December 29th, 2010

Park(ing) DayPark(ing) DaySWA StudiosPark(ing) Day
Park(ing) Day

2nd Street SOMA

One of SOMA's six lane thoroughfares

3rd Street SOMA

Pedestrians crossing SOMA's six lanes

Brannan Street SOMA

There was a unique street event in San Francisco (and simultaneously around the world) last week called PARK(ing) Day. Businesses and community groups were encouraged to convert the metered parking spaces in front of their establishments into alternative public spaces. The event plays off what it means when you pay for a parking space, demanding a little awareness from us about this wholly habitual transaction. What is a parking space? What could it be? It’s a fun and quirky event, spread out mostly in the South of Market (SOMA), Hayes Valley, and Mission parts of the city. The best designed installations involved some humor, cleverness, and visual thinking ­­ an architectural pop-up environment made from the recycled cardboard tubes of large format printers by SWA/Studios SWA/Studios on Howard Street and the Pig (Harry Allen), a parked astroturf car piece at Propeller Propeller on Hayes. There were several animated spaces on Valencia Street that included insect habitats, brown bears, panda bears, maroon walruses on bikes (of course ), and more.

PARK(ing) Day asks people to reevaluate the very nature of urban street design and to prioritize the human experience over the car experience. It’s a mild-mannered demonstration, a lot easier for most drivers to accept than the more confrontational Critical Mass. PARK(ing) Day shares much in common with the hugely successful Sunday Streets program where sections of the city are closed to car traffic for a day. Both are international events, exploding in popularity, and well received by the residents and business alike because it increases friendly sidewalk traffic, not car traffic.

It’s great to call attention to these urban design issues with these diminutive installations, but a little sad that the monstrously dominant visual element that defines our environment – the massive swaths of asphalt – are implicitly given a pass. In our SOMA neighborhood numerous six lane one-way thoroughfares crisscross miles of the city and define the urban plan of the district. These supersized runways were smart design elements at one time. They were constructed back in the 1930’s in order to accommodate commercial trucks that serviced the heavy industries that made up this part of city.

But industry has left most of SOMA. Factories have been replaced by lofts, yoga studios, bars, eateries, art museums, music clubs, and design offices – a myriad soulful community-based enterprises. There is a vibrant community here, but not many of us enjoy walking around much. It’s impersonal in sight, sound, and scale not really designed for humans. One-way high-speed traffic runs counter to the needs of civilized neighborhoods. We live and work on highway corridors that serve freeways and bridges for outlying communities, not ours.

Logically, it is time for these thoroughfares to be retrofitted with trees, pedestrian zones, bike lanes, parks, and sidewalk cafes. All of this could be done at low cost with community support and with marginal impact to traffic. San Francisco also has some stellar examples of repurposed public spaces ­the Ferry Building and Crissy Field at the top of the list. Tourists and locals alike flock to these retrofitted destinations. Community is nurtured. What’s not to like about it?

It seems so obvious. Some of the most attractive and valuable real estate in the world we have operating as underutilized sober grey asphalt runways. I guess we just don’t see it. Or we are too busy hustling through it or making sure we don’t get run over crossing the streets to think about the possibilities. This is what is really strange, a lot stranger than maroon walruses talking to bears to be sure.

Park(ing) DayPark(ing) DayPark(ing) DayPark(ing) DayPark(ing) DayPark(ing) Day

Bikes Back in Stock (Almost)

PUBLIC's Orange M3As many of you know we have been out of stock on most of our 3-Speeds for months. Thanks for your patience. We will have Medium sized M3’s in Cream, Orange, and Blue ready to ship by October 15th. We sold out of these quickly before, so this is a good time to place your order.


December 26th, 2010

Kids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & Bikes

Put yourself in the position of a young child. You are given the choice of how to get to school, or to the store, with one of your parents on any given day. Do you want to go:

  • Buckled up or strapped down in the rear seat of a car with a view of the back of a seat and someone’s head? or
  • Sitting in front of a bicycle cart with the wind blowing in your face, fresh air, and a 360-degree view of the world with your parent behind, at the helm

This would be an easy choice for most kids. It would be like asking a dog if he would rather have his car window rolled up or down. But kids and dogs do not get to make these decisions on their own. Parents decide these things, based mostly on convenience, safety, or on fear. And thus we have major differences in various countries and cultures.

One of the most visible differences between US cities and cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam is that kids and parents are both highly visible on the streets in those foreign cities. They are everywhere omnipresent. I saw so many young parents with children on the streets on bikes that I actually asked one mother if the birth rate was especially high in Denmark. She laughed and replied: “No, our birth rate is actually one of the lowest in Europe. But the government makes it so easy for us to take our kids out on trips that you just see more of us in Public.”

Almost 50% of young children get around Copenhagen on bikes with their parents. It looked like these percentages were higher in Amsterdam. One in four parents in Copenhagen have a specially designed bicycle rig – cycle carts – for hauling their kids around town and are given special bike storage spaces on their neighborhood streets.

I have to believe that this bodes well for a child’s development. What is the lifetime value of experiencing the world from the front of a bike versus the rear seat of a car in early youth? What is it worth to learn to approach the world with a sense of adventure instead of fear? From where do we get our sense of confidence, independence and social connection? How cool is it to spend time with your parents doing something physical and fun everyday?

These thoughts were on mind as I watched so many parents pedaling their kids around the city. My Mom did not pedal me around in Pasadena where I grew up – we rode bikes ourselves, but I do remember how cool it was when my Mom got a convertible car. What is the value of fresh air and wind alone?

I cannot advocate the Amsterdam/Copenhagen bike mode for parents in many US cities that are not very bike family-friendly at this time. But I wish I could. What would it take to make more of those Danish kidmobiles common on our streets? It will take governmental policy, community leadership, courageous smart Mayors, separated lanes for bicycles, and a lot more people riding and having fun on their bikes. Let’s get there.

– Rob Forbes

Photos taken in Amsterdam and Copenhagen

Also, this week at PUBLIC:
Free Shipping Ends Tonight
Special Deals On Clothing

Kids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & Bikes

December 24th, 2010

Copenhagen Still LifeWe were in Copenhagen recently for a big biking event and took tons of photographs of Danes and their bikes. My favorite photo, however, is bikeless – just a café table top on the main drag, right across from Tivoli Gardens. The table was occupied by an old guy who looked like he might be a WWII veteran or a character out of some post-apocalypse movie. Gaunt face, old guy ears. He even had his aluminum crutches sprawled on the sidewalk next to his table. Not wanting to invade the moment, I just snapped a quick picture of his carefully laid-out table and another from behind him.

His table styling was better than any professional could achieve because it was real. It was a still life emblematic of the Danish character, soul, and culture. Morandi could not have done better. The guy had arranged his beloved objects just so, creating a strong sense of order and control: wool hat, tobacco pouch, coffee, corncob pipe, beer, plastic lighter, ashtray. The palette was impeccable as if worked out in advance with the café owner. It was a mixture of old and new cultural artifacts, made elegant and timeless atop a classic Danish teak table surface. It was a study in materials, simplicity, practicality, and self-sufficiency. Resourcefulness and design run deep in Danish culture.

Here it was, 11AM, and this man was alternating sips of beer and coffee, preparing for the day. There was such a sense of pleasure in the little things in life — the ones that we can take control of and author for ourselves. This guy was doing his part. It was a study in dignity, tradition and comfort — a reminder that these little things are a huge part of our lives.

What does this have to do with bikes? Everything. This is a study in the pleasure of independence and self-sufficiency — the qualities that first drew us to bikes when we were kids, and that still attract us as adults. We don’t need much to be happy.

If this guy were riding a bike today he would probably be on a single speed because of its simplicity and Copenhagen’s flat terrain.

Our Single Speeds Are On Sale

Danny on our Classic D1
Doubling up with the Dahon on a Vespa

We sell two basic modern lightweight single speeds: our classic D1 and a foldable Dahon Mu Uno. Why choose one of these over our geared bikes? Lots of reasons. First, they are easy to ride and will take you almost everywhere. For almost 70 years (from 1880 to 1950) most bikes had only one gear. In fact in the early Tour de France competitions, racers would have to change wheels to climb the mountains. There are different reasons today. They encourage us to ride more slowly and to look around more carefully. Stress levels are reduced when you are not concerned with speed. You do not race — you cruise. Think of our D1 as a modern cruiser.

The Dahon is less a cruiser than an ultimate utility bike. You’ll find numerous uses for it depending on your habits and needs. For example, I strapped it to my Vespa (with our Swiss bungee cord) when I dropped the scooter off for a tune up and needed a ride home. It’s perfect for short trips around the city. It fits almost anywhere: a car trunk, closets, narrow elevators, on public transportation and takes only 10 seconds to fold up. Works if you are 4‘6” or 6’4” and anywhere in between, so it is a great guest and family bike.

Ian showing off his own double-upSally on our D1Test riding a Dahon

December 22nd, 2010

This week marks the end of our first year in business. (Well, almost a year, since we opened in May). This is a big deal for us. We’re honored. The reason we are here is because of you, our customers. You come in all shapes and sizes. Some have celebrity status, like Susan Casey who stopped by The Daily Show a few weeks ago to promote her new book The Wave or Alex Bogusky who heads up Fearless Cottage in Boulder, CO. Some are galleries and design firms. Some are bicycle shops like Ride Studio, Flying Pigeon, Mellow Johnny’s, Velo Cult, and Clever Cycles. Some are small ad firms like Tony Wessling. Others are large businesses like the Gap. Some are hotels like h2hotel, Verde Camp, James Hotel, and El Cosmico. Some become models for us. Many become friends. But most of our customers are just everyday people enjoying the wind in their hair. The cool thing about bikes, they are very democratic. They’ll take anybody for a ride, and they make almost anyone look and feel better.

We feel especially lucky as we end this year with so many great friends. Thank you so much for making PUBLIC what it is today. We’ll ride into the New Year with a big smile on our face.

Special hours for the Holidays at South Park
Wed-Thu, Dec. 22-23rd: 11-7:30
Friday, Dec. 24th: 11-5:00

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.


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.

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.


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


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


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


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


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.