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!

Bike to Work in Style, Commute Like a European

May 19th, 2016

In the United States, we tend to be hard on ourselves about our rate of biking to work compared to Europe. However, we have reason to celebrate during this Bike to Work month. In America, the ranks of cycling commuters are only growing: our numbers rose about 60 percent throughout the aughts, from 488,000 bike… Read more »

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In the United States, we tend to be hard on ourselves about our rate of biking to work compared to Europe. However, we have reason to celebrate during this Bike to Work month. In America, the ranks of cycling commuters are only growing: our numbers rose about 60 percent throughout the aughts, from 488,000 bike commuters in the year 2000 to roughly 786,000 in 2008–2012, according to the US Census. More recently, biking to work has continued to trend upwards from 2006 to 2013 among workers of all income brackets.

bike to work bicycle commute

Although our patterns of bike commuting are looking rosy, we in the United States still have plenty to learn from Europe so that everyday people cycle as a matter of habit across the nation. Here’s how pedaling commuters get to work in style in the two cities with some of the highest rates of bicycling.

bike to work bicycle commute

Image via Wikimedia Commons

COPENHAGEN, Denmark

In Copenhagen, almost half of the population cycles to their school or office. We can glean some infrastructure lessons—as well as style tips—from Denmark’s bike to work culture.

bike to work bicycle commute

Image by Tony Webster via flickr

Infrastructure ingenuity

  • Only one percent of Copenhageners mention the environment as the reason they ride. Most of them do it because it’s the easiest way to scoot around town. Strong cycling infrastructure makes the choice obvious.
  • Traffic lights are coordinated for bicycles, not cars.
  • When it snows, bike lanes have priority for cleaning before roads. No wonder the majority of commuters still cycle through Copenhagen’s white winters.
  • City planners made bike lanes the most direct routes to the city center, according to the Guardian.
  • Footrests and railings allow riders to stop at a light without hopping off their seats. (Seattle recently added these—go Seattle!)
bike to work bicycle commute

Image by Bimbimbikes via Flickr

Cycling style

  • Copenhageners prefer bike baskets, storing their work supplies in a way that keeps the burden off their backs.
  • Personalizing the baskets with flowers and stickers gives cyclists a personal connection with their ride.
  • The baskets can be easily taken off the front handlebars, allowing for shopping and moving around.
  • Comfy saddles are standard. Brooks leather saddles can be seen around Copenhagen.
600-wiki-media-amsterdam

By Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands

About 63 percent of Amsterdammers bike every day. Cycling to work is in their DNA. Here’s how it happened.

600px-Cycling_in_amsterdam

Image by Apoikola via Wikimedia Commons

Infrastructure ingenuity

  • Dutch bike lanes are wide enough to allow for side-by-side biking, according to the BBC, allowing you to chat with your “bikepool” buddy.
  • Many cycling routes are offset from cars and the rest of the road, making commuters feel safe.
  • Bicyclists are treated as the first-class citizens they deserve to be. You’ll find signs that read: “Bike Street: Cars are guests.”
bike to work bicycle commute

Image by TCP via flickr.

Cycling style

  • Dutch children start biking as babies in cargo bikes, called bakfiets in Dutch.
  • Bikers don’t consider cycling a lifestyle choice. Rather, it’s a default mode. As such, their bikes aren’t consumer accessories to show off a subculture, but workaday vehicles, according to the BBC. In such a culture, cycling might seem more accessible to the rich and poor alike.
  • Sliding wheel locks allow for cyclists to quickly secure their bike and hop into the coffee shop on their ride to work.
  • Popular dynamo headlights are powered by pedaling—so you don’t have to remember to recharge them or replace the batteries.
  • Commuters bike to work in skirts and heels like it ain’t no thang, thanks to the predominance of Dutch-style step-through bikes. Seeing others do it all the time makes it seem natural… so why not start the trend in your city?

Increasing the number of bike commuters in the United States will have to be a joint effort between policymakers and the people on the streets. Start today to create the cycling culture you’d like to live in: Write a letter to your local representative to prioritize bike infrastructure. Then, slip on your high heeled shoes, put your laptop in your bike basket, and cycle to work with a smile. You might inspire someone else to do the same.

How to Bike with Kids on Mother’s Day—and Beyond

April 30th, 2016

On Mother’s Day, there are countless reasons our moms deserve handwritten cards and brunch. For some of us, those reasons include our fond memories of learning to ride a bike. Our mothers patiently guided us as we graduated from child bike seat to balance bike to kid bike with pedals. Just by watching Mom pedal around town… Read more »

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how to bike with kids child bicycle

On Mother’s Day, there are countless reasons our moms deserve handwritten cards and brunch. For some of us, those reasons include our fond memories of learning to ride a bike. Our mothers patiently guided us as we graduated from child bike seat to balance bike to kid bike with pedals. Just by watching Mom pedal around town herself, some of us learned to value biking for its exercise, convenience and fun factor.

For all those new mothers hoping to shape their children into cyclists, we salute you. Our figurative flowers for you include tips for teaching your kids the rituals of biking. Aside from the obvious habits that apply to all ages—wear a helmet, use hand signals, bike on the right side of the road—these pointers are kid specific.

With this advice, you’ll help your child safely grow from a bike-seat sidekick to a velodrome champion—well, if that’s what they want to be when they grow up. You can also read riding tips we collected from some of our favorite bike-riding Moms.

how to bike with kids child bicycle

The bike seat years: One-year-old to toddler

  • Before you start adventuring around town with your baby in a bike seat, your child should be one year old. They should be able to hold up their own head with a helmet on and not slump over in the bike seat, according to bikeportland.org.
    Choose a comfortable child seat with a sturdy harness. Once the child is old enough to unbuckle things, make sure they know not to escape from their harness mid-ride!
  • Start small and bike on quiet streets for short rides so that both you and your baby get comfortable.
how to bike with kids child bicycle
  • In addition to putting a helmet on your baby, always wear your own helmet to role model safe biking behavior!
  • This tip comes from the blog of PUBLIC C7 rider Joanna Goddard (past interview here): “If you have one young child, I would definitely recommend a front seat. You feel close and connected, since you can easily chat and point at things and see what they’re looking at. Plus, I find that having that extra weight in the front versus the back of the bike is easier for balancing.”
how to bike with kids child bicycle

The balance bike to training wheels years: Three- to seven-years-old or older

  • Consider a balance bike or push bike. A balance bike has no pedals and helps children focus on first learning to balance on two wheels. Once they have mastered the art of balancing they might be able to skip a pedal kids bike with training wheels all together.
  • After a balance bike, if possible, try to encourage your child to try a pedal kids bike without training wheels. By learning to ride without training wheels, your child will learn balance speed. Keep the seat low so your child can put both feet on the ground. Sometimes it’s easier to start on a gentle slope to get the pedal kids bike moving for balancing and then your child can start pedaling.
  • If your child does not have a lot of riding confidence, a pedal kids bike with training wheels is an option. Training wheels don’t help a child learn the importance of balance speed but they can help a less confident rider get going. All of PUBLIC’s smaller 16″ wheel size pedal kids bikes come with optional training wheels. It might sound contrary, but positioning the training wheels a little higher off the ground than you think will actually create more stability for the child when rolling, says PUBLIC product manager, Aaron Glick.
how to bike with kids child bicycle
  • Even though your child is low to the ground, buy your little biker a normal bicycle helmet, labeled with a certification by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Only let your child explore quiet, safe places—away from dangers such as cars and swimming pools.
how to bike with kids child bicycle

The bicycle years: Seven-years-old and beyond

  • Allow your children to graduate from a training wheels only once they’ve gained the necessary sense of balance, usually around five to seven years old.
  • Kids at 10-years-old and younger are safer riding on the sidewalk than on the street, according to Safe Kids.
  • Teach your young cyclist to make eye contact with drivers before crossing an intersection. They should make sure that the driver sees them and is going to stop.
  • Try a bike-to-school route! One adult could potentially lead the way, picking up children along the path to school to join the caravan.
  • Ditch the tandem bike. Children should be able to match your pedalling power before they tandem bike, which might take until they reach age 12, according to Outside Online.
  • For long journeys, consider a trailercycle, advises cyclist Charles Scott. You can store your supplies as well as resting children in your trailer. Once they’re ready, kids can get back on the bike and feel like part of the team.

Once your kids start pedaling, they might know their way around their neighborhood better than those kids who are only driven around in cars, at least one study has shown. The study also indicated that cycling kids have a richer connection with their community; they remember more spaces where they like to play than exclusively car-driven kids.

how to bike with kids child bicycle

In that case, what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than pedaling around your neighborhood together? You’ll give yourself the gift of fun and exercise—and your children the gift of a more memorable childhood.

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Photography credit goes to the talents of Jetkat Photography. Model credit goes to the beautiful family of Copy Cat Chic. And big thanks to Rebecca Huval for making this post possible.

The Cars Are Jealous Of This Colorful Bike Corral Mural

April 13th, 2016

We’re all about making the world a more sustainable and healthier place through thoughtful urban design and sustainable transportation. So we got a special kick out of a recent public project in San Francisco that transformed a single car parking spot on the corner of Fell and Divisadero into a bike parking corral for 12 bikes… Read more »

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600-duo-corral-grid

We’re all about making the world a more sustainable and healthier place through thoughtful urban design and sustainable transportation. So we got a special kick out of a recent public project in San Francisco that transformed a single car parking spot on the corner of Fell and Divisadero into a bike parking corral for 12 bikes with a vibrant, colorful street mural underfoot.

bike corral mural

Eric Tuvel in the bike corral.

We caught up with the mastermind behind this bike corral mural, Eric Tuvel (pictured above). Read on for more about Eric, how this project came about, and how you can implement a bike corral mural in your city.

PUBLIC: You’re both a visual designer and a bicycle advocate? Tell us more about your background.
Eric: My background in Graphic Design started in undergrad, which is where I started commuting by bike to class and to get around campus. As I pursued my master’s degree in City & Regional Planning, I began applying my design background to cities and commuting by bike became more about shaping how people move around the city. Before joining the SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) as a Transportation Planner in the Sustainable Streets division, I was the Design and Program Manager at the SF Bicycle Coalition. It was there I got more involved in advocacy and the biking community of San Francisco and fused my design/planning background with my love for biking.

PUBLIC: What was the inspiration behind this bike corral mural concept?
Eric: In my first position at the SFMTA I managed the bicycle parking program. As I started siting and surveying for sidewalk racks and on-street corrals, I started to see the various ways people tried to bring art into these bike parking facilities. Talking with my coworker one day, the idea just hit us and we thought, “What about painting a mural underneath the corral on the street?” It was really serendipitous.
Once the idea was planted in my head, I was determined.
I started running it by staff at various city agencies to get the approvals I needed. As for the mural that was installed, it was done by Bay Area artist Kristin Farr. She selected colors from the streetscape at the location to come up with the palette for the piece. She was selected by the sponsor, Madrone Art Bar, and was great to work with on the project. The piece is titled “Diamonds on Divis”.

PUBLIC: What were the major challenges to getting this bike corral mural implemented?
Eric: The major challenge was creating a process for something that hasn’t been done before. The main thing I did was talk to as many people as I could and loop in all the city departments and stakeholders I could think of. It’s a really positive project so overall everyone was supportive but there were some small concerns we were able to work through and got everyone on board. The other unforeseen challenge was the weather! Scheduling a time to paint was a little tricky with the recent fits and starts of rain we’ve had.

bike corral mural

Image courtesy of SFMTA.

PUBLIC: How is this project funded?
Eric: “Diamonds on Divis” was funded privately by the Madrone Art Bar. They applied for a corral in 2015 and we approved the location. When I came up with the idea, I thought Madrone was the perfect partner for the first one as the corral wasn’t installed yet and Madone is an art bar. I brought the idea to Michael Krouse, the owner, and he was on board right away. I feel lucky that we had a partner that was so easy to work with and was supportive from the beginning.

PUBLIC: If you’re an art and bicycle enthusiast outside of San Francisco, what should this person do to replicate a bike corral mural in another city?
Eric: First, learn more about what the city process is for something like this. Start with the department that installs bike parking in the city. The process might not be clear, but be persistent and keep talking to folks. Don’t be discouraged by how long it might take because the results are worth the work.

bike corral mural

PUBLIC: What’s next to expand this concept to other parts of San Francisco?
Eric: The next steps would be to evaluate the current bike corral mural, or “bikelet” as I’ve been calling it, over the next few months, primarily to see how it holds up to the elements. We are definitely interested in expanding the program and partnering with other organizations. We encourage interested organizations to contact us and we will be looking into proactively outreaching to businesses that are applying for or already have bicycle corrals. If people are interested they can contact Bikeparking@sfmta.com.