December 22nd, 2010

H2 pool reflectionPUBLIC bikes at H2The H2 green roof; looking north.

You can test ride (and buy) our bikes from a select group of bike stores around the US. If you want to combine a vacation and a test ride, here are two hotels that provide PUBLIC bikes for their guests. The H2 Hotel in Healdsburg, California and El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. Both of these new lodgings offer exceptionally unique guest experiences in unique locations.

H2

In August, this boutique hotel opened and ever since has been getting kudos for many aspects of its design. Architect David Baker applied his eco-design skills to the project by utilizing local materials, installing a living roof, a solar system, an underground cistern for water collection, and employing other features to reduce the environmental impact. The interiors were designed by Marie Fisher and include Piet Hein Eek furniture and other unique details. You’ll find Piet Hein Eek work inside too. A short walk from the hotel leads you to the historic center square in Healdsburg, which is lined with unique local stores and our favorite Italian trattoria in the county, Scopa. Some of the best country biking in the state surrounds the hotel – easy bikes trips to wineries, the Russian River, and to numerous other Sonoma Valley destinations. H2 is a welcome alternative to the more traditional B&B’s in the area that stock potpourri and Victorian details but not bikes. H2 is quickly gaining a rep as one of the best hotels in the entire Bay Area. Mention PUBLIC and receive a 10% discount on rooms, Sunday-Thursday now through December 28th, 2010.
www.h2hotel.com

 
El Cosmico Trailer

El Cosmico yurtEl Cosmico teepee

Photos courtesy of Eric Ryan Anderson

El Cosmico

Anyone who has been to Marfa, Texas knows that the hotel options lack in contrast to the uniqueness of Marfa itself. Marfa is home to a phenomenal collection of Donald Judd works and installations. He dedicated over twenty years of his life to this small southwestern town where he lived and worked until his death. El Cosmico may be as unique as Marfa itself. You can stay in a 1956 vintage Imperial Mansion trailer for $125 or if you’re on a tighter budget go with a Teepee or a Yurt for as little as $60. El Cosmico’s amenities – beyond PUBLIC bikes – range from a Bath House, Dutch Tubs, a Hammock Grove, and wireless Internet. The shared outdoor kitchen onsite and picnic tables set the tone for great conversation.

One cannot truly capture the experience of Marfa from a typical hotel room, while awaiting room service. El Cosmico allows you to feel the essence of the desert after visiting Donald Judd’s work throughout the town. Flat terrain and PUBLIC bikes allow you to see it all. Mention PUBLIC and receive a 10% discount on rooms, Sunday-Thursdays.
www.elcosmico.com

 

Other Bike-Hotels?

We plan to maintain a list of hotels that provide guests with free bikes – of any brand – as part of their hospitality package. Please send us referrals and we will mention them in future newsletters. Two hotels we frequently recommend are the Maritime in New York and the San Jose in Austin.

PUBLIC Rear Baskets now Back in Stock

Rear BasketWe designed this handy wire basket that easily attaches to almost any rear bike rack. It’s been a best selling item because of its functionality and versatility – great for books, laptops, purses, and groceries. In just seconds you can pop the rear basket off, grab it by the handle, run your errands, and save a few plastic bags along the way. A couple bungee straps or a cargo net make it that much more utilitarian.

David Herlihy Event at PUBLIC Oct 8th

David Herlihy’s first book on bikes, Bicycle: The History won the 2004 Award for Excellence in the History of Science. It’s a great fast paced read and probably the best reference on bikes we know about. David Herlihy wrote another unique book, The Lost Cyclist. Check out Urban Velo’s review. We are delighted to have him at PUBLIC to talk about the book and hang out with us for an evening. Mark your calendars from 6-8pm on Oct. 8 at 123 South Park and RSVP at rsvp@publicbikes.com.

 

December 21st, 2010

Mile Highs and Lows in ColoradoMile Highs and Lows in Colorado
Mile Highs and Lows in Colorado

Boulder Bike Lane

Mile Highs and Lows in Colorado

Vecchios

Mile Highs and Lows in Colorado

Vintage at U Bikes

Mile Highs and Lows in Colorado

Public in Boulder Rack

A quick trip to Colorado last month put us in the Denver International Airport on our way to Boulder, CO. We don’t know of two greater contrasts in transportation designs in one region. The experience was a study in the extremes we see in our modern world.

The Denver International Airport has been on the design radar since its inception in 1994. It rises out of nowhere in the high plains, like modernist Bedouin tents. Inside it feels like a study in efficient mobility with everyone everywhere in motion. The architecture firm, Fentress Architects, designed the airport and it lives up to their slogan “Inspired Design for People.” A speedy tram zips you to terminals. There are elevators, horizontal conveyor walkways, and escalators in every space. They whisk you around like magic inside the space. But once you get your bags and look for public transportation, it smacks you. You are stuck. You are 15 miles from anywhere. Denver is one of the few major airports in the entire world that is not connected to its city by some form of rail. Taxis and rental cars are your only way out. OK, there are buses (sort of) but who wants to pack into a bus, especially after a plane flight? It is as if the car rental agencies and taxis conspired to form a monopoly. Maybe they did. How uncivilized.

Nearby, Boulder is the opposite extreme i.e. very civilized. The city is designed to encourage people to walk, ride bikes, take public transportation, and reduce their dependence on cars. There are bike trails and well-signed paths everywhere and bike racks of all shapes and sizes all around town. For bike geeks there are several amazing bike stores like University Bikes (an amazing collection of vintage and modern bikes) and Vecchio where you can test ride a PUBLIC. For novice riders they even have a website, Go Bike Boulder that tells you how to get from A to B on a bike. With 300+ miles of bike paths within the 24.5 square miles of the city, this is very helpful. Boulder is not Amsterdam, but bikes do set the pace around downtown and you’ll see the full range of bikers from costumed nighttime bike parades to Lycra clad bike tri-athletes. And maybe the highest sign of civic enlightenment was that the bikers seem to obey the laws and leave the downtown pedestrian mall for pedestrians. Perhaps kudos goes to the City of Boulder for offering support and easy access to Bicyclists Rights and Responsibility on their comprehensive website. This is all very optimistic and idealistic – other cities could learn a lot from this example. The bike industry advocacy and educational organization Bikes Belong is headquartered there and it certainly belongs there.

What the Denver International Airport and Boulder have in common is that they are somewhat insular communities that attempt to provide the best mobility experience for people within their walls. However, they do not deal with the regional issues i.e. what to do when you are outside of their community. For this planning we do need government involvement, legislation, and public advocates.

It is our hope for enlightened transportation planning, whether that means high-speed rail or bike lanes.

Take Action. Vote.

And with another election season upon us, we encourage everyone to vote for candidates who prioritize sound transportation, bicycle and pedestrian-oriented land-use planning. And if you live in California, a strong NO vote against Proposition 23 is important. It’s worth a bike ride or stroll to your polling booth to vote NO against the disastrous, backward Proposition 23 that’s largely funded by big oil companies. This issue is not complicated.

Win a New PUBLIC bike

Ladies G7 OrangeWe have been besieged by requests from customers since the day we launched for an affordable all-purpose city bike. Our design team put this request on our fast track and we will have two new bike models here by mid-November. We are having a contest to win one of these bikes. So here is a chance to be one of the first to ride one, and for free. The bikes will be priced at $495. We will have full specifications up next week, but you can get a sneak preview and enter the contest today.

Tretorn Rainboot

Tretorn Skerry Reslig Rain Boot
We will be adding a wide range of new products this fall, including new Tretorn shoes like these Skerry Reslig rain boots. Made from all natural and PVC-free rubber, these 100% waterproof boots were originally designed for heavy-weather sailing. Which also makes them a welcome solution for biking on rain-soaked city streets and sidewalks. They could even make puddles fun again.

 

December 16th, 2010

In front of Anish Kapoor sculpture in Chicago

Anish Kapoor sculpture by Ron Wu

Under Brazilian dancers

Under Brazilian dancers

In bike parking lots in Denmark

Denmark

In front of politician’s podiums

In front of politician’s podiums

Next to Frank Gehry in New York

New York

In meadows in the Rockies

Rockies

At the beach

At the beach

Our bikes are showing in up all kinds of places. We feel very fortunate to have them sprinkled all around the US after only a few months of opening shop. This is a thank you to our fans, a gallery of nationwide photos of our bikes and clients, and an invitation to our South Park party this Saturday in San Francisco. Here’s partial list of where PUBLIC bikes have been spotted:

  • In bike parking lots in Denmark
  • At numerous Farmers Markets
  • In lingerie stores
  • Next to Frank Gehry in New York
  • Under politicians rear ends
  • In meadows in the Rockies
  • At the beach
  • In magazine store windows
  • In artist studios in Brooklyn
  • In SOHO shoe stores
  • Chopped into rickshaws
  • In boutique hotels
  • At ballparks
  • Hung on gallery walls
  • At Design Within Reach
  • In O Magazine and Martha Stewart Living
  • In J Crew catalogs
  • In blogs like Treehugger
  • In numerous other media
  • On the streets in 40 states

At some of the best bike stores and retailers in the US:

More Photos…

We have an ulterior motive in displaying these photos . . . We’d like more. We plan to display them in our store and on our blog. Photos are only one way for us to share our story and the fun. We’ll be taking photos at our party this weekend and we welcome shots, videos even more so, from around the country. You can even upload photos to our Flickr pool and Facebook.

Our Rear Basket on Sale

PUBLIC BasketWe designed this simple, lightweight rear basket with a spring-loaded quick release, so you can easily attach and remove it from your rack. By removing it from the bike in just a few seconds, it transitions into a shopping basket equipped with a handle. It fits on most standard racks, and that’s one of the many reasons it’s been so popular.

December 14th, 2010

Lisbon #28 Streetcar Lisbon #28 StreetcarLisbon #28 StreetcarLisbon #28 Streetcar Lisbon #28 StreetcarTiled building facade in Lisbon

We arrived in Lisbon, Portugal with absolutely no travel agenda other than to walk around and hang out in a European city and culture that is a little off the travel radar. Lisbon has a lot in common with San Francisco physically. Both cities are on the water with hilly, dramatic views, and a photogenic orange bridge. Both are great walking cities but spread out enough so that you need some kind of public transportation to get the feel of the entire city.

It’s challenging to see Lisbon by bicycle – if you want to think or talk while you’re seeing it – because the streets are heavily cobbled with rail lines slashing through them. And the hills are so steep that even kids walk their bikes up them.

We were tipped off that the #28 Streetcar was a good way to get an overview of the city. When one pulled up to our stop, I loved its canary yellow color and the fact that locals and tourists alike were hanging out of the windows and smiling. Inside it had the feel of a vintage motorboat more than a tram, with dark wood paneling, polished metal hardware, and neat design details.

The #28 zooms up and down around the city taking some sharp, jostling turns. It reminded me of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland more than public transportation. Fun. You could break an arm if you left it hanging too far out the window, but that little bit of risk just heightened the experience. Everyone fights for the right to a seat with a window that opens and closes manually. And everyone – including the locals – seemed to be getting a kick out of riding it. It was a treat, like taking vaporetti in Venice or the ferries in the Bay Area.

I live right on a cable car line in San Francisco, but I never take it. Our cable cars resemble the Lisbon #28 in character, but they are slow, inconvenient, unreliable, and they stop way too often. They are simply not fun to ride unless you’re a tourist, and walking is usually faster. What would it take it take to get me on a local cable car? Speed I guess. If it zipped downtown, I might use it regularly. But the same thing that would attract me (speed) would probably scare away the tourists.

Convenience and speed obviously comes first with public transportation, but maybe there are other design criteria like ‘color,’ ‘fresh air’, even ‘fun’, that should be taken more seriously? Would I have taken the #28 if it were a sober modern grey or beige with no manual windows and no thrill to the ride? Not a chance. Would I take BART more often if it were less dowdy? Maybe. Do you think our Department of Transportation design departments would laugh at me for suggesting that we should make BART more colorful, retrofit some manual windows for fresh air, and engineer some thrills into the ride? Definitely. Do charm and efficiency need to be mutually exclusive? No. This is why we ride bikes.

Lisbon has a lot more to offer than the Yellow #28. The cobbled streets and sidewalks make pattern a part of everyday excursion. The diversity and color in the tiles and buildings are a few of the unique details to the city. But you can’t see most of them from the #28 – it goes too fast.

See more of our Lisbon photos here.

 

Dutch Bike Company Seattle

Interior of the Dutch Bike Company in Seattle

Interior of the Dutch Bike Company in Seattle

Dutch Bike Company Seattle is known as “importers and retailers of the finest European city bicycles.” We’re proud that you can now test ride and buy a PUBLIC bike in Seattle at this fabulous retailer. Much of our inspiration comes from Europe. We designed our PUBLIC bikes as an alternative to the authentic Dutch bikes that we love – ours are lighter in weight, typically offer more gears, more vibrant colors, and sizes for every person. We continue to add more test ride locations around the country.

PARK(ing) Day on Sept. 17

PARK(ing) DayOne of our favorite days in the city is the annual PARK(ing) Day. This year’s PARK(ing) Day is on Friday, Sept. 17. PARK(ing) Day started in 2005 by our friends at Rebar, who are some of the most creative urban designers and planners we’ve come across. We’re teaming up with our friends from Bike Basket Pies and Nomad’s Kitchen to convert a few parking spots near our office as temporary picnic areas. We’ll have tables and chairs – and a bookshelf with reading materials to inspire visitors to read about our world of design and bicycles. We’ll have a few other surprises too. Come visit us at 123 South Park on Friday and share meal with our PUBLIC posse.

 

December 13th, 2010

Our new PUBLIC bikes (prototypes) have been turning up all around San Francisco. We’ll have them for sale next month, but you can check them out right now on our PUBLIC website and maybe even win one in our contest.

PUBLIC M8 in white

PUBLIC M8 in white with basket

PUBLIC D1-chartreuse

PUBLIC D1 in chartreuse

When we showed our pal Laura Guido-Clark our line of bikes, she deemed the colors “lickable”. We liked that. Admittedly, we did not have “licking” in mind when we came up with these colors, but Laura makes her living understanding and applying the meaning and value of color to our world; so when she talks we sit up straight. Our bike colors – ironically – are derived from the world of cars and scooters. The “Milano” orange was inspired by a ’68 Vespa we’ve had in our office. Our robin’s egg blue was stolen from a vintage Porsche we spotted on the street. The green and white came from late ’60s BMW’s. There is also a ‘50s Thunderbird turquoise we might steal in the future. A lot of older cars were quite lickable.

Studio Forbes Vespa

PUBLIC D3 in orange

PUBLIC D3 in orange

It is hard to think of cars as being lickable these days. Their colors are predominantly versions of gray, dark gray and darker gray – and a black to keep designers and teenagers appeased. It’s probably just as well, because cars are a lot bigger than they used to be, and color makes objects appear larger. A big, honking Lincoln Navigator in our ‘Milano’ orange would scare just about anyone.  Car shapes today are less distinct from each other – it’s often hard to tell a Mercedes from a Ford. So painting them with special colors would be an exercise in superficiality. And given the effect of cars on the environment in recent decades, car manufacturers are right to focus on efficiency and safety rather than color. Car culture as romance and beauty is mostly an exercise in nostalgia. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary rock band singing a paean to a Saturn or an Audi the way the Beach Boys or Jan and Dean swooned over the cars of their era. Maybe someday designers will create cars that are so smart and beautiful that they will again deserve special colors (they should talk to Laura), but until then we can give a nod to what was great about cars by moving some of their lickable colors into the future.

We’d just like to see more people on bikes, and pretty colors are one way to help people fall in love with them. Our bikes are also a thrill to ride and the result of two years of research and design. If you are in the Bay Area (and friendly), please stop by and take a spin. Just give us a call at 415.896.0123 to make an appointment. We’ll also have our bikes in SOHO, at the Tretorn store by mid May, and elsewhere around the US in coming months.

December 12th, 2010

The High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in Manhattan

If you want an example of how an imaginative repurposing of a public space can change people’s perspectives of their own city, the best example in recent years is The High Line in New York. We “walked it” last month for the first time. It is perhaps the most provocative, creative, optimistic piece of modern design of this decade – as visually and culturally relevant, and as original, as Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao last decade.

In the 1930s The High Line elevated rail was constructed as part of the West Side Improvement project to serve the meatpacking and garment district of Manhattan without disrupting pedestrian traffic. By 1980 the rail was abandoned and in threat of being torn down as a result of the nationwide increase in interstate trucking. It was an irrelevant anachronism, and many felt the logical thing to do was tear it down – it served no rational urban purpose. Instead, community forces worked together to convert the structure into a mile and a half long public park and walkway. It now gives anyone and everyone a place to hang out, snooze, read a paper, people watch, jog, learn about the indigenous plants and view the city and its architecture from an elevated perspective.

Quiet. Reflective. Clever. Friendly. Inclusive. Pretty. These are not the adjectives we normally assign to most new urban developments. The fact that the private and public sectors even tried to pull this off is reason for giddy optimism; their success (and the final product) borders on the miraculous.

Architects Diller Scoffidio + Renfro and landscape architects James Corner Field Operations are responsible for the rehabilitation of The High Line. They blended historic and new materials and languages – leaving old chunky iron rails and hardware exposed and incorporating newly poured concrete creatively. Instead of denying the past, they incorporated and transformed it. The High Line has the feel of an outdoor museum – charming kids, foreign visitors, and locals alike. It combines indigenous flora and many designer details like the elegant modern outdoor benches. The neighborhood has been truly refreshed, and visitors are treated to forgotten vistas of the city.

We have examples of intelligently repurposed public spaces in San Francisco: Crissy Field, Fort Mason, and the Ferry Building, for example. But the High Line has a unique drama and character derived from its elevated structural nature and connection to the past. Like Chicago’s celebrated River Architecture Tour, it is equal parts education and entertainment, and perhaps destined to be as popular. (The River Tour is Chicago’s premiere tourist attraction).

Having given San Francisco and Chicago their due, it must be said that The High Line is another example of New York’s leadership in creatively reshaping public spaces to make the city more livable.
Check out more of our photos of The High Line on Flickr.

 

Knog Gekko Taillight

Knog TaillightBicycling around at dusk or at night without a highly visible blinking rear taillight is unsafe. When we turn our clocks back on November 7th we need to be extra cautious of bicycle safety. There are many bike taillights on the market, but very few that pass our test for being easy to install, easy to remove, elegant, and highly visible. Our Knog Gekko Taillight is a house favorite for its size and functionality. Made from flexible silicone, it wraps around almost any seat post or frame tube easily, and comes in several colors. Its three bright red LED lights keep you visible up to 1,800 feet. Ride on with safety.

 

M3’s: Back in Stock

Orange M3The first deliveries of our PUBLIC M3 sold out in many sizes and colors early this summer. It turned out to be our most popular model. Our next delivery comes in this week. We will be filling backorders – thanks for waiting – and taking new orders for immediate shipment. This easy shifting 3 speed is especially suited for those who wear skirts or those who prefer not to swing a leg way up and over a typical crossbar, i.e. it’s good for guys too.

 

December 9th, 2010

Bikes are designed for motion, so they naturally find themselves starring in all sorts of videos all around the world. The original Copenhagen Cycle Chic travels the world making low budget pleasant and elegant videos in cities such as Barcelona, Tokyo, Paris, and our home San Francisco. Bikes crop up in socially responsible videos like the Streetsfilm coverage of Ciclovia in Bogota. Bikes have been filmed in radical rides with pyromaniac guys and music videos of dreamy nighttime rides with girls in billowing skirts. A celebrity stunt bike rider, Danny MacAskill has a YouTube video that has been viewed over 20 million times. (Don’t try this with your PUBLIC). The Wall Street Journal made a video on David Byrne riding around Brooklyn. Cycling clips from the Tour de France and other races are ubiquitous online. While bikes are not much good for pornography, you can even find videos on nude bike rides from Michigan to Melbourne.

We have been capturing bikes and bike events on video for years. They range from this intense roller-racing event in Portland to daily traffic in Copenhagen. Our friends put together the video featured above of our Design Ride Manhattan last May. We’d like to feature more videos like these online.

Customer videos. Earn $500 merchandise credit.

We’d like to feature customer and client videos on our website and in newsletters. Can you help us out? Most bicyclists seem to share a few passions: music, coffee, art, photography, and local culture. This is all good content for the videos we would like to feature. Create a short 60-second video of riding your PUBLIC bike in your hood with commentary and/or a soundtrack. Just make sure you have authorization or permission to use any creative work such as music or images that are not your own.

This is just one idea – we’ll happily look at any concepts and formats. This is an ongoing offer and request. But between now and the end of the year we’ll give a $500 merchandise credit for any videos we choose to feature on our website.

Here’s how to submit videos:
Go to Flickr, Vimeo, or You Tube. If you don’t have an account with either, you’ll need to create one. No worries, it is a quick and easy process. Once you have an account select “upload a video.” Finally and most importantly, tag the video with PUBLIC Bikes. To be extra sure we receive your video send the link to us at info@publicbikes.com.

New Product: “Blinky 5” Rear Light from Planet Bike: $18.00

Planet Bike Rack Blinky 5 TaillightWe are adding a lot new products to our website this week: Yepp kids seats from the Netherlands, Knog bike locks from Australia, a Saris bike racks from Wisconsin, and this easy to install flashing taillight designed to bolt right onto your bike rack or seat post. “Blinky” has five super-bright LED tail lights to keep you safely visible – especially needed this time of year as the days get shorter.

 

December 9th, 2010

What to do with that big cardboard box?

Our bikes can be shipped directly to your door in a oversized cardboard box.  This got us thinking imaginatively about what you can do with all that valuable brown paper.  Our environment is important to us. We did our research and checked-in with friends at Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, and others to come up with ten ideas that range from the practical to the creative. These ideas might even make your holiday a little more fun, thoughtful, healthy, and playful.  Just like a bike.

Yepp Maxi Rear Child Seat

Yepp Maxi Rear Child Seat


New Dutch Kids Seats

Most products designed for kids suffer from aesthetic compromises (i.e. they are not so easy on the eyes). Leave it to the Dutch to design children’s bike seats that are supremely functional and safe, as well as very good looking. We offer two options, this Maxi Rear Seat for toddlers large enough to sit behind their parent, and the Mini Front Seat designed for younger children who need to sit up front.

Also at PUBLIC this week:

  • Last date to guarantee bike delivery to East Coast before Christmas: Dec 14th.
    But come visit us until December 24th.
  • Special hours for the Holidays at South Park from December 13-18
    M, T: 11am-6:00pm
    W, Th, Fr: 11am-7:30pm
    Sat.: 11am-4:00pm
  • Stuff a Stocking
  • December 8th, 2010


    We’ve seen the growing numbers of people riding bicycles in cities across the country. And here at PUBLIC, we’re delighted that many of our customers are buying a bike for the first time as adults or haven’t been on a bike for awhile.

    We spend lot of time with these bike newbies. We talk about proper ways to lock their bike, how to ride defensively and alertly in cities, suggest products that might help them enjoy their ride more, and offer resources to them to learn more about biking in their city.

    In addition to our Grab Bag of recommended items, we suggest the following items that might go into your Starter Kit:

    PUBLIC’s Recommended Starter Kit for Bike Newbies
    U-lock – essential for theft prevention
    Inner Tubes – just in case you get a flat tire
    Cable – added security for your bike tire
    Bell – best way to politely communicate with others
    Helmet – to protect your coconut
    Rear Rack – gives you many options to carry your locks, baskets or bags
    Pannier Shoulder Bag – good for commuters who carry laptops
    Detours Pannier – more ways to carry stuff
    Front Basket – good to carry light groceries, clothes, or small bag/purse
    Rear Basket – perfect for those Farmer’s Market or grocery trips
    Cargo Net – good way to keep everything inside your rear basket
    Bungee Strap – good for strapping your U-lock, sweater and/or other items around your rear rack
    Lights – essential for twilight or night riding
    SF Bike Map – figure out the best way to get around SF
    Deer Head – always there to greet you when you come home

    Additional Tips
    If you live in the Bay Area, we encourage you to consider becoming a member of San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to support better biking in SF, but also take advantage of SFBC’s resources related to bike security, adult bike riding education, and other programs. If you don’t live in SF, you might find great resources with your own local bike advocacy group.

    We also recommend using Google Maps for Bicycles to find the best bike route to get to your destination. Google Maps is generally decent, but we’re sometimes amused by its suggested routes. For example, when we type in San Francisco, CA as our origin and Honolulu, HI for our destination, Google Maps tells us to bike all the way north beyond Seattle, and then “Kayak across the Pacific Ocean” (step #617) to get to our island destination. Not sure why we need to bike so far to the Northwest part of the country when we can just get on a kayak with our bike from San Francisco!

    Happy bike riding everyone – or kayaking too!

    December 8th, 2010

    Sea of Cars at Eurobike

    Sea of Cars at Eurobike

    Next Bike stand at Eurobike

    Next Bike stand at Eurobike

    Next Bike Rentals

    Next Bike Rentals

    Next Bike text message

    Next Bike text message

    Next Bike Advertisement

    Next Bike Advertisement

    Bicycles as far as the eye can see

    Bike parking lots in Amsterdam

    Our post last week, That Blind Spot drew a lot of feedback. It’s pretty easy to point to the problems car culture inflicts on the US and to wag fingers at poor transportation ‘design’. The irony of our local community – the ‘progressive’ Bay Area – succumbing to this collective blindness stands out as somewhat comical. This irony is not unique to the US. Let me tell you what I came across in Germany at the annual Eurobike show last week.

    Eurobike is the Mecca for bicyclists. It may be five times the size of the US Interbike show. Getting to Friedrichshafen, the town closet to the show, is a treat and hopefully a taste of all travel in the future. You fly into Zurich, walk 100 yards to a train that speeds you silently at 100 mph to Romanshorn. You hop a ferry and have a beer with pals during an hour-long ride across the lake, disembarking in Friedrichshafen, where you can walk to your hotel. You’re feeling profoundly envious of the European public transportation system – the last car I thought about was the taxi in San Francisco taking me to BART (Bay Area Regional Transit).

    Getting to the bike show the next morning brought me back to the reality of car traffic. The show is held in a remote suburban location and only accessible by cars and buses. The three-mile trip may take you an hour. Traffic is backed up for 20 miles in all directions with people in their cars trying to get to a bike show. The exhibition area is surrounded by fields of cars and feels stunningly like a racetrack event. This sea of cars really puts the ‘iron’ in irony.

    These traffic-jams last all four days of the show. Remember, this is a show to celebrate bikes – amazing pieces of design that give us all independence and efficiency. The irony of it all seems lost on the leaders of the bike industry. How much sweeter it would be if we all rode bikes from our hotels to the show located in a city or community where bikes serve a social purpose? What if the parking lot looked like what you find in so many cities like Amsterdam?

    Solutions are always more interesting, and I found one on the first day. I was standing in a long line waiting for a bus after the show, tired and cranky like everyone else. I noticed a small line of rental ‘Next Bikes’ outside the convention hall. I inquired. The bikes were all spoken for, but the guy thought there might be one in a remote location. He used a wireless GPS system and located a bike nearby. In thirty seconds he hooked me up to the online service and sent me a text with the location, serial number, and lock combo of my bike. After a 15-minute walk I was on my free bike and riding blissfully back to the hotel with that special pleasure of passing all the car traffic leaving the Eurobike show. I used the bike during my four-day trip and dropped it off outside my hotel where I simply called the service to tell them I was done. The rental price was $1 Euro for four days. (The ads on the bikes apparently pay for the costs of the system.) All of this is made possible by wireless technology, free enterprise, and local entrepreneurs.

    Let’s not delude ourselves by nostalgic thinking that bikes alone are the answer to mobility. We need modern technology. Bike geeks love technology and we have such a tradition for innovation in our own backyard. We must be able to make this work at home, no? Grassroots innovations seem more likely than relying on governmental action or waiting for the bike industry to come around (which is having too much fun watching kids fly on bikes over hills, and it does look like fun).

     

    Mellow Johnny’s

    Mellow Johnny's Inside

    Mellow Johnny's Inside

    Mellow Johnny’s is well known because it’s owned by Lance Armstrong, but better known for the adjoining Juan Pelota café, the showers for sweaty bikers, a bike service center, and the best selection in Austin of lifestyle clothing and bikes for racing and city commuting. I love it for its low-key local architecture. Check it out when in Austin. Also check out our other test ride locations around the country – we just added a few more.