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Archive for the ‘Urban Design’ Category

Cities Experiment Going Car-Free

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Image by Chris Yunker via Flickr

We recently ran across an article called “7 Cities That Are Starting To Go Car-Free,” in Fast Company. As urban cities become denser with more people and cars, the article raises the question – are so many cars really needed or do they just cause more congestion and degrades our quality of life?

The article talks about the city of Milan (shown above) that’s going so far as to offer free public transit vouchers to commuters who pledge not head to the office via their car. Check out the rest of the cites that are experimenting with this concept in the Fast Company article.

Image by Sergio Ruiz via Flickr

Over the holidays in San Francisco, the city experimented with this concept by transforming a few blocks of one of the busiest streets in the downtown area of the city, Stockton Street, into a car-free oasis (see image above). The result? People loved it for providing a welcome respite smack in-between the most traffic-laden streets of San Francisco.

Image by Aaron Bialick via StreetsBlog SF

We can think of a few other streets in San Francisco that might be better without cars entirely, like Powell Street pictured above. The confluence of cars, taxis and (because it’s San Francisco) iconic cable cars make it not only a mess for vehicles, but pedestrians as well. SF Streets Blog reiterates this in the article, “Auto-Clogged Powell Street Could Be a Car-Free Haven,” where they make a valid case for why this street is ripe for transforming into living pedestrian area.

Are there streets in your city that would be better served if cars were removed from the equation? Use #publicbikes on social media and let us know.

Why Public Streets Went To The Cars

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015


What if you didn’t have to legally be in a crosswalk to cross the street? If you could just cross the street whenever you wanted – without waiting for a green light or a car to pass. Basically, imagine if jaywalking wasn’t a crime?

100 years ago this was the case. Adults could cross the streets without looking both ways and children could play in them freely. The shot above of Manhattan in 1914 illustrates the streets as open and active public spaces.

Most of us don’t question why jaywalking is illegal. We don’t because crosswalks and green lights are advisable in this day and age if you don’t want to get run over by a car. It’s just the nature of roads that rules need to be established for safety, right? Not exactly.

The reason streets were redefined as being owned by cars instead of public spaces, and the origin and negative connotation of the word “jaywalking” is a result of a successful and agressive marketing campaign staged by auto makers and manufacturers in the 1920′s.

As cars started to enter the scene in the mid-1920s (image above) people started to get hurt. Namely, the children and the elderly who had been using the streets freely before cars came onto the scene, were getting killed. Because of this dramatic spike in deaths, cars became demonized.

And the car industry wasn’t happy about this. So, they launched an agressive marketing campaign that painted the pedestrian who was silly enough to walk out in front of cars, as the fool.

A “jay” was another word for a “country bumpkin” or a “hick.” Someone who clearly didn’t know how to behave when in a city. The auto-industry created the term “jay-walking” to refer to this type of city person who didn’t know the proper way to behave when around cars. They used this term in their campaigns and went so far as to stage demonstrations with clowns and actors jaywalking across streets with cars nudging them to illustrate what a backwards practice walking across the street was.

For the full story, read “The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of jaywalking” via Vox.

Snow & Tell: Snow Informing How We Use Public Space

Monday, January 12th, 2015

When we think of snow, many of us think about snowboarding, sledding, or a beautiful natural winter landscape.

But another cool (pun intended) feature of snow is how it acts as an “urban usage map.” The way cars make tracks around and through snow shows how much public space is used and unused by cars. Is there room for sidewalk extensions for pedestrians? Could car lanes be narrowed or median greening be added? Snow can literally show us the answer.

This video from Streetsfilm does a great job explaining how snow can reveal a lot about mobility and how public spaces are utilized in cities.

As Clarence Eckerson from Streetsfilm told the BBC: “The snow is almost like nature’s tracing paper. It’s free. You don’t have to do a crazy expensive traffic calming study. It provides a visual cue into how people behave.”

Through the visual storytelling in the article “What Snow Tells Us About Creating Better Public Spaces on E. Passyunk Avenue” you can see how snowfall in Philadelphia informs how public space could be better utilized. Notice how much public space could be rededicated to people over cars.

A phenomenon of urban snowfall is naturally created “sneckdowns,” or snow neckdowns. A neckdown is a curb extension, a traffic calming measure that involves sidewalk widening, narrowing car roads and making streets wider for pedestrians. The word “sneckdown” is a play on the concept of neckdown, but with snow.

For more on the phenomena of sneckdowns check out this article one Streetsfilm.

So when you’re walking, biking, or driving around in the your city during or after snowfall, pay attention to the snow on the ground. It might tell you a lot about how your streets and public spaces could be changed to make them more people-friendly.

Impeccable. Indestructible. Individual. Freitag.

Monday, December 1st, 2014

When it comes to chic, bulletproof gear that goes with cycling, there are a few brands that rise to the top. In saddles its Brooks. In apparel it’s Rapha. In bags it’s Freitag. Freitag is a Swiss company that has set the standard in bag production with their elegant, unique and functional products. Each bag is crafted from truck tarps, making them unique and virtually indestructible.

Five years ago I visited the Freitag headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland (shown left). Their flagship store and factory is created entirely out of recycled freight containers and has become a kind of architectural icon. Fitting for a company whose products are iconic as well. I bought a few products on that visit, and I have been a passionate customer ever since. That’s my green bag shown below left. Like all their products they just get better over time.

Just last week we launched Freitag products our Hayes Valley Store. There’s a terrific selection of popular styles there that range anywhere from $32-$340. These make great gifts for others as well as yourself. If you’re in the neighborhood, make sure to swing by and check out the collection.

What makes a Freitag a Freitag?

The Freitag company was started by the Freitag brothers. Both were designers and cooked up the idea for these bags while they were students, 20 years ago. Listen to an interview with Markus, one of the Freitag brothers. Since starting the company, the brothers have built a reputation that’s based on a commitment to sustainable processes, impeccable design, and legendary quality.

Of course, by now there are numerous imposters selling lookalike product, but Freitag bags are truly the original. More and more companies are getting on the upcycled product bandwagon and you could argue that Freitag paved the way. Learn more about the Freitag production process.

Here are 5 reasons why Freitag stands above the rest.

1 | INDIVIDUAL

Each bag is custom. Based on the inherent words, textures and colors found on each unique piece of fabric, a team of designers works together to design each bag individually.

2 | SUSTAINABLE

The fabric used for each bag comes from truck tarps.  This upcycled material is incredibly strong and durable and the reason why we call these bags “indestructible.” All tarps are cut, washed, designed and sewn into bags in the Freitag factory in Zurich.

3 | FUNCTIONAL

Not only are these bags made of  impermeable fabric, but they are smartly constructed for everyday wear. Their straps will stand up the the toughest use and the velcro closures are super strong. Don’t fear using your Freitag bag all day and in any weather conditions.

4 | GUARANTEED TO LAST A LIFETIME

The materials and construction are top-notch, but if for any reason you need to, you can send your Freitag product back if it needs repairs.

5 | CHIC

It’s very rare to a find a company making industrial-grade products that are this fashionable. Their products are frequently seen on the backs of both fussy designers and hard-core cyclists all over Europe.

We are delighted and privileged to introduce Freitag to the Bay Area and hope you can come by our Hayes Valley Store and check these out. We do have a limited selection and the sooner you come by the more likely you will find a piece with the colors and graphic sensibility that suits your personality.

Best,

Rob Forbes

Founder, PUBLIC

 

WeiWei Good

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Every now and then a person or an event comes along that makes us appreciate just how profound and provocative the combination of art and public space can be. Usually it’s an artist that shapes that vision. I have had a few peak experiences in my life to support this, like when I saw Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC and Donald Judd’s works in Marfa for the first time. Both of these installations have made permanent impressions on me.

Just a few weeks ago I had a similarly profound experience on Alcatraz. Artist Ai Weiwei was recruited by Cheryl Haines (SF Art Gallery owner and FOR-SITE founder) to use Alcatraz as a location for his artistic and political expression.

Ai Weiwei is well known internationally for his art installations. He has used the bicycle as a metaphor in these installations in Tokyo, Taiwan and Italy. This amazing exhibit, currently on display at the Palazzo Franchetti in Venice is a great example.

The installations on Alcatraz do not incorporate bikes, but they contain many of the fundamental themes relevant to bikes, freedom being at the core of this.

Much has been written about this phenomenal show in the media, including the thorough article from The New York Times “Art Man of Alcatraz: Ai Weiwei Takes His Work to a Prison” that includes a terrific slide show as well.

There are seven installations total on Alcatraz. They range in scope and depth from porcelain flowers in toilets (shown left) to sound systems in jail cells. All must be experienced first-hand to be appreciated. They are not easily summarized.

The Lego installation has received a lot of media attention. It features over 176 Lego portraits of many “prisoners of conscience” that have been jailed, tortured or like Ai Weiwei, prevented from escape (like the inmates of Alcatraz). It includes people like Edward Snowden and many other less well know “dissidents.”

I found this installation particularly powerful upon learning that Ai Weiwei intended this to not only be impactful to adults, but children as well. Many children visit as tourists with their parents. Ai Weiwei hopes to get inside their little minds. How many artists take on the challenge of provoking thought in adults and kids alike?

Alcatraz is a legendary prison with an inherent comment on public space that’s compelling to visit on its own. But these installations take the experience of being there up to another level. It’s worth coming to SF just to see this show. Kudos to Ai Weiwei and Ms. Haines for pulling off the San Francisco event of the year, in my humble opinion, that rivals the Golden Gate Bridge in drama.

Ai Weiwei’s installations are currently on display on Alcatraz through April 26. Tickets aren’t easy to come by, but you can book yours here.

The PUBLIC Backstory with American Cyclery

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

We’re really lucky to have great bike shop dealers around the country carrying our bikes and introducing new people to the PUBLIC. We’ve got bike shop dealers in Chicago, Fresno, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, Brooklyn, and many other cities. All these bike shop dealers have different PUBLIC bikes in stock at their respective stores, but more importantly they can special order the PUBLIC bike of your choice even if they don’t. You’ll hopefully get great customer service from them and establish a bike maintenance relationship with them.

In our home town of San Francisco, besides our PUBLIC stores, our only other local dealer is American Cyclery, the oldest independent bike shop in SF. American Cyclery is a really special dealer to PUBLIC, not only because of its rich San Francisco legacy, but because we developed the initial prototype PUBLIC bikes in partnership with American Cyclery.

American Cyclery has been around since 1941 and it looks like your typical bike shop – chock full of bikes, parts, gear, with a bustling mechanic’s workshop and a mascot, the lovable Golden Retriever, Lanikai. But American Cyclery is more than a bike shop for stock bikes and services (though it does both with professional ease). It’s the go-to spot for bike aficionados. American Cyclery is an excellent place for those interested in customized bikes and breathing life into vintage bike finds.

The owner of American Cyclery, Bradley Woehl, is one of those aforementioned bike aficionados. He’s an avid bike collector and it’s pretty safe to say, a bike historian. The basement of American Cyclery is not only full of bikes, but is also home to perhaps the city’s most comprehensive (and little known) bike library. VeloNews magazines from throughout the 20th century and oversized photo albums full of decades old bike-related newspaper clippings, all line up the shelves in American Cyclery’s basement.

PUBLIC’s founder Rob Forbes was a customer at American Cyclery before PUBLIC got its start. Both Bradley and Rob shared a mutual love of vintage bikes, and when Rob got the bug to design a modern version based on classic vintage bikes, Bradley’s bike library became the place of inspiration. According to Rob, “Bradley’s love for classic bikes and his knowledge was contagious. He helped me find bikes like the classic French Mercier [shown below] from the 50’s (all aluminum) and this British Holdsworth [shown below]. Both are still in the PUBLIC collection and sources of inspiration to us.”

Rob’s goal was to capture the beauty of those early British and Mid-Century French bikes, but to modernize them as Bradley puts it, “into simple, good looking bikes that adults both look and feel good on.”


Working together, they came up with six bike designs that met their criteria of simple, clean lines, with a fresh take. Rob’s background in design and color inspired him to make those bikes in bold colors. It was those first bikes that set the PUBLIC tone and the brand was born in 2010.

We’re proud that American Cyclery sells PUBLIC bikes and their full service bike shop is also an excellent place to get PUBLIC bikes serviced, especially if you live on the westside of San Francisco further away from our PUBLIC store in Hayes Valley.

Visit American Cyclery at 510 Frederick St, San Francisco, CA 94117.

Best New Bike Apps for City Biking

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Best Bike Apps for iPhone bike directions and Android apps for biking

In honor of iPhone Day, we put together a list of some of our favorite iPhone bike apps and Android apps for people who bike in the city. The newest generations of smartphones are some of the best bike accessories ever, with some really cool new bike apps now available that make city biking even more fun and easy. From navigation to weather to fitness tracking, here’s a quick list of some of the apps that have earned a permanent place on our home screens.

Got a better app that we should know about? We are always looking for ways to make city biking smarter, easier, and more fun. If you are interested in developing a new bike app or gadget, get in touch. We are always interested in strategic partnerships to develop smart new bike gear.

 

Google Maps for Mobile
Turn-by-turn GPS bike navigation
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
Google Maps bike directions for iPhoneAfter Apple ditched Google’s maps for the iPhone 5, Google soon released their own new version of the Google Maps app for iPhone. It surpassed the original in most ways, and recently it even added bike-friendly directions, something Android users already enjoyed, and Apple’s maps never offered. While its bike directions are still sometimes a bit odd, Google Maps has been continuously improving its map data for a decade now, and it’s one of the only apps available with turn-by-turn voice navigation for your bike, just like in a car. (Pro tip: tuck your phone in your shirt or jacket’s breast pocket to hear the speaker while riding. Also a great way to add some jams to your ride.) The Android version also has some cool extras like an elevation chart to see how steep your route will be. For a quick way to plan a bike ride across almost any city, the Google Maps app deserves a place in every biker’s pocket.

 

Citymapper
All your transit options in one clever app
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
Citymapper public transit bike directions for iPhone and AndroidThe mission statement of Citymapper is to “make cities easier to use,” and at PUBLIC we think that’s pretty cool. Since they recently added directions for the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s quickly become one of our favorite apps for getting around town. It scouts out every available transportation option to help you find the smartest possible routes. You can plan a trip by bike, bus, ferry, train, taxi, or walking, and even city bike sharing systems if you don’t have your own bike with you. It packs in a ton of features without feeling too cluttered, and even makes room for some clever jokes, like showing the calories burned on your bike ride in units of soy lattes or $4 artisanal toast. While the new Bay Area bike directions could still use some improvement, the app overall is very thoughtfully designed, with lots of cheeky details that make your commute a little more fun. Plan a trip by catapult or teleporter and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Bike Maps – by Maplets
Curated, downloadable bike maps for your local area
99 cents: iPhone | $2.99: Android
Bike Maps by Maplets for iPhoneBefore the iPhone era, the state of the art bike maps were on paper, showing the official bike infrastructure of the city. These local maps are often quite carefully designed for city bikers, and they encourage you to build your own knowledge of your city’s bike routes rather than relying on GPS instructions. The Bike Maps – by Maplets app brings these bike maps to your phone, with an extensive list of maps available for your local area. Once downloaded, they can be navigated offline, saving your battery and data plan. My local favorite is the San Francisco Bike and Walking Map, which shades every street in the city according to its steepness. Crucial, because I am a big wimp about hills. You can make notes and draw routes to remember your favorite spots, and some maps allow you to overlay your current GPS location. The map collection is extensive, including parks and off-road trails, so you’re sure to find some new rides. Well worth the paid download.

 

Forecast.io Weather for Bicyclists on iPhone and Android Forecast.io
Crazy good hyperlocal weather reports
Free: Forecast.io web app for all devices | $3.99: Dark Sky app for iPhone
Forecast.io Weather App for Bicyclists on iPhone and AndroidGood weather reports are crucial for bike commuters to know what clothes to wear or pack for a dry day at work. Especially in the legendary San Francisco microclimates, a good weather app should pinpoint your precise location for the most accurate information. Forecast.io is the best designed free mobile weather app I’ve found, with a proprietary API that compiles 19 different sources of weather data to provide a simple accurate forecast at a glance, with a cool scrolling timeline view. When rain is looming, the screen adds a little precipitation chart that predicts how wet the next hour will be – great for picking the best time to ride home in between rain showers. It’s a free web app that works on any smartphone, tablet, or computer just by visiting http://forecast.io in your browser. If you like what they do, check out their Dark Sky app for iPhone which offers rain notification messages.

 

IFTTT Rain Alerts for Bike Commuters on iPhone and Android IFTTT – if this then that
Customizable weather alerts (plus a million other possibilities)
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
IFTTT Rain Alerts for Bike Commuters on iPhone and AndroidIFTTT offers all-purpose internet wiring to connect different websites and online services together and make all kinds of cool things happen. One useful way to use IFTTT for biking is to create personalized weather reports that automatically send you an email, text, or app notification when rain is in the forecast, so you’ll never be caught without a raincoat again. Just sign up for free and make this recipe: If Weather:Tomorrow’s forecast calls for… Rain, Then SMS:Send me an SMS. Instead of a text message, you can also choose an email, or a notification from the mobile app. You can set this all up on ifttt.com, but the mobile apps are also quite slick and they enable some extra features like app notifications. Here’s a link to my recipe if you want to use it to get started!

 

Moves iPhone activity tracker for cyclists Moves
Simple, automatic activity tracking
Free: iPhone | Android
Moves iPhone activity tracker for cyclistsIf you’re interested in activity tracking but aren’t quite ready to commit to a Fitbit, the free Moves app offers simple movement tracking throughout the day using just your phone. Automatically detecting whether you’re walking, running, or biking, it generates an elegant daily and weekly journal of your activity in terms of steps taken, miles traveled, calories burned, and time spent moving, to motivate your fitness goals. (Not for the paranoid – you end up with a detailed list of every place you visit.) You can also use it to record other activities and workouts, and it can share your activity data with more heavy duty fitness apps. It oddly doesn’t include any kind of goal setting features, but at least its simplicity offers a pleasant, zen experience. It thankfully includes a Battery Saving mode to make sure your phone doesn’t tire out before you do.

 

 

Strava bike fitness app Strava
Athletic tracking with friendly competition
Free: iPhone | Android | Web
Strava bike fitness appDefinitely the most popular app for the lycra wearing crowd, Strava turns your phone into a bike computer to calculate all kinds of fitness data while you ride, like calories, miles, elevation, speed, and mapping your route on GPS. It awards you for personal best records and keeps track of your cumulative rides and runs over the course of the year. Our product manager Aaron recently used Strava to track his progress as he rode every street in San Francisco. What makes Strava different is its heavy emphasis on social networking, with a news feed of the rides your friends are taking, local leaderboard rankings of the most popular spots around town, and regular challenges to motivate you to ride. Its ride mapping has also inspired a new genre of bike route art that’s most notably led to a marriage proposal spelled out street by street. Top that one, Aaron!
Strava Marry Me

Did we miss your favorite bike app? Tell us what’s on your home screen in the comments below.

 

Limited Edition Colors 2014 – A Tasty Bunch.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

We’ve always been hot on edible and lickable color here at PUBLIC. So we’re really excited to announce the arrival of our new limited edition colors – a crop of colors so tasty that we’ve given nearly all of them food and drink-related names:

The PUBLIC C1 step-though in juicy Raspberry and fresh Mint for $299 (List $449).
The PUBLIC V1 diamond frame in an intense green we’re calling Matcha for $299 (List $449).
The PUBLIC V7 diamond frame in a bluish-grey hue we’ve dubbed Earl Grey for $479 (List $649).
And the PUBLIC C7 step-through in yummy Peach and our bestsellers, Turquoise and Orange for $479 (List $649).

We’ve only ordered these bikes in small amounts. If you like to be the only person in your town sporting a bike in this hue, we highly recommend you snap it up. In the past these limited colors have sold out quickly.

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.

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!