Feb 24 PUBLIC Pre-Oscar Party: Hollywood Rides a Bike

January 27th, 2012

As a prelude to the Oscars, PUBLIC is pleased to host author Steven Rea who will share photos and discuss his new book Hollywood Rides a Bike. Hollywood Rides a Bike shows classic stars from Shirley Temple to Brigitte Bardot and Humphrey Bogart to Kevin Bacon all on the best bikes Hollywood has to offer. This book is inspired by Rea’s popular movie star and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike. You can read our interview with Rea here.

Friday, February 24
6:00pm – 8:00pm
PUBLIC HQ in 123 South Park
San Francisco, CA

General Admission: $10 (Pre-registration guarantees seat for you. $10 will be credited with purchase of book if available)
General Admission + Signed Book: $25 (Pre-registration guarantees book & seat for you)

Use this Pre-Registration link

Hollywood Rides a Bike includes candid backlot shots, taken by publicity lensers who happened across stars as they wheeled around the Burbank, Culver City, Universal City, and Hollywood lots; the production stills from movies where the actor, in character, rides a bike (Jane Fonda made her screen debut crashing a Rollfast into two of her co-stars; Julie Andrews and her towheaded charges were singing “Do-Re-Mi” as they took to the alpine blacktop); the staged studio portraits—a lot of cheesecake (Deborah Kerr and Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth, oh my!) and beefcake; and then just real-life photos of the likes of Kim Novak, Cicely Tyson, and Julie Christie riding along on palisades paths, Central Park byways, and English country lanes.

Retro bike fiends will note the streamlined angles, artful detail, and old-school craftsmanship on the cruisers and roadsters, folders and tandems, English lightweights and the occasional trike, triple- and high-wheeler pictured herein. They mark a time and place when things were built to last, when design and function dovetailed neatly—well, perfectly, in fact.

For bike aficionados there’s a special index just about the cycles! And another index is made for movie fans–full of Hollywood facts.

Author Steven Rea has been a movie critic with the Philadelphia Inquirer since 1992.




Wheels Are Not Square

January 6th, 2012

A friend sent me a photo of a bike with square wheels. It may sacrifice a little in the area of smoothness of ride, but its absurdity made me laugh. Just when you think you’ve seen the last art bike, another one comes along. We believe this bike hails from Marfa, Texas where Donald Judd reigns supreme and where right angles dot the landscape, walls, buildings, and psyche.

We take the wheel for granted, but it may be the most impressive invention humanity has ever created.

The wheel has been around a lot longer than the light bulb or wifi or the abacus or toaster waffles.  It dates back to about 4000 BC and all the while it has stayed true to its original form. Look at the wheels on ancient chariot carts – they are almost identical to those that move goods around in modern day Cartagena, Colombia. I spent a day photographing all kinds of wheels, stationary and in motion.  Life there essentially revolves around the wheel. Without them there would be no commerce or trade.  The basic human exchange of goods and communications is enabled by vehicles and their wheels. The same holds for most of the modern world.

Wheels of Cartagena from PUBLIC Bikes on Vimeo.

We acknowledge the ingenious internal combustion engine, but what would cars and trucks be without wheels? OK, airplanes don’t need wheels in flight, but many insist that a safe landing is an important part of their flight. The bike is really just two wheels made animate – though that doesn’t keep us from obsessing over elegant frame architecture or getting geeky about gears, weight, and all.  Wheels are everywhere – cranes, trains, pulleys, scooters, skateboards – even those gears we get geeky about.

In a place like Cartagena the diversity, character, and ubiquity of the wheel is extraordinary. You notice them more when they are not shrouded or incased by metal as they are often with cars.  It was easy to get carried away with an appreciation of the aesthetics as I walked around taking photos.  And the wheel as an object or symbol has been adored by artists as diverse as Marcel Duchamp and Ai WeiWei. And then someone rolled by in a wheelchair and I realized how dependent we are on the wheel for our basic needs of independence and survival.  The wheel is too cool to be square.


Ten Gifts. Free Shipping. Peace.

December 9th, 2011

We rarely send out two emails in one week, so apologies if this is an intrusion. But we wanted to alert everyone to these special holiday ideas and offers.

We are offering Free Shipping – on PUBLIC items only – but just until December 11th.
For three days only you can save $125 and have a bike shipped directly to your home (Use Promo Code: FREESHIP) or receive free shipping on gear & accessories (Use Promo Code: JOLLY). We only make this offer on rare occasions. This holiday season, we want to encourage as many of you as possible to get on a bike. A bike is a very conscientious gift that is guaranteed to generate smiles.

I've assembled ten last minute gifts. They are not all PUBLIC items, but they are all from people or companies that I know personally. I’ve included several books as they are meaningful gifts for almost anyone. If you have an especially hard-to-please person, Paula Scher: MAPS will open their eyes to the world the same way a bike does.

1) PUBLIC C7 in Salted Caramel $650
One of our limited edition models named after our favorite ice cream in San Francisco. Salted caramel is one of our limited edition new colors.

2) Vlaemsch Deer Head $200
Our Deer is a modern, playful take on the classic trophy head designed and produced in Belgium.  Made from beech wood and arrives to you flat packed, it assembles easily in a few minutes without any tools. They are lightweight enough to hang on almost any surface.  At PUBLIC it is a perennial favorite.

3) PUBLIC Bleeker 8 Speed $1250
We just launched this beauty. It’s a classic guys bike that works just as well for women. The vintage-style aluminum fenders and Brooks saddle make it a timeless piece of design.

4) BackRoads Bike Trip to Tuscany in April $4000
I’ve been on five of these trips over the past twenty years and they never disappoint.  You get the independence of riding all day, eating delicious food, and the comfort of someone else lugging your bags.  And you’ll likely meet some cool people, like my ex wife!

5) McFadden Farm Bay Leaf Wreath $25.50
The wonderful fragrance of Bay leaves is a traditional indulgence for many of us. This is the wreath for modernists – simple and classic.

6) Miette: Recipes from San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop $27.50
Is there a bike rider alive that does not love desserts?  The book is almost as gorgeous as the pastries from this signature San Francisco pastry shop run by Meg Ray. The photos by Frankie Frankeny are tasty too.

7) PUBLIC Federico Red Bell $15.00
It’s our most popular item, and for good reason. Maybe the sweetest sounding stocking stuff around.

8 ) Paula Scher: Maps $50
The is a shockingly beautiful and provocative book by Paula Scher. She is one of the few visual thinkers whose work seamlessly spans both Art and Design fields. GPS geeks, surfers, artists, and PhDs and designers of course, will have this book atop their coffee table for most of 2012.

9) Portland Design Works Light Set $36.00
From our friends in Portland, a superb way to light up your holiday rides. Both lights are built to withstand rain or meteor showers and keep you safe from blastoff to touchdown.

10) High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky $29.95
Here is a great read or Christmas gift, by Joshua David and Robert Hammond. The book has received five stars reviews all around. If you cannot go to the Highline, at least get the book.

HARD TO PLEASE? If nothing here strikes your fancy, we do have some other gift ideas.

Burning Man, Boulder, & Las Vegas

August 24th, 2011

The best thing about this business is getting to know our customers and hearing their stories. Our customers come in all different shapes and sizes and from a variety of professions and locations. They keep in touch with us in any manner of ways.   Some come by our South Park headquarters, some meet us on the road when we visit cities for urban transportation events, some share photos on our Flickr group, and some send us nice notes like these:

“Today I rode 24 miles on my 7-speed PUBLIC step-thru bike and the bike did great – 12 bike path miles and 12 hilly Cape Cod roads around the ocean and through the ponds. I tackled each hill and stayed comfortable. Very pleased with my PUBLIC bike.” – Vanessa Allen, Newton, MA

“Nearly a year since purchasing my PUBLIC D3, I have logged more than a thousand miles on it commuting to and from work in Columbus Ohio – even in 15 degree weather. I am on my original tires and have only done light preventative maintenance. If you’re on the fence as to whether to buy one, trust me you won’t regret it.”  – Shane Neff

“Just got off my Public bike, not 24 hours ago!!!  Love that thing and I get compliments on it all of the time.” – Scott Kerslake, CEO Prana


We like to share interesting customer stories, creations, and photos.  PUBLIC customer and advertising icon Alex Bogusky, his wife Ana, designer John Bielenberg, and creative strategist Rob Schuham launched the fantastic new venture COMMON. “COMMON is a living network of creative people rapidly prototyping dozens or hundreds of progressive businesses designed to solve social problems.” They put together an inspiring video to introduce their mission.

A COMMON STORY from m ss ng p eces on Vimeo.

Last Friday night in Boulder, CO they hosted an event to support and incite a competitive market for socially minded entrepreneurs.  The finalists encourage a business world with educated and empowered consumers.  Read the Washington Post article to find out the winning products.

If you ride a PUBLIC or know someone who does with an inspiring story, share it with us. We’ll feature it in a future customer spotlight.


Dan Nguyen-Tan, our PUBLIC Citizen, brings innovative marketing and customer programs to our business. Dan will be in Las Vegas at the Interbike trade show where we are teaming up with Peterboro Baskets.  You can connect with Dan at Interbike – just drop him a note. If you have a bike shop that would like to carry PUBLIC bikes, this would be a good place to meet us and chat.

Dan will also be at Burning Man next week. If you see a half naked guy riding in the playa, that will not be Dan. For one week, Burning Man’s Black Rock City becomes the bicycle capital of the world with almost everyone riding bicycles to get around. Read more about the bicycle culture of Black Rock City by our friend Matthew Roth.

The City – Our Greatest Invention

May 25th, 2011

Ideally our cities become exciting, sexy, and profitable places to live, play, and work – that’s the most important part. When people have no investment in the places they play or work or live, they act accordingly. – David Byrne

Momentum David Byrne

Momentum Magazine, 5.2011

Public Space Chicago


Public Space 1


Public Space 2


Public Space 3


I plucked this David Byrne quote from the recent Momentum issue. If you are not familiar with Momentum, a magazine about urban cycling, check it out.  It improves with every issue and is a good barometer of positive change in our cities.

In general David Byrne is not known for his use of words like “investment” and “profitable.” We have written about his interests before. He has been an urban bicyclist long enough to realize that the change we need in our cities requires all of us to think a little differently. There are complicated issues like density, taxes, aesthetics, and policies that need the support of constituencies.  How do we make cities friendlier to businesses that ensure a healthy tax basis? Can we get car commuters to cover the real costs of their use of city streets and parking spaces? How do we undo over fifty years of deterioration of sidewalks and public spaces? Or make all parts of the city safe and productive places for their residents? Harvard Professor and author Edward Glaeser offers some solutions.

Compared to many cities around the world, we have a general lack of civic connectedness in the United States. The reasons for this are not particularly mysterious. The way many of us move through our cities is by car. Cars are by their nature isolating private spaces that shield us from the realities (both positive and negative) of our urban environment. For instance, ghettos are often easy to quickly drive through or around. Cars keep us from making eye contact with our neighbors and noticing the little details of our immediate surroundings. Yes, New York is an exception – nearly everyone there gets a pedestrian-eye-view of their surroundings, and as a result (I think) the inhabitants are fiercely proud (even defensive) of their city and its neighborhoods. Walking and bicycling heightens awareness and invites specificity.

A recent book by Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City discusses the development of the modern city and its relevance with a fresh and unique perspective. Perhaps you saw him interviewed on the Daily Show. The very definition of cities is discussed.

“Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness. They enable us to work and play together, and their success depends on the demand for physical connection.” – Edward Glaeser.

Provocative chapters, like “What’s Good About Slums” and “Is There Anything Greener Than Blacktop” challenge our basic assumptions about environmental policies. The cities profiled include all continents and range from Rio de Janeiro to Bangalore to Atlanta to Milan. This is a rich fast paced read that celebrates the value of human capital, which is what ultimately makes a city great.

PUBLIC Bikes: Design Matters

May 2nd, 2011

PUBLIC’s founder Rob Forbes, who also founded Design Within Reach, shares his thoughts about why design matters and the vision behind PUBLIC.

PUBLIC is a San Francisco-based bicycle and gear company with our store and headquarters in 123 South Park. We design and sell urban bikes, along with accessories to make riding more enjoyable, practical, and chic. Our European-inspired bikes ride like butter. They come in single and multi-speeds in all sizes. You can dress in casual or business attire, and wear pumps, tennis shoes, or flip flops – just about anything – while riding our bikes. And we have baskets, bags and other gear to go along with them. These bikes will make you feel like a kid again, and this is every bit as important as anything else. All of our products can be ordered online. Or find PUBLIC bikes at these locations in the US and Canada.

Bill Cunningham: A Famous Biker You Probably Don’t Know

April 26th, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York Trailer from Gavin McWait on Vimeo.

One of the most visionary “cyclists” in the world has been brought to the spotlight by a terrific new documentary film just released titled, Bill Cunningham New York. Cunningham has been photographing street fashion in New York since the 1960’s, from an authentic non-commercial manner. The film depicts his singular personality, and it is one of the most sensitive, optimistic, and entertaining films I have seen. Cunningham sets a world record as an urban biker; in his over fifty-year career of riding around Manhattan and taking countless photos of style on the streets, he’s had over 28 bikes stolen.

I was introduced to the director of the documentary, Richard Press, earlier this year. He was kind enough to do an interview with us. The interview sheds lights on the unprecedented experience of working so closely with the genuine Bill Cunningham. You can see where the movie is playing around the country.

Bill Cunningham New York

ROB FORBES: What was the initial inspiration for the film? Was it Bill himself, his connection to the NYC fashion world, or something else?

RICHARD PRESS: My fascination with Bill has always gone beyond the work he actually does. While I think he has created a significant body of work – who he is as a person, how he’s chosen to live his life and his almost religious dedication to his work, was the initial inspiration for the film.

ROB: Did you learn anything critical along the way that altered the creative direction?

RICHARD: The most critical challenge was: how do you make a film about a man who is so private that even the people who have known him for years don’t know anything about him personally? Bill’s reticence to be filmed set the practical terms for how the documentary could be made. The spectacle of a camera crew, sound recorder, and boom operator would be impossible. I had to capture him the way he claims to capture his own subjects: “discreetly, quietly, and invisibly.”

As a result, the movie was made with no crew, relying only on small, handheld consumer cameras so Bill wouldn’t feel intruded upon. It had to be a kind of family affair with people he trusted—myself; Philip Gefter, the producer; and Tony Cenicola, a New York Times staff photographer whom Bill knew and liked and who was the other cinematographer.

ROB: How long did it take to complete it?

RICHARD: I joke that the movie took ten years to make, eight years to persuade Bill to be filmed and two to shoot and edit – but it’s true – and had it been any different, Bill wouldn’t have been true to who he is or nearly as interesting a subject to film.

ROB: What was the most enjoyable part of the process in making the film?

RICHARD: Aside from being invited into Bill’s life, which is so singular – making the movie in such a guerrilla a way was really enjoyable. It was very freeing.

ROB: And the least enjoyable?

RICHARD: Making the movie in such a guerrilla a way was also really scary. I had never been a cinematographer for my own films or ever done my own sound. So I was concerned that technically and aesthetically the movie would be right.

ROB: What don’t we see about the process from watching the documentary?

RICHARD: Actually you see most of the process. During filming it began to dawn on me that the process of making the movie paralleled the slow revealing of the man himself and that his relationship with us, the filmmakers, should be a part of telling the story. In looking for a way to do this, I thought of the early Andy Warhol/Edie Sedgwick movies with Chuck Wein as an off-screen presence — a voice never seen but prodding and provoking — just as we were doing with Bill. So I turned the filmmakers into a single palpable character.

ROB: Are there any other documentaries that were influential to you in preparation for this?

RICHARD: I thought of the movie less like a documentary and more like a narrative with a strong protagonist, surrounded by a menagerie of characters (kind of early “Altmanesque” and seemingly loosely structured), but with narrative threads that slowly build, so that when taken together—a portrait emerges and comes into focus. Like one of Bill’s pages — a collage, adding up to something larger than its parts.

The facts of Bill’s life were important to me only to the extent that they reveal the contours of his life. But it’s not what he’s about, even to himself. I wasn’t interested in making a documentary bio-pic. Rather, I wanted to capture something more intangible —though no less powerful, which is the essence of him – that joy – his way of being. Bill has dedicated his life to documenting what is unique and individual and I wanted the movie not only to be a portrait of him and by extension New York, the city he loves, but a celebration of self expression and self invention.

Photo Credits: Left, Alison Maclean, Right, Scott Schuman

TED2011: Inspiration and Livable Cities

February 27th, 2011

TED’s big annual event, TED2011, is just around the corner from February 28th–March 4th. This year’s theme is The Rediscovery of Wonder, and as usual, they have a remarkable line up of speakers that range from Data Artists to Dinosaur Diggers.

Back in 2006, I was honored to give a TED Talk. At that time, TED was really only accessible to an exclusive group of attendees with connections and $5,000 to spend on a conference. No longer true. Anyone, who can get online, can see and hear all of the talks and performances. If you have not visited the TED website yet, just do it. The talks are presented in such a way that you can select a topic or theme of interest such as informative, courageous, design, or global issues. Try Inspiring for a start. Here are two very different and provocative talks related to Livable Cities that give you some idea of the quality and diversity that TED continues to deliver.

Mikael Colville-Andersen
Why We Shouldn’t Bike with a Helmet, Copenhagen, 2010

Bill Strickland (with Herbie Hancock)
Rebuilding America, One Slide Show at a Time, Monterey, California, 2002