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Archive for the ‘Sustainable Transportation’ Category

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.
 

Women, Bikes, and Freedom

Friday, November 15th, 2013

When we launched PUBLIC four years ago, we wanted to build a company that offered bicycles and products attractive to all kinds of people, especially women.

We’re proud that 60% of our customers are women – and we’re thrilled to see the growing number of women biking around the country.

In case you missed it, The League of American Bicyclists recently issued a report called “Women on a Roll” (PDF) that highlighted many of the trends we’ve been seeing first-hand. Bicycle Times summarized the report and noted that from “2003 to 2012, the number of women and girls who bicycle rose 20 percent, compared to a .5 percent decline among men.

In our blog, we’ve previously highlighted fifteen women who are making a difference in bicycling around the country. Our list was not meant to be comprehensive, but a conversation starter. Read the comments for other difference-makers, including Georgena Terry from Terry Bicycles, Mia Birk of Alta Planning + Design, or Renee Rivera of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

The good news is that more women are joining the ranks of people incorporating a bicycle in their lives – and they’re leading many advocacy and industry game-changing companies. We hope to do our small part at PUBLIC.

We’re Hiring. Help Build Walkable (and Bikeable) Cities

Friday, October 18th, 2013

If you want to know why I started PUBLIC, and why we feel constantly excited and accomplished about getting more people on bikes, watch this TED video. Jeff Speck articulates the reasons why the movement to make our cities more walkable and bikeable is perhaps one of the most important social initiatives in the US for the 21st century.

Jeff is a hero of mine, and a mentor. I have written about him and his recent book, Walkable City in a prior PUBLIC Opinion essay. I was privileged to work with him for two years when he headed up the NEA sponsored Mayors’ Institute on City Design, where designers, urbanists, and mayors get together and help solve design problems facing modern US cities.

Jeff’s talk is about ways the US can be more economically resilient, healthy, and environmentally sustainable by making our cities more walkable and bikeable. And he is not afraid to challenge some major issues with the path of development the US took in the 20th century. Watch this to learn why “the worse idea we’ve ever had [in the US] is suburban sprawl.”

Jeff Speck on Walkable Cities at TED

We’re Hiring

We are recruiting for several positions listed below. Additionally, we always have projects that need to be managed by self-directed part-time employees. If you have a friendly demeanor, curiosity, a college degree, solid computer skills, and a desire to change the world, please send us a note of interest and resume to jobs@publicbikes.com. All inquiries will be kept confidential, and we will follow up in more detail with any qualified applicant.

Online Marketing Associate – Part-Time or Full-Time

This person will take ownership for the success of our online marketing program and its impact on the overall growth of our online sales channel. This position could be a part-time contract or possibly full-time employee job based in San Francisco. You will use current online marketing technology, both internal and outsourced, to implement programs to enhance traffic (SEM and SEO), Google Analytics, and customer insights/merchandising. Pay depends on experience. Find out more and apply here.

IT Technical Support – Part-Time

This part-time IT Technical Support Contractor based in the San Francisco Bay Area will have technical know-how to serve as our in-house IT support point person related to PUBLIC’s technology systems, including our retail point of sales, e-commerce and inventory management, and basic office connectivity technology troubleshooting in a mixed Macintosh and Windows environment. This person will be familiar with all information systems used at PUBLIC, including hardware and software. Pay depends on experience. Learn more and apply here.

Retail Store Sales Associates – Part-Time

We are looking for part-time Retail Store Sales Associates immediately who are able to work on weekends and already be located in the Bay Area. Retail experience and references are essential, but you do not need to be a bike mechanic. For more information visit our website.

Top 10 Reasons to E-Bike

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

New Electric Bikes from PUBLIC

We’ve launched a range of e-bikes this month. Some are made from PUBLIC DNA with a BionX system, and others from the Swiss bike design firm Stromer.

Here are my top ten reasons for buying an e-bike, as an experienced rider and advocate.

PUBLIC BionX Mixte Electric Bike in San Francisco
Stromer ST1 Elite electric bike in San Francisco
PUBLIC BionX electric bike in San Francisco
PUBLIC BionX Mixte electric bike in San Francisco
  1. They are a thrill.
  2. You will ride more often.
  3. They make hills a non-issue. I like climbing hills on my road bike, and when we ride for exercise we typically look for steep hills. It feels good to sweat and hammer up a hill, and you always get the rewarding descent. But to me there is no pleasure in riding hills in the city when dressed in work clothes. With an e-bike, I can ride up even the steepest hills without puffing, with about as much effort as walking.
  4. They are friend-friendly. If you have a partner or friend who does not ride as vigorously as you, on an e-bike they can keep up with you (or stay ahead of you).
  5. Park anywhere for free.
  6. Ride in bike lanes to avoid traffic.
  7. Saves money (no license, insurance, or parking meters).
  8. Speed. If you want to zip past the other cyclists you can, some will chuckle, others will glare.
  9. Effortless function. You can carry twenty extra pounds of anything and not even know it.
  10. We have some special offers right now, including free e-bike shipping this month only.

I’ve written more about our new electric bikes in a previous PUBLIC OPINION, if you’re curious to learn more. Or check out the new Electric Bikes section of our website for lots of great information. But if you’re in the Bay Area, you absolutely have to visit one of our San Francisco stores to try one out for yourself. After the first push of the pedal you’ll understand what everyone’s so excited about.

Stromer ST1 Platinum electric bike in San FranciscoTake One Home Tonight
Borrow an E-Bike for the Evening
You’ve got to ride these to fully appreciate them. If you’re in the Bay Area, stop by our South Park or Valencia store and take one out for a spin. If you contact us ahead of time, we will be able to loan you an electric bike to use overnight or for the day with a credit card deposit. Find out more about our E-Bike Loaner Program.

Please come down and take a test ride. And you are even welcome to take one home, but please return them so we don’t run articles like the one below.

The Rise of Technology and the Decline of Driving

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Millennials Prefer to Bike

One of our favorite sources of information about urban issues is the The Atlantic Cities, which recently featured this article by Emily Badger on some of the less obvious effects of the rise of technology.

“Teleconferencing has made telework more common. E-commerce has reduced the need to drive to the mall. Real-time arrival apps have made public transit more predictable. Solar-powered stations have helped bike-share expand. WiFi and smart phones have made it possible to get work done on a moving bus, raising the mental cost of driving alone. And social media, for some people, has reduced the need to travel across town to see a friend you might more easily connect with on Facebook.”

Read the full article here.

A correlation between high-tech culture and smarter transportation is obvious to those of us who live and work in San Francisco. We see many people who choose to live car free, and there are increasing numbers of young people on bikes on our streets. The major tech companies like Twitter, Apple, Google, and Facebook have incentive programs for employees who bike to work, and many have bike share programs on their campuses.

Millennials are a lot more passionate and interested in connectivity — smart phone and apps — than they are about physical mobility and what kind of car you drive. This is an optimistic sign and a phenomenon that appears to hold true in all other progressive cities across the country.

Electric Bikes and Millennials

PUBLIC BionX mixte electric bike in San Francisco

We don’t have any stats on Millennials’ preferences for electric bikes in the US yet. But studies in Europe show that these new electrical-assisted bikes are the fastest growing transportation segment in their cities. This new generation of faster, easier bikes have become a logical alternative to a car for many people. We’ve launched a range of e-bikes this month. Some are made from PUBLIC DNA with a BionX system, and others from the Swiss bike design firm Stromer. They combine technology in a manner that will appeal to both Millennials and the older crowd alike.

Proudly announcing new electric bikes from PUBLIC

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Listen up. We are introducing several electric bikes this month at PUBLIC. I want to strongly encourage any and all bicycle lovers to take a close look at these and, if possible, take one out for a test ride. If you’re in the Bay Area, we’ve got several models we can loan you for a quick test ride or an overnight stay.

Our Models: Stromer and PUBLIC BionX

We’ve been reviewing e-bikes since we started PUBLIC almost five years ago. But until recently we were unable to find models that we wanted to ride ourselves. We’ve become fans of two e-bikes this season, and we’re excited to offer these two models for sale now. Each of these Stromer and PUBLIC BionX models comes with several options. You can read all about them here and then come down and take them for a test ride.

BionX Electric Bike Conversion Kits from PUBLIC San FranciscoStromer ST1 Electric Bike from PUBLIC San Francisco

I don’t often make product endorsements this strong. But I have been checking out e-bikes for five years, watching them explode in popularity all over Europe. I’ve also been riding these e-bikes every day for several months, and I have become an addict, an evangelist, and a proselytizer. I think these bikes are game changers, commute changers, and even life changers for some of us. The electrical assist function is perhaps the biggest technology change in bikes since the invention of the derailleur to change your gears. They will not replace our basic bikes for beauty and simplicity. And why should they? But e-bikes offer some terrific benefits that will encourage many of us to ride more often. Find out more about the advantages of electric bikes on our website.

I am fortunate to have several different bikes and a Vespa in my garage. Depending on my mood and what my day demands, I always have to decide which is the best vehicle to ride. Now that I have an electric bike I find myself choosing it way more often than the others because it gives me the most flexibility, speed, and fun. My daily commute involves two stretches that are no fun: a mile stretch of flat grey asphalt, headwinds off the Golden Gate Bridge, and a steep half-mile uphill to my apartment. The e-bike solves the grind at the end of my day.

If I only had the space and budget for one two-wheeled vehicle in my life in San Francisco, it would be an e-bike. For any of us that have three to twenty-mile commutes or a hilly commute and are fortunate to live some place with a garage or elevator, an e-bike is a compelling option.

Take One Home TonightTake One Home Tonight – Overnight E-Bike Loans
You’ve got to ride these to fully appreciate them. Stop by one of our PUBLIC retail stores in San Francisco and take one out for a spin. If you contact us ahead of time, we will be able to loan you an electric bike to use overnight or for the day with a credit card deposit. Find out more about our E-Bike Loaner Program.

Buy a House Get a Free Bike

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

BM-Hero-Grid-v6_blog?

You would have to be hiding under a rock to not notice the increased number of bikes on the streets in major cities across the US (and round the world). From bike share programs to the creation of bike lanes and biking infrastructure, major cities like NYC, Washington, D.C., Chicago and SF have been rolling out programs.

PUBLIC is pleased to play a part in these progressive developments. Now we’re also seeing residential suburban communities following suit, and this bodes well for the greening of America. 
One new development is a new urban village down the SF Peninsula in San Mateo where 93 Shea Homes buyers are getting PUBLIC bikes. The old site was the Bay Meadows Race track, which closed its operations five years ago. So where horses used to run there will now be bikes rolling along.

Bay Meadows touts itself as a development where “Life in Motion” is celebrated and they’re truly living up to this vision.
 Here’s what Janice Thacher, partner at Wilson Meany, developer of Bay Meadows, had to say:

“In collaboration with Shea Homes, we are thrilled to provide each Landsdowne homeowner the gift of two-wheel transportation. Bay Meadows offers an innovative and sustainable new way to live, and PUBLIC Bikes closely shares our philosophy. With their new bikes, Landsdowne residents will take advantage of local San Mateo attractions, as well as Bay Meadows’ bike-friendly experience highlighted by trails, parks, and access to on-site retail and office space.”

How cool is that? Ninety-three new homeowners can go grocery shopping nearby using their PUBLIC bikes, and even access the nearby Caltrain station and take their bikes to San Francisco or elsewhere.

If you’re interested in checking out these Landsdowne homes, you can visit model residences daily from 12pm – 6pm. The units located on the Hillsdale Caltrain line seem especially desirable for people needing quick, smart access to San Francisco.