NYC Bike Share Raves and Rants

June 7th, 2013

The launch of bike share in New York City, aka CitiBike, is probably the most significant transportation development in the city – and perhaps the country – in decades. Six thousand bikes, 33 stations, and 15,000 bike trips in its first day of operations. Credit Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner of the New York City Department of… Read more »

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The launch of bike share in New York City, aka CitiBike, is probably the most significant transportation development in the city – and perhaps the country – in decades. Six thousand bikes, 33 stations, and 15,000 bike trips in its first day of operations. Credit Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan and numerous NYC groups for a program will have far reaching implications.

Everyday it seems there is another news article across all media with rants and raves. Thankfully the New Yorker brought a sense of humor and poignancy with its cover illustration.  There is not much we can add to the discussion that has not already been said. But we wanted to share some links and to alert you to the fact that Janette Sadik Khan will be in San Francisco next week. She is giving a keynote address at the San Francisco Bike Coalition (SFBC) Golden Wheels event. Here is a chance to meet one of the most influential and articulate leaders in modern transportation thinking and planning on the planet.

I had the good fortune to meet and interview her two years ago for this post titled “The First Lady of Livable Cities”. We are super fortunate to have her here in San Francisco. If you are local don’t pass up this opportunity to hear her and meet her.  All proceeds go to support the SFBC who work tirelessly to make San Francisco a smarter and more livable city for all of us.

Some summary notes and links on the New York CitiBike program.

The program is off to a phenomenal start. Check out the stats here.

New York City’s leaders took best practices from around the world where bike share has been already implemented in hundreds of cities.

Complaints about bike share are predictable, but over time reasoned arguments generally prevail, as summarized in Business Insider’s article “New York’s Bike Share Is Brilliant, And Every Complaint About It Is Bogus”.

The joyful optimism perfectly captured by New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham here.

The wildest curmudgeon rant we have seen comes from Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member Dorothy Rabinowitz who may be taking up where Michele Bachman is leaving off.  “Death by Bicycle” is the title for this diatribe.

Our friends at Pentagram Design have been active in this program. See here.

The largest bike share program is in Hangzhou, China, which is 10 times the size of New York City’s program. Here are Bike Sharing Maps from 29 cities around the world.

Credit Mayor Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Kahn  for a program that will have far reaching implications.  It will do for NYC and the US what the phenomenal Velib program did for Paris and France launched in 2007.

We look forward to watching other cities in the US playing catch up.  Hello San Francisco.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s annual Golden Wheels event on Thursday, June 20.

 

Bike Superhighway for Los Angeles?

June 3rd, 2013

I grew up in Pasadena, California close to Los Angeles. Pasadena is well known for the Rose Parade, a festival of flowers, which dates back to 1890. But more interesting perhaps during the 1890s with a population of 500,000, there were 30,000 cyclists, i.e. 6% of the population rode bikes. Biking was so popular that… Read more »

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I grew up in Pasadena, California close to Los Angeles. Pasadena is well known for the Rose Parade, a festival of flowers, which dates back to 1890. But more interesting perhaps during the 1890s with a population of 500,000, there were 30,000 cyclists, i.e. 6% of the population rode bikes. Biking was so popular that a biking superhighway toll road was nearly implemented from Pasadena to LA. But the car craze took over, and the rest is history. LA is known for its legendary traffic jams. And Pasadena is known for having the first freeway in the world. The Rose Parade is now officially the “Rose Parade presented by Honda”.

But there have been amazing developments in LA’s transportation system recently. Light rail is being developed throughout the city, helping to restore a streetcar transportation system that existed before GM and other companies had them ripped up.

Bike paths are popping up everywhere like the ones that I saw in Santa Monica last week. LA’s Ciclavia is on a roll and has an amazing event planned for June 23rd to close Wilshire Boulevard to traffic. Maybe it’s time to rethink that 1897 bike superhighway?

Bike Spotting (and Counting) on Market Street

May 20th, 2013

Velometer asks: “Why count bikes?  Because we want bikes to count.” As part of this year’s San Francisco Bike to Work Day, the city debuted its first digital bicycle counter on Market Street, one of the city’s busiest transportation corridors.  Watch this stop motion video here. On Bike to Work Day alone, bicycles accounted for… Read more »

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Velometer asks: “Why count bikes?  Because we want bikes to count.”

As part of this year’s San Francisco Bike to Work Day, the city debuted its first digital bicycle counter on Market Street, one of the city’s busiest transportation corridors.  Watch this stop motion video here.

On Bike to Work Day alone, bicycles accounted for 76% of traffic on sections of Market Street during peak commuter times.

There are digital bicycle counters in several European cities, including many in Copenhagen.  We reported on this a few years back in our blog post, Quantifying Civilization.

Copenhagen Bicycle Counter from PUBLIC Bikes on Vimeo.

We wrote: “The stream of cyclists felt like the very definition of freedom and self-reliance. And people looked happy and alive as they pedaled along on their way to work or school—it was a collective experience of a high order.  I submit that this bike counter is as good a “civilization meter” as anything that history has provided.”  Watch a video capturing the bicycle counter in Copenhagen here.

You’ll count more people riding bikes in Copenhagen than in San Francisco on most days. But we’re making serious progress.  Kudos to San Francisco, Kongregate, SFMTA, SF Bicycle Coalition and all the good folks who helped to make this happen.

Another great thing to count on Market Street everyday are the numbers of people riding PUBLIC bikes.  Thanks to all of you for being part of this transformation.

 

Italian Women

May 14th, 2013

We were touring Italy last month checking out the urban biking scene in a range of cities. This makes for some interesting comparisons to the United States and leads us to this quiz: What is the biggest difference in urban biking in Italy compared with the US? 1. Many Italian cities have retrofitted separate bike… Read more »

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We were touring Italy last month checking out the urban biking scene in a range of cities. This makes for some interesting comparisons to the United States and leads us to this quiz:

What is the biggest difference in urban biking in Italy compared with the US?

1. Many Italian cities have retrofitted separate bike lanes in their cities.

2. Bicyclists can ride in bus lanes and on sidewalks without irritating pedestrians.

3. Bicyclists are not intimidated by cobblestone streets, streetcar tracks or rush hour traffic.

4. There are more older people than younger people riding bikes.

5. Helmets are rarely seen except on tourists.

6. Taxis, busses, trucks, and trams all seem to respect cyclists.

7. Bike Share programs are common even in smaller cities.

8. Lycra is not the prevalent dress code.

9. E-bikes are everywhere, and some are quite elegant.

10. There are more nuns riding bikes.

Ok, that was a fake quiz. All of the above are true. The biggest difference is that you see a lot more women riding than men. Mothers texting while riding, older women with groceries, younger women headed to work. They all seem to ride confidently making left hand turns in traffic and riding over rail lines, without looking stressed out. Perhaps this is what accounts for the seeming lack of road rage, the lower levels of testosterone on the streets?

What makes this all the more interesting is that the Italians love their cars (and speed) like almost no other nation on Earth. They have an illustrious tradition that ranges from common Fiats and Alfa Romeos to fancy Ferraris, Maseratis, Bugattis, and many other iconic cars. Car ownership per capita is much higher than any other major European country, despite the fact that they pay more for gas than any other European country (~ $10 a gallon). But they seem to get along on their city roads. Italians taught us to respect and enjoy pizza and pasta. Perhaps they can teach us how to respect and enjoy each other on the streets?

PUBLIC Photo Contest Winners

April 1st, 2013

We celebrated the launch of PUBLIC WORKS with a photo contest. We asked contestants to explore the same theme we asked of our PUBLIC WORKS designers – interpret the concept of "public" with a vision to reclaim urban streets, sidewalks and spaces for walking, biking and other social purposes. Many excellent and provocative photos came… Read more »

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We celebrated the launch of PUBLIC WORKS with a photo contest. We asked contestants to explore the same theme we asked of our PUBLIC WORKS designers – interpret the concept of "public" with a vision to reclaim urban streets, sidewalks and spaces for walking, biking and other social purposes. Many excellent and provocative photos came in and our team selected favorites. Thanks to all the participants.

 PUBLIC Choice and People's Choice winners won a new PUBLIC bike. We gave out several second place prizes and highlighted honorable mentions. Read on to hear why we selected them with comments from our staff.

PUBLIC Choice Grand Prize Winner
Photo credit: Manuel Acosta



”This is a unique composition that lends itself to a variety of provocative interpretations. Bikes can lead us to unknown destinations like Alice going down the rabbit hole. This photo also makes us think differently about our built environment, and it’s a very elegant black and white study in form and texture.” – Rob from PUBLIC

PUBLIC Choice Second Prize Winner
Photo credit: Ian Tuttle

“Wow. There is so much about this photo that we love. The perspective. The contrast of shadow and hazy yellowish light. The silhouettes of people sharing this public space together, especially the adult holding a child’s hand. And the crack leading to somewhere seemingly far into the distance, but perhaps close by. The crack reminds us of Andy Goldsworthy’s art, like the continuous crack in front of San Francisco’s deYoung Museum.” – Dan from PUBLIC

PUBLIC Choice Second Prize Winner
Photo credit: John Keller

“I did think it interesting the bicyclist had a rooster rather than a bell… It gives a whole new meaning to playing chicken!” – John Keller

“Everyday urban life gets interesting when you throw a rooster on a bike. It reminds us to stay open and playful about the possibilities of how we reclaim our concrete cities. Bikes, chickens, sidewalk cafes, murals, parks and guerilla gardens all contribute to more livable cities that enliven community connections. Keller’s composition sensibilities remind us of Norman Rockwell with a 21st century twist. Ride on rooster.” – Sally from PUBLIC

PUBLIC Choice Second Prize Winner
Photo credit: Erin Scheopner

“Albert Einstein on his bicycle is a recognizable image for bicycle enthusiasts. You can see joy in his smile underneath his famous moustache. It’s common lore that Einstein came up with the theory of relativity while riding a bike. His famous statement, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, you must keep moving” is often quoted. But when you place a familiar image of Einstein on a bright red telephone booth, you instantly have to stop and take notice. Public art enhances our civic life and this particular image makes us think: Albert’s hint: Riding a bike + Telephone Booth = Teletransportation.” – Noelle from PUBLIC

People’s Choice Winner
Photo credit: Ana K. Gracia

PUBLIC Choice Honorable Mention
Photo credit: Eric Fernandez

PUBLIC Choice Honorable Mention
Photo credit: Dustin Goodwin

PUBLIC Choice Honorable Mention
Photo credit: Patrick Beyer

PUBLIC Choice Honorable Mention
Photo credit: Carlo Pellegrini

PUBLIC Choice Honorable Mention
Photo credit: Gareth

Can Humor Reduce Road Rage?

March 26th, 2013

Clet Abraham Clet Abraham Puppy by Jeff Koons Untitled (donkey) by Paola Pivi I was walking through a small town in Tuscany recently and did a double take on this road sign that someone had modified into a witty graphic statement. Two things struck me about it beyond its cleverness. First, that the town was… Read more »

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Clet Abraham

Clet Abraham
Clet Abraham

Puppy by Jeff Koons
Puppy by Jeff Koons

unknown artist
Untitled (donkey) by Paola Pivi

I was walking through a small town in Tuscany recently and did a double take on this road sign that someone had modified into a witty graphic statement. Two things struck me about it beyond its cleverness. First, that the town was comfortable leaving this road sign in place, rather than freaking out about its mildly subversive nature. Secondly, that humor, while essential to our psychic well-being is rarely designed into our human-made world. Try to find examples of humor in any form of design, products, architecture, landscape, etc. and this becomes obvious.  You might find a witty bumper sticker or billboard, but examples of humor on our streets are quite rare.

This is only logical. When it comes to the design of streets and public spaces in general we must first concern ourselves with issues of safety, no laughing matter. And we sometimes use design to make the urban environment friendlier by lining freeways or streets with trees, creating parks and fountains and public spaces that give us relief from the severe concrete character of the cities. But we stop short of injecting humor. Humor almost always pokes fun at some constituency, so it’s by definition not politically correct thus unlikely to get civic approval. So if we want to find humor we have to create it on our own as French artist Clet Abraham did with this piece.

Abraham has been performing these interventions around Europe, much to the displeasure of many city councils. Abraham does intend a serious message with his art – asking us to think twice about following instructions blindly. He believes that much public signage is done with sensitivity to the urban landscape. This may well be true, but I think the underlying humor far outweighs the didactic message of his work.

How refreshing and optimistic it would be if cyclists and motorists alike made their way through the streets with a sense of humor and with smiles instead of resentment on our faces. Imagine a Critical Mass of Comedy or a city bus with witty messages on its interior and exterior. It might be the antidote to aggression and road rage, or at least one way at coming at this problem.

 

How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time

February 19th, 2013

Walkable City by Jeff Speck Jeff Speck Chicago, IL Arezzo, Italy New York, NY Amsterdam, Netherlands Portland, Oregon A few years ago, I participated in a National Quarterly Forum called the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, where designers and urbanists get together and share insights. I learned a lot there. In fact it was one… Read more »

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Walkable City Jeff Speck
Walkable City by Jeff Speck

Walkable City Jeff Speck
Jeff Speck

Walkable City Jeff Speck
Chicago, IL

Walkable City Jeff Speck
Arezzo, Italy

Walkable City Jeff Speck
New York, NY

Walkable City Jeff SpeckAmsterdam, Netherlands

Walkable City Jeff Speck
Portland, Oregon

A few years ago, I participated in a National Quarterly Forum called the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, where designers and urbanists get together and share insights. I learned a lot there. In fact it was one of the events that inspired me to start PUBLIC.  At that time, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design was run by Jeff Speck, an architect, planner, author, and speaker.  We became friends. That’s the disclosure part of this newsletter.  So if I’m going to tout a book by a personal friend, there better be some pretty good reasons to recommend it. There are many.

First of all, it is quite simply one of the best books about our cities that I’ve ever come across. Secondly, Walkable City could just as easily be called Bikeable City as the same issues pertain.

If you take a copy of Jeff’s book to your local downtown area, situate yourself in a café or (weather permitting) on a bench somewhere and read the first 50 pages while periodically looking up and noticing what’s going on around you ­– the width of the sidewalks, the number of lanes in the street, the parking, the mix of stores and cafés, how fast the cars are going, how many people are on foot or bike – you’ll receive a unique and invaluable urbanist education. You will also be entertained. Jeff is witty, provocative, and appropriately irreverent.

There are many other excellent books that deal with urban issues from Lewis Mumford’s The City in History to Jane Jacobs to Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking. These are all excellent and readable but they are lengthy tomes, and likely too much information for many people. Walkable City is a good, quick read. It’s fast-paced, clever, and alarming in parts. Jeff’s overall thesis is that improving our downtowns is as key to our society’s health and well-being as any other action we might embark upon. His insights will challenge liberals and conservatives alike. This is not a doomsday book, as Jeff has as many examples of positive developments as he does critiques. For instance, there is a provocative section on why much of suburbia might become the next slums, and why “white flight” to the suburbs is now turning into “bright flight” back to the cities by young, educated people.

There are thirty substantive reviews on Amazon where Jeff’s book has a 5 star rating (and a current price of $15.88). Here are a few snippets I have culled from the book.

“The real problem with cars is not that they do not get enough miles per gallon, it’s that they make it too easy for us to spread out (sprawl) and encourage forms of development that are inherently wasteful.” Hybrids are not the solution.

“The average American family spends $14K a year driving multiple cars, about 20% of its income. (This figure was 10% in the 1960’s).” For many working class families more money is spent on cars than on housing.

“In these cities, and in most of our nation, the car is no longer an instrument of freedom, but rather a bulky, expensive, and dangerous prosthetic device, a prerequisite to viable citizenship.”

“It would seem that only one thing is more destructive to the health of our downtowns than welcoming cars unconditionally and that is getting rid of them entirely.  The proper response to obesity is not to stop eating, and most stores need car traffic to survive.”

Most of us like driving but hate commuting. Some polls that show that “a 23-minute commute had the same effect on happiness as a 19 percent reduction in income” and another poll where “5 percent of respondents said that they would be willing to divorce their spouse if that meant they could stop commuting and work from home instead”.

We are the least active generation of Americans in history. “Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the American health-care crisis is largely an urban-design crisis, with walkability at the heart of the cure.”  We are fat because we sit in cars rather than walk.

Car crashes have killed 3.2 million Americans, considerably more than all of our wars combined.  It is the leading cause of death for all Americans between the ages of 1 and 34.

If you are book phobic, listen to Jeff on NPR Weekend Edition.

His website is also a Speck of Brilliance.

An Urban Cupid?

February 14th, 2013

“We can live without it, we may live longer without it, and the doggie bag will survive just fine.” -Mayor Bloomberg comparing plastic foam containers to lead paint. We show love in many ways. This Valentines week, it’s mostly personal, private, and driven by commercial interests (like PUBLIC putting polka dot bikes on SALE!).  When… Read more »

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“We can live without it, we may live longer without it, and the doggie bag will survive just fine.”
-Mayor Bloomberg comparing plastic foam containers to lead paint.

We show love in many ways. This Valentines week, it’s mostly personal, private, and driven by commercial interests (like PUBLIC putting polka dot bikes on SALE!).  When I read in the New York Times that NYC Mayor Bloomberg was taking on the plastic-foam container industry, it reminded me of the exceptional civic love he’s shown for his city, especially for the health and well being of its residents and culture. He does truly embody the “I heart NY“ spirit that Milton Glaser so elegantly gave form to in this iconic logo.

Bloomberg’s other crusades of love have been in the news this past week, and predictably where he has been opposed by strong forces in political battles, many of which he may not win or that may be overturned when he departs office. His bike lanes initiatives made the news this week along with his smart taxi programs. Some of his courageous positions often contrast what we see in Washington, where love seems to be more easily purchased by lobbyists and where acts of genuine civic leadership take a backseat to personal interests.

It might be a stretch to think of any billionaire as a Cupid, but we hope that he can be a realistic role model for other politicians. And some his programs such as stop and frisk are controversial. But we hope that his heartfelt and genuine commitment can be a realistic role model for other politicians.

To Go: Plastic-Foam Containers, if the Mayor Gets His Way
Published by New York Times 2.13.13

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose regulatory lance has slain fatty foods, supersize sodas, and smoking in parks, is now targeting plastic foam, the much-derided polymer that environmentalists have long tried to restrict.

On Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg, in his 12th and final State of the City address, will propose a citywide ban on plastic-foam food packaging, including takeout boxes, cups and trays. Public schools would be instructed to remove plastic-foam trays from their cafeterias. Many restaurants and bodegas would be forced to restock.

In excerpts from his speech released on Wednesday, Mr. Bloomberg rails against plastic foam, even comparing it to lead paint. “We can live without it, we may live longer without it, and the doggie bag will survive just fine,” the mayor plans to say. Read on.

Anxiety Over Future of Bike Lanes
Published by New York Times 2.12.13

During Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s tenure, New York City has become a cycling haven, with sprawling lanes across each borough and a bike-share program set to begin this spring.

But as Mr. Bloomberg is to leave office at year’s end, there is widespread concern among cyclists that a reckoning awaits, and that the city’s next mayor may end this period of bike-friendly programs and policies.

The concern is noted even in the Bloomberg administration, where some speak of invisible countdown clocks in every city office, reminding officials of the dwindling time to complete projects. “Three-hundred and twenty-nine days,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said in a recent interview. “There’s an app where you can have it on your phone.” In a poll by The New York Times in August, 66 percent of New Yorkers said the bike lanes were a good idea; 27 percent called them a bad idea. Read on.

Doubting if Tomorrow Will Ever Come for Taxi
Published by New York Times 2.10.13

New York City’s attempt to reimagine its taxicab experience, perhaps the least divisive of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s legacy-making transportation efforts, now appears to be the most at risk. One measure, creating a vibrant street hail network of livery cabs outside Manhattan, has been mired in court since last June, delaying its implementation indefinitely.

Another, allowing New Yorkers to hail yellow taxis using smartphone apps, was watered down amid heavy lobbying from the livery and black car industries — and will most likely face a legal challenge.Then there was the crown jewel, cast in yellow: the so-called Taxi of Tomorrow, a nearly complete redesign of the modern taxi, the first since the age of the Checker cab. Now, that, too, is imperiled. Read on.

 

Cars. Freedom. Sex. Thanks.

December 28th, 2012

I received an email out of the blue last week from a childhood friend whom I had not heard from since 8th grade. The year was 1967.  We were mid-century modern kids growing up in suburban South Pasadena, right along the Pasadena Freeway (ostensibly the first freeway in the world). His note to me said:… Read more »

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I received an email out of the blue last week from a childhood friend whom I had not heard from since 8th grade. The year was 1967.  We were mid-century modern kids growing up in suburban South Pasadena, right along the Pasadena Freeway (ostensibly the first freeway in the world). His note to me said: “Will never forget going to the beach with your mom in her Volvo.”

I don’t remember that specific beach trip, but I sure remember my Mom’s car: a 1967 Volvo P1800, a sexy red sports car that hauled ass with a “high tech” flip switch overdrive, an elegant dashboard, and a body shaped like a cute rocket. There were not a lot of Swedish cars on the road then, so it probably stood out like a yellow Tesla or Ferrari would today. My mom was a way-left Irish feminist college teacher, hardly a car buff, and had no interest in design or mechanics. To her, the Volvo was a statement of identity and freedom.

My response to Kent was: “I remember riding on the back of your Dad’s Matchless.”

The Matchless was a classic British motorcycle, and Kent’s Dad was a true car and motorcycle buff.  He was a middle class husband and father – not a collector – but the guy had a Jaguar XJ12, a 52 Ford and his wife drove a 58 Thunderbird. He also had several motorcycles.  I remember riding his Honda 50 on his front lawn, going dirt bike riding and flying down the Pasadena Freeway on the back of his Matchless. I don’t think we had even the concept of a helmet then. He gave Kent a 1962 Austin Mini 850 when he turned fifteen. These vehicles are all beloved classic mid century design on a par with Eames chairs or Schindler architecture.  The modern movement was in its infancy and Southern California was the epicenter. Gas was $0.31 a gallon. It was on.

Back then cars were about sex, freedom, style, and independence. They were also about mobility and access. They were our social networking devices. They provided us with what teenagers and youth of today get from their Smartphones and the Web: connectivity.  But you can travel a lot farther, see more, and meet more people, with digital technology than you can with a car, and for a lot less money.

Fast-forward fifty years. Volvos are now about Safety, not Sex.  And we are faced with the problems and challenges that the car’s usurpation of much of our public space (and co-option of our lifestyle) has created.  In the 50’s suburban sprawl had not yet cast its spell all over America. Parking lots surrounded by chain link fences were not common in the hearts of cities.  Streetcar lines had not yet been ripped up by automobile companies. Regional shopping malls had not yet been created to lure people away from Main Street.  Traffic jams were the exception not the rule. We did not know anything about climate change or that cars would become (and still are) the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 34 and responsible for more deaths than all of our wars combined. And, to add insult to injury, cars would eventually all look about the same, getting big and boxy in shades of silver and black. We were asleep at the wheel while all this was going on.

It has not all been a one-way slide downwards since the 1960’s. When Kent and I were kids there was so much smog in LA that we were wheezing all through the summer. Lead was later removed from gas and the air quality improved dramatically. The environmental movement took shape.  A few mass transit systems, e.g. BART in the Bay Area, were funded. But it took decades before it occurred to us that we should try to make our cities amenable to us, not our cars.

Today, the “white flight” to the suburbs has been reversed with “bright flight” back to cities. Many Millennials and the youth are choosing to live without a dependence on cars and are exhibiting a true passion and connection for their communities.* Cities all round the world have radically improved their pedestrian infrastructure in the last few decades. Riding a bike has become mainstream in many cities.  The most recent email I’ve received from Kent is very hopeful:  “My daughter lives in downtown LA and rides her bike everywhere she needs to go.”

You are part of this change.  Thanks.

We have not come full circle, but we are making headway in many of our cities. And you are part of this progressive change. You have helped to make our cities more livable. You have also made us (PUBLIC) more livable – you have kept us in business into what is now our third year.  We feel lucky to be in a business that is predicated on positive social change and improved urban living and one that puts smiles on people’s faces. We hope that our bikes will bring you independence, connectivity, and some of the same sexiness and style that cars did half a century ago.

Thanks,

Rob

* To learn about this subject in detail from an expert, get Jeff Speck’s latest book Walkable City. Jeff is a leading spokesperson for more enlightened urban planning, the co-author of Suburban Nation, and witty and brilliant. We will have a review of this book next week.

Taking Back the Streets

November 15th, 2012

Every time I go to New York I find further examples of how a city can find new bold ways to improve the streets for residents. The bike lane programs instituted under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan are steadily being expanded and have received international attention…. Read more »

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Every time I go to New York I find further examples of how a city can find new bold ways to improve the streets for residents. The bike lane programs instituted under Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan are steadily being expanded and have received international attention. And I find new examples of taking back streets for civilian uses like these concrete cones creating an urban walkway.

The challenge of protecting our streets and communities from excess noise and traffic has been with us as far back as we can see. Here’s a shot I took in Pompeii showing traffic calming technology dating back to 79 AD (when Vesuvius erupted and covered the city with ashes). Large stones kept oversized horse drawn carts or speeding chariots from rolling through residential areas where pedestrians deserved the right of way.

I found another creative use of traffic obstruction in Havana a few years ago. Canons were appropriated from the prior military regime and repurposed – quite elegantly and comically towards car control. Bringing a little humor to the urban environment might help to cure road rage.

In our back yard in San Francisco parklets are popping up all over the city. We had fun with one temporary take over of car parking space a month ago. Balloons waved in the wind putting smiles on the faces of passer-bys and made our street corner festive, at least for a day.

Our friends at Rapha celebrate the launch their parklet this Friday from 4:00-9:00 pm in San Francisco (Filbert St. @ Filmore St.) with a party. This will be a permanent parklet and, like everything for Rapha, is done with panache and style. Please join us if you are in the Bay Area this week.