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.

     

    December 6th, 2010

    Interbike Chic in Vegas

    Interbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in Vegas

    The fashion side of biking gains attention every year, driven mostly by mainstream media. Two prime examples are the recent articles in The New York Times, “Bicycle Chic Gains Speed,” and in The Wall Street Journal, “The Season of Biker Chic,” both placed in the style section. In new media, bike fashion has become a common theme for the increasing number of blogs, take for example, Velo Vogue, Velo Chic NYC, Copenhagen Cycle Chic, and Riding Pretty just to name a few. Even solely fashion driven blogs, such as the Sartorialist, started to include a biking category. Curiously, the bike industry itself has been a laggard in responding to this dimension of biking, still consumed with the logo and lycra side of biking. But times are changing. At the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas last month, there was a cool fashion show that that went all the way down to bike lingerie and guys taking their pants off.

    Interbike is mostly a guy thing. We don’t have the attendance statistics, but anyone who goes can attest that women are a minority as exhibitors and attendees. As a result Interbike is, well, lacking in visual and fashion appeal in the same way that a male-dominated automotive, golf, or hunting exposition might be. But this year each afternoon Interbike hosted the 2010 Ready to Ride Fashion Show, well choreographed by Momentum Magazine and our Pedal Savvy friends, with a fast paced circular runaway of models cruising around on bikes.

    We are not fashion critics at PUBLIC, in fact quite the opposite. We think that anything goes on bikes and our PUBLIC bikes are especially designed for everyday wear. And we’re not exactly sure how bike lingerie from Movmoda really functions for the everyday bicyclist, but we like to see boundaries being pushed. We loved the variety of color and pattern, and the fact that the show included a full range of accessories, complete outfits, and great attention to detail. Kudos to Momentum.

    The fashion show is another example of women leading the industry in new directions. But it is a sea of change culturally. I was asked recently by the Daily Beast to write up what I considered to be the leading innovations in the industry. What I came up with was “more women riders.” Here is a sampling of the show. We’re all working together with new media to make sure that what happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas.

     
    Interbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in VegasInterbike Chic in Vegas
     

    Papergirl SF Hits The Streets With Art

    Papergirl SFPUBLIC was pleased to support Papergirl SF. Papergirl, as self-described, is a “mail-art and delivery systems art project that is participatory, analogue, non-commercial, and impulsive. ” We love seeing the way in which art creates community, fun, and connects to our mission about getting more people on bicycles. This past Sunday our PUBLIC office served as the launch pad to roll up 1,700 pieces of art from over 100 artists from 52 different cities and 11 different countries. Hundreds of strangers on the streets of San Francisco received a nice surprise by a lovely posse of bicyclists giving away and throwing rolled up art on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Take a look our photos we took of the strangers who received their surprises.

    December 6th, 2010

    On May 16 at 5:30pm, bicyclists (a motley group of designers, friends and bike lovers) will roll from the ICFF at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center heading to the Tretorn Store on Spring Street in SoHo for a reception. The Tretorn Store is the location for PUBLIC bikes in New York. PUBLIC bikes will be on display, and test rides will be available there during the ICFF and afterwards.

    Festive attire is encouraged. BYO Bike. And parking may be tricky, so BYOL (bring your own lock).

    Experience PUBLIC at Design Week

    In addition to test ride available at Tretorn, we’ll have PUBLIC bikes on display throughout Design Week. Come visit some of our friends.

    ICFF
    May 15-18, Javits Center
    If you’re attending ICFF, please stop by the Pablo and Heller exhibits and check out a PUBLIC bike.

    Partners and Spade
    40 Great Jones Street – see map
    Saturday May 15 Noho kickoff party: May 15, 7-10pm
    Partners & Spade hosts three installations during New York design week. You’ll find a PUBLIC among the installations, including Sight Unseen, is a collection of beautifully packaged foods from New York’s outer boroughs.

    BluDot
    Opening Party, Saturday May 15th, 6:30 pm
    140 Wooster St. between Houston and Prince – see map)
    Celebrate the launch of the latest BluDot products, including our new lighting collection.
    To attend, please RSVP judy@theloukincompany.com

    Design Within Reach
    Opening Party, Saturday, May 15, 7-9pm
    110 Greene St.
    Celebrate the Loll Lounge installation at the DWR SoHo studio with cocktails, DJ, and a PUBLIC bike on display.

    J.Crew Men’s Store
    484 Broadway in Tribeca
    We’ll be hanging out in the window of the Men’s Store and other J Crew favorites during Design Week. Come check it out.

    December 2nd, 2010


    Sacha White of Vanilla


    Sacha White of Vanilla


    Richard Sachs

    Dario Pegoretti
    Dario Pegoretti


    Mike Flanagan of A.N.T.


    Mike Flanagan of A.N.T.


    Peter Weigle

    Jeff Jones
    Jeff Jones

    Photo credits: Bespoke bicycle photos from Museum of Art and Design

    We are declaring May “Bike Design Month” in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg has not signed off on this title yet, but as his office has been actively supporting progressive smart alternative transportation, he probably won’t mind our rogue designation. There are two events of note:

    1) Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle at the Museum of Art and Design opens on May 13th. Michael Maharam (interview below) of textile fame and master bike builder Sacha White have put together a superb exhibition of contemporary handmade bikes.

    2) The launch of PUBLIC in and around the ICFF. Join a bunch of us on a festive bike ride on May 16th from Javits to SOHO for a reception at the Tretorn Store. Please RSVP online.

    Interview with Michael Maharam

    Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle displays the designs of six internationally renowned bicycle builders at the Museum of Arts & Design. Organized by Michael Maharam and master bicycle builder Sacha White, the exhibit explores emerging trends and innovations in the design world. We caught up with Michael earlier this week.

    Rob: It’s great to see this work made available in the museum context. Congrats. Is this the first show of its type in the US?

    Michael: As far as I know, yes….and long overdue. This is a fine craft, like glassblowing or cabinetmaking, though with an element of daily functionality and cultural timeliness which is highly relevant and greatly underexposed.

    How did the idea for the show evolve?
    I had asked Sacha White to build me a bicycle, and we got into a discussion about the fact that he had been building for a decade and wanted to take a break for a year to focus on building a small number of carefully considered bicycles without client or commercial constraint. I was having lunch with Holly Hotchner, the director of MAD that week, and I proposed to organize and curate a show based on Sacha’s desire.

    What would make the show success to you?
    Ultimately, raising public awareness of the craft, consumer understanding and expectation of the quality of products they purchase and compelling manufacturers to do a better job with quotidian products is critical if we are to transcend the era of material gluttony.

    The designers are all from the US except Dario Pegoretti. How did the US become such a force in bike design?
    Though this is a craft which has had numerous “golden ages”, its present appeal is as a force of zeitgeist. Underlying elements include the rise of physical fitness, environmentalism and individualism as points of cultural aspiration and expression.

    What’s the first thing you look for in a bike?
    I’m an aesthete…appearance coupled with the imagination and finesse of the builder.

    What is the first thing the untrained eye should look for in a bike?
    Comfort.

    Do you remember the first bike you ever rode?
    Rudge three speed…black, with gold trim. I removed the fenders to make a hot rod of it, come what may on rainy days.

    What kind of riding do you do personally? Ever been a racer?
    I’m a fair weather rider these days…commuting a bit and weekend exercise. Riding in Manhattan is misery enough, but to do so in rain and cold is beyond the fray. My hat is off to those who do.

    Ever ridden a fixed gear bike?
    Often, but not the variety presently in vogue. Through my young years I’ve built stripped down bicycles with a minimalistic bent. Again, it’s largely about Manhattan riding…hardly serene.

    Many see as you as uncompromising modernist. What is your personal interest in handmade bicycles? Aren’t they craft?
    I view modernism as the most fitting backdrop for all that I collect…and sell, as we sell our collection of textiles, which facilitates personal collecting. If I were a fan of baroque architecture, I’d only collect minimalism I suppose. Modernism soothes.

    I recall in one of our early conversations, maybe ten years ago, you rode a motorcycle. I did not know you were also a cyclist. This phenomenon is actually common, i.e. guys loving things with two wheels. What’s behind this love? Love of Speed?
    A young man’s first taste of independence.

    Is there a “Ray and Charles Eames” equivalent in the bike design world?
    I like the Raleigh Three Speed, myself. I think it’s elegant and practical. Though classic, not modern. As for modern, the phosphorescent shaft driven urban bicycles produced by Biomega are pretty smart.

    What’s the most unusual bike in your collection?
    I like my all aluminum Colnago Duall…polished aluminum lugs, unpainted aluminum tubes…very sculptural, though not very rigid.

    If I was one of your staff, would you allow me to keep my bike in your office if I rode it to work? You keep a pretty clean office.
    Not yet, but we’re working on it.

    Rob: Thanks, Michael. We’ll see you in New York.

    Share your thoughts.
    Join the conversation in the comments below.

    December 1st, 2010

    Coit Tower lit up in orange

    Coit Tower lit up in orange

    'The High Cost of Free Parking' by Donald Shoup

    'The High Cost of Free Parking' by Donald Shoup

    Donald Shoup in Paris

    Donald Shoup in Paris

    Two ”monuments” dedicated to the public space came on my radar screen this week. The first was Coit Tower, seen here from my deck illuminated in orange to honor of the San Francisco Giants playing in the World Series. It makes us smile, and it brings focus to an important architectural icon in the city. The other monument is a massive 737-page tome that arrived on my desk called, The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup. What do they have in common?

    Shoup’s book and the Orange Coit Tower help us look at our public spaces from a fresh perspective and to consider their value and potential in our daily lives. How do we assess the real value of public spaces in our cities anyway? What is Golden Gate or Central Park worth to us? What about the value of the common everyday sidewalk or street corner where people congregate? How about a public bench, beach, train station, bike path or dog park? These are heady issues without easy answers. Social economics is tricky like that, and usually gets left to academics. I guess that’s why it takes 737 pages to give the subject of free parking its fair due. An advertising person might simply reduce it down to “Think Differently,” like Apple does.

    Shoup’s persuasive premise is that free parking is the great blind spot of American local politics. We agree. We have remarked on this in our own modest way in the past, for example our That Blind Spot post. Rarely do we share quotes, but take a minute to absorb these poignant reviews.

    “Free parking is like a fertility drug for cars. Many people don’t realize how much of the high price of housing is due to requirements by local governments that a certain number of parking spaces must be provided. These costs are paid by everyone, including those who don’t own a car.”

    “In this revelatory, revolutionary book, UCLA professor Donald Shoup persuasively explains why almost everything we are told about parking either by professional planning experts or by ‘common sense’ is wrong, and argues that current parking policies constitute the greatest planning disaster in human history.”

    “Shoup points out that if we decided that gasoline should be free, the result we would expect would be obvious: people would drive too much, shortages of gasoline would develop, fights would break out over scarce gas, and governments would go broke trying to pay for it all. Parking is no different. Providing free parking leads to overuse, shortages, and conflicts over parking. Cash-strapped local governments and neighborhoods lose out too.”

    
“I was stunned to find out that in some neighborhoods up to 90% of the traffic has been found to be people cruising around looking for a place to park. Charging the right price for parking according to local demand can get rid of this problem.”

    How many of us have the patience to read a 737-page book? How can we bridge the gap between academic work and public awareness? Should we paint parking spots orange, pile up a bunch of Shoup’s books in a parking space? Events like Park(ing) Day help raise awareness. An easier route might be to join “The Shoupistas” on Facebook. We need more creative minds think progressively about public space, like the city planner who dreamt of celebratory Orange Towers.

    One action we can take today is to Vote Tomorrow for legislation to improve the quality of our public space. If you live in California, a “No” vote on big oil-funded Prop. 23 is a “No” brainer. If you live in San Francisco’s western and northern neighborhoods, vote “Yes” for Bert Hill on the BART Board. We don’t usually endorse individuals, but transit advocate Bert Hill has unimpeachable professional credentials and a demeanor such that he teaches bicycle safety as avocation. His David vs. Goliath battle against the incumbent can be viewed here.

    Free Shipping on All Bikes in stock through November 16th

    Contest for Everyone. Even Students.

    We are giving away two bikes as part of our PUBLIC J7 and PUBLIC A7 launch, and there is a special program for college students. Please forward this page with details about our contest to your friends and family.

    Fall Blues Festival

    All blue PUBLIC Ds at 20% off
    We’ve got more Blue diamond-frame bikes (D1, D3, and D8) than we have room for in our warehouse, and we need to make space for new bikes coming in mid-November. For a limited time, we’re offering a special on our blue diamond bikes in single, 3, and 8 speeds, in all sizes. See our Fall Blues page for details.