from the SF Chronicle is that commuter traffic has improved all over San Francisco in the past couple years, with fewer cars on the streets and shorter waits at lights. How did San Francisco manage to reduce automobile congestion? We made our streets better for bikes.

According to the Chronicle, car traffic is improving because more residents and commuters are choosing bicycles and public transit, and leaving their cars at home. The number of people biking in San Francisco has doubled since 2006, thanks to the advocacy of the SF Bike Coalition; the city’s improvements in bike infrastructure like green bike lanes, signals, and parking; and bikes like ours that are designed to be easy for all kinds of people to ride.

The new Bay Area Bike Share is a good “last mile” solution for transit riders to get to their final destination, and regional commuter train BART now allows people to bring their own bikes on board during peak commuting hours (finally!). There are many other forces at work to help solve the traffic problems, such as charging more for parking, creating pedestrian zones and congestion pricing, but bikes are proving to provide the most simple and affordable solution.

These bike-positive changes are happening all over the country, from big cities like ChicagoDC and New York to small towns like Edinburg, Texas. And no matter where you live, it’s a movement you can be part of. Joining a state or local bike advocacy group like the California Bike Coalition is a great way to start. And of course, choosing to ride a bike (using the best commuter bike) or take transit instead of driving a car is the easiest way you can curb traffic in your city.

 

Think The Unthinkable: Cities Without Cars

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

CicLAvia 2013

It is not a stretch to conceive of a time — a few decades from now — when people look back on the 20th century and the onslaught of cars into our cities, and ask “what were they thinking?” After all, who would knowingly lay out cities to prioritize the rights of cars over the rights of people? Who would construct surface level parking lots over precious real estate and not put parking underground?

Fort Mason Parking Lot, San Francisco

Here is an example from my neighborhood, a swath of underutilized asphalt in San Francisco that looks out onto the gorgeous San Francisco Bay. This decision is almost as absurd as putting a prison—Alcatraz—on one of the most scenic islands in the world.

But making the world a better place for cars was pretty much what happened in most US cities in the 20th century, all fueled by low gasoline prices, and the “modern” belief that car mobility was more important than community building. If we were designing cities from scratch today, wouldn’t we park cars on the outskirts, employ efficient mass transit to move people quickly and conveniently, and keep the city human scale safe and friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists?

This inconvenient truth is becoming obvious as cities cope with increasing traffic, congestion, pollution, and a crumbling antiquated infrastructure. The adage “you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic” rings true in almost every city where the car dominates our public spaces.

The good news is that major change is afoot all around the world.

Groups as diverse as CicLAvia in Los Angeles and the city fathers in Hamburg, Germany both give us examples of how this problem is being confronted. Hamburg’s “Green Network Plan” goes so far as to call for a phase-out of automobiles in the center of the city altogether over the next two decades. The Hamburg concept is especially noteworthy because Germans love their cars almost as much as we do in the US. Read more here.

CicLAvia in Los Angeles and Sunday Streets in San Francisco are also great examples of how change is occurring in the US. These groups stage events all over the city, open streets for people, and encourage us to rethink our public spaces. These “open streets” initiatives have grown dramatically all over the world in a few years. The concept started in Bogotá, Colombia over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets.

You can support CicLAvia and Sunday Streets with a donations. We would love to get some customer pictures from anyone who participates in CicLAvia’s April 6 event on Wilshire Blvd. or Sunday Streets’ April 13 event in the Tenderloin.

The more you read about places like Hamburg and Open Streets groups like CicLAvia and Sunday Streets, the more you realize that the US is still playing catch up to most of the modern world when it comes to smart transportation design and Livable Cities. But perhaps our time has finally come as more people embrace Lewis Mumford’s ideal:

The chief function of the city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity.

Or as he put more succinctly, “Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.”

Traffic Jams. Open Streets.

Friday, January 17th, 2014

You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has been in hot political water over information that suggests his top aides intentionally caused traffic jams by closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge as political payback. It’s a hot mess of a scandal that you can follow here.

We’re particularly intrigued by this scandal because people seem to be upset that there was a deliberate, orchestrated effort to create unnecessary traffic jams. And yet in most cities, traffic congestion is an ongoing reality because we’ve unfortunately built lifestyles around the car. Every time we read about traffic jams, we’re reminded of the adage: “You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.”

At PUBLIC, we’d rather spend less energy thinking of lane closures and traffic jams, but more energy thinking of ways to open our streets to people, bicycles, and other things that bring people together. This Streetfilms video on the “Rise of Open Streets” articulates this concept beautifully, and includes cameo appearances from some of our favorite urbanists such as Janette Sadik-Khan and Gil Penalosa.

Lord Norman Foster Elevates Cycling in London

Friday, January 10th, 2014

London SkyCycle Bike Highway Concept

Lord Norman FosterThe recent proposal of a 130+ mile bicycle highway network around London got many of us buzzing. Elevated bike highways are an exciting concept with a long history: in a previous PUBLIC OPINION piece we commented on a bike highway planned for Pasadena all the way back in the 19th century. The NY Times has a great video report on a bicycle superhighway system that opened in Copenhagen in 2012. But the London SkyCycle concept is backed by the firm of world-renowed architect (and avid cyclist) Lord Norman Foster. Foster has been awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize and just about every other award in his field. When such a high profile designer proposes a major bicycle project, you can bet that others will be paying attention.

One of the anomalies (tragedies really) in the 20th century modern design movement is that while this period will go down as the golden age for most areas of design – product, industrial, graphic, automotive, architectural – it will also probably go down as the worst period ever for city design. The last century was the golden age for suburban sprawl, especially in the US. Many of our cities were gutted, dissected by freeways, and filled up with surface parking lots. People and businesses were given many incentives to relocate out of the cities.

NYT Video: Copenhagen Bike SuperhighwayThankfully, much of the 21st century will be dedicated to moving people back to the city and we see this happening abroad and at home. The obsession with individual mobility, speed, and the automobile is being replaced by a love affair with connectivity and community, virtual and physical. In San Francisco, tech companies like Twitter and Adobe are bucking the Silicon Valley trend by locating on main bike corridors in the city center as opposed to industrial parks down the peninsula.

Revitalizing urban space is the vision that inspired PUBLIC and we applaud Foster + Partners and the other firms behind SkyCycle for working to reimagine the existing systems and infrastructure in our cities, and putting their weight behind such a major bike project. Check out the Guardian article here.


SkyCycle concept video by Room60 for Exterior Architecture

2014 Wish: More Public Space for People

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Public Space in Rome

I had the good fortune to spend time in Rome this year. Rome is a remarkable city for a number of reasons.  One reason is the extraordinary public spaces that are peppered throughout the city, and filled with locals and tourists alike. It is almost as if the city is an amalgamation of public spaces that are held together by walkways and roads.  And even along many streets the space is shared quite elegantly between cars and pedestrians.  This overall design creates a friendly, democratic and inspirational atmosphere, and is such a contrast to many modern cities where streets and parking areas often take up most of the public space.
 
What does this have to do with bikes and PUBLIC and a year-end message? Everything. The mission of PUBLIC is to encourage us to think more carefully about our urban environments and spaces, and to help people connect with them more personally. Bikes are a good way to do this. It’s all about making our cities more livable and more loveable.
 
Santa Cruz Parking Lot / Millennium Park, ChicagoI took this shot of a parking lot in Santa Cruz, California, just after returning from Rome. The parking lot is adjacent to the main beach in Santa Cruz and next to a beautiful stretch of coastline. It is one of the most desirable pieces of community space in the city. But like so many parking lots across America, (and we have many in San Francisco) it sits vacant, lonely and depressed for most of its life. It was a mistake to put it there.  
 
Here is to a new year of undoing mistakes and getting more people, smiles and spirit in our public spaces and in our private lives. There truly is so much good news about this occurring in the US and around the world. We often cite the Highline in New York, Millennium Park in Chicago, and Ferry Plaza in San Francisco, but there are many lower profile developments all across the US that undo suburban sprawl and revitalize our cities.
 
My favorite recent development in this regard came the other day from the NY Times. Ex-Mayor Bloomberg is taking his smarter city show on the road:
 
“Michael R. Bloomberg, determined to parlay his government experience and vast fortune into a kind of global mayoralty, is creating a high-powered consulting group to help him reshape cities around the world long after he leaves office.” Read the full article here.
 
Like any big city Mayor, you can find policies enacted by former Mayor Bloomberg to critique, but there is no denying that he left an indelible stamp on New York City’s urban landscape, including rolling out bike share and increasing bike lanes. Like the Medici’s Popes and political power brokers of ancient Rome, this guy is really committed to making better cities the focus of his life’s work.  Lucky for us, he just won’t go away.
 
Here at PUBLIC we don’t plan on going away either. Thanks to all of you we’ll be rolling ahead in 2014.