August 10th, 2010

Mayors and HelmetsCopenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen (right)

Mayors and HelmetsDanish “World Cup” helmets

Mayors and HelmetsMayors and HelmetsMayors and helmets

Denmark has a long tradition of helmets and head protection used for battling wartime opponents and confronting freezing winters. So they must know their stuff about protecting noggins. When we visited Copenhagen last month we took note that only a minority of the cyclists wore bike helmets in the city. We saw Nutcase helmets on kids, racing helmets on bike messengers, and some chic hats on women’s heads. But scarves were more common than helmets. The Mayor himself, the figurehead for the biking conference we attended, chose not to wear a helmet in the 2000 person bike parade we all took through the city.

Was he making a statement? Of course, he is a politician after all and very conscious of his public image and opinions. I did not interview him, but I can wager his rationale. He has reviewed the data over the last ten years in Copenhagen enough to know that bike safety is first and foremost a function of the number of people riding bikes and protected streets. He was campaigning to reduce the fear element associated with cycling. Many people think that cycling is unsafe and helmets often confirm this assumption. He was communicating what recent urban bike studies have shown — there is safety in numbers.

Serious injuries have declined by 20% in Denmark in the last decade as cycling has increased 20%. The same trends are seen in other cities. Take New York for a local example. Cycling is up 66% from 2007 -2009 and injuries are down 50%.

The key to safe riding is related to a range of factors: the number of riders overall, driver awareness, separate lanes, safe streets, and intelligent riding. At PUBLIC we are advocates for the concept of urban cycling as fast walking. The most entertaining dissertation I have read on helmet usage may be in David Byrne’s book and come from his personal efforts to cope with this issue.

Back to Mayors. Would Mayor Gavin Newsom ride a bike without a helmet? Probably not. Why? In the U.S., the infrastructure and culture for bicycling is far behind places like Copenhagen, so helmet use is generally encouraged.  Also driver awareness and respect here in the U.S. are much lower.  But Mayor Newsom was front and center today right in our SOMA neighborhood for a bike lane painting ceremony to mark the end of the painful injunction that has kept us in the dark ages.  Check him out painting the new bike lane. Now San Francisco can roll with the rest of the U.S. 
We love to see our Mayors taking action around the country on behalf of alternative transit. Mayor Bloomberg of New York, with Janette Sadik- Kahn, has been the poster child in recent years. But Mayor Daley of Chicago recently implemented the B-Cycle bike share program, throwing down the gauntlet: 

“My goal is to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States.”

We welcome the competitive spirit almost as much as new bike lanes.

– Rob Forbes



We sell helmets at PUBLIC, and we love them. And we encourage people to wear protection if they are riding fast, in dangerous areas, or where cars propose a threat. That Danish Mayor probably straps on a helmet when he is late for a meeting across town and biking over icy pavement. But we will also continue to lobby for safe streets, slow riding, driver education, and more Mayors on bikes.


July 22nd, 2010

Danish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the Streets

When was the last time you saw a carpenter carrying a ladder on a bike while drinking coffee, or woman carrying two purses on handlebars, or a newspaper chain guard, or a pink bike-parking facility on the street? Danes are known for pragmatic design and keep efficiency at the core of their bicycle culture. Riding bikes is good fun in Denmark, so no surprise that one third of Danes use a bike on a daily basis.

The Danes have a longstanding reputation for design based on principles of practicality and simplicity. The 20th century Danish Modern movement advanced these ideals. They pioneered sustainable woods (teak), enduring metal (stainless steel), and they turned recycled wood scraps into plywood, which led to some of the most iconic pieces of modern design. Legendary designer Nana Dietzel told me once that there was a reason for their pragmatism: Danish designers mostly came from backgrounds in cabinetry, not architecture. They are makers, not theorists.

While Danish Modern faded as a movement in the latter part of the 20th century, the Danes have resurfaced as international leaders in design of the contemporary “livable” cities movement—Copenhagen is the poster child. Danish city planner/designer Jan Gehl is as widely respected for his city design as Arne Jacobsen for chair design. We witnessed this Danish practicality and attention to detail in design examples seen on the streets:

  • Separated and protected lanes for bicycles and pedestrians
  • Ubiquitous bike carts to haul kids and instruments
  • Covered bike-parking areas to protect from weather
  • Train cars earmarked for bikes
  • Bikes with racks for carrying almost anything: children, ladders, plants, etc
  • Public bike racks done artfully and efficiently for storage
  • On street storage for large bike carts
  • Street signals that solve basic safety issues
  • Tile wedges to lessen curb bouncing

As pragmatic as they may seem with their common sense design approach, it is their resourcefulness, humor and style and that make them especially relevant. And filmmakers like Mikael Colville-Andersen and Copenhagen Cycle Chic are making biking more than a practical option.

Danish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the Streets

July 20th, 2010

Heads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in Taiwan

In Taiwan the buildings stretch upward and a sea of scooters flows between them like no place we know in Europe. The scooter population is such that separate lanes have been set-aside for them on some freeways. Parked scooters dominate the sidewalks. Huge packs of scooter riders mass at stoplights where the car drivers allow them to go first when the light changes. They have special scooter-specific graphic messages on the pavement.

In short, scooters set the pace and the tone for movement around their cities. They are like the taxis in New York, except that they lack color. They form a sort of moving grey monolith – like government issued, anonymous machines. There is none of the style or glamour of the Vespas in Italy, but neither is there the noise level. These scooters are much quieter than their European counterparts, and Taiwan lacks groups of kids noisily terrorizing peaceful piazzas or quiet streets. In Taiwan scooters create an omnipresent, but fairly quiet, visual and auditory background drone.

The helmets on the riders of these non-descript scooters are, on the other hand, all about diversity. Sitting at a busy intersection watching the throngs of riders go by, I noticed many styles and colors of helmets, most refreshingly free of any commercial branding. Offer a population a very limited range of choices and they will still find ways to express their individuality. The bouquet of helmets scooting by made for an optimistic contrast to the otherwise pervasive asphalt gray.

Heads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in TaiwanHeads Up in Taiwan

PUBLIC Helmets

Protecting your noggin is important, and we try to make the daily ride a little more fun – and your head little more visible – at the same time. We sell a few helmets that are not designed for scooters but bikes.

Special Deals this Month

Free shipping on bikes. A good way to view the details of our bikes is on this short video clip courtesy of Fast Company.
Apparel Sale. All of our clothing is On Sale.

July 14th, 2010

Commuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in Europe

We took a look at bicycling attire on the streets of Copenhagen and Amsterdam recently. This was good fun, as you can see the friendly faces of people riding around when they are not concealed under a helmet. We noticed that there were actually more scarves than helmets on riders. It’s not that they are more concerned with fashion than with safety abroad. It’s rather that scarves, like front zippers on jackets or gloves, allow you warm up, or cool off quickly. They are an easy way to adjust to changes in weather from morning until night. They allow people to ride more often, and in greater numbers. This might be the real key to safety.

Facts: Safety in Numbers

Cars respect cyclists in these cities. Riders have some special rights and privileges, like dedicated lanes. Serious bicycle injuries have been in decline in recent decades in Copenhagen and Amsterdam because more people are riding. A recent 20% rise in cycling was accompanied by a corresponding 20% decline in injuries in the past decade. The same dynamics occur in US cities. When more people ride, the streets are safer as the car drivers and bicyclists pay more attention. There is safety in numbers.

Commuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in EuropeCommuter Neckwear in Europe


We recommend helmets for bicyclists in the US and we sell a few that are quite special. We also sell some gloves and other accessories for comfort—some are On Sale right now. We look forward to a time when we will have separated safe lanes and paths for bicyclists in US cities, more respect from car drivers, more scarves than helmets, and more hard-core commuter footwear like this on the street.


July 13th, 2010

Bondage in AmsterdamBondage in Amsterdam

Bicycle theft is a sad fact of life in every country we know. It sucks. And most of us have had a bike or bike component stolen at some point. Depending on our mood, theft hits us somewhere along the unfair–depressing–devastating continuum. Is there any way to see something positive in bicycle theft? Not really, but if one had to try, studying the scene in Holland offers some rich material.

We learned on a recent trip to the Netherlands that 750,000 bikes get reported as stolen every year. That’s about 2% of all bikes in that country. The Dutch typically employ a standard rear wheel clamp to deter petty thieves, and a hunky steel chain sheathed in fabric to discourage hard-core thieves. These Dutch chains and locks are as ubiquitous in Amsterdam, and they make for some compelling compositions – studies in contrasting materials, color, and form. The durability and permanence of steel in our world of plastics and virtual safeguards is a compelling story. And chains and locks are quite brilliant low-tech solutions that have endured without much change since the advent of civilization. There is something cool about that.

These compositions are as individual as the bike riders themselves and offer us one chance (admittedly desperate) to put a happy face on bike theft.


A Gallery of Bike Locks

Bondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in AmsterdamBondage in Amsterdam

Bike Locks

Our own Public Kryptonite lockWe sell two basic solutions that work for most situations in the US. Our Kryptonite u-lock will keep most hard-core thieves away, and using a cable lock in addition will offer even better protection. Using your good senses and defensive instincts are the best deterrents to bike bandits, and most thefts are a result of bicyclist naïveté. If your PUBLIC gets stolen keep in mind that we have the serial number on record to help track down your bike.  

Also, please check out our Shoes and Socks Sale for the month of July.


July 12th, 2010

We’re teaming up with our friends for a rather unique Bikes & Boudoir event this Friday, July 16 from 6-8 pm at My Boudoir on 2285 Union Street @ Steiner in San Francisco.

It’s not often you see bikes and boudoir in the same sentence, but we’re joining forces with My Boudoir and Pedal Panties to celebrate “Where the PUBLIC Meets the PRIVATE.”

My Boudoir is a highly regarded retailer in San Francisco’s Union Street whose mission is to fill a woman’s ever changing lingerie mood.

Pedal Panties’ Bicycle Lingerie brings you a fashionable alternative to traditional bike clothing.

Besides being with friends for happy hour, you can test ride PUBLIC bikes, get special deals on PUBLIC accessories, get 25% off great lingerie from My Boudoir, and also discounts on Pedal Panties.

We are also converting four parking spots into gathering areas in front of the My Boudoir store for this event – inspired by PARKI(ing) Day and our friends from REBAR.

You can RSVP or use Facebook to invite your friends.

July 9th, 2010

I took a break from the VELOCITY 2010 conference and rode to the Copenhagen street corner billed as the busiest intersection in the city. A meter there counts the number of bikes that pass by as they cross the bridge. 27 cyclists cruised by during one light change; 15,000 in all on that day; and 1,815,570 so far this year. Quite cool. The stream of cyclists felt like the very definition of freedom and self-reliance. And people looked happy and alive as they pedaled along on their way to work or school—it was a collective experience of a high order. I submit that this counter is as good a “civilization meter” as anything that history has provided.

Traditionally we have used other data to decide what makes a great civilization.

If cultural output is the yardstick, Egypt and Classical Greece are looking pretty good. But did enough of the community share in the greatness? If civilian enlightenment is the measure, China during the Sung dynasty (9th Century) comes out well: their civil servants had to pass tests that included writing poetry and painting landscapes. What about those who never took the test?

The US considers itself highly civilized based on education standards, citing statistics about how many people have college degrees. But Native Americans – who greatly value their connection to nature – might see things a bit differently.

Whichever aspect of civilization you value more, it seems fundamental that a truly civilized society has to be one in which the greatest number of people feel safe and secure as they move around and congregate in their public spaces. This is where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness take place, where they are visible. And you can judge the greatness of a city by the percentage of people using and enjoying the public spaces.

This brings us to bikes.

No need for a mini-van hereThe Danes consider themselves as civilized as it gets. They take pride in their egalitarian and democratic principles, and they have become tireless advocates of rights for pedestrians and cyclists. More than one third of Danes ride a bike everyday to school or work. They have become synonymous with cycling (along with the Dutch). Over the last 50 years they have weaned themselves away from cars in urban areas, and they have increased the amount of public spaces devoted to pedestrians, cyclists, sidewalk cafes, etc. Denmark now leads the Livable Cities initiatives internationally. And they can quantify the advance of their civilization:

  • 16% of all transportation trips taken in Denmark are by bike
  • 45% of all kids ride a bike to school everyday
  • 25% of all parents bike their toddlers around the cities
  • 20% fewer bike injuries have occurred as cycling has increased 20% in recent years
  • 9% of the population in Denmark suffers from obesity
  • (30% of the US population suffers from obesity. We ‘lead’ the world in this metric)

Warehouse Sale this Saturday

If you happen to be in the Bay Areas next week, please come to our first ever warehouse sale. We’ll have bikes, samples and all kinds of things. The location is right on Harrison Street. See more details on our Sample Sale.

July 5th, 2010

Yellow sandals for commuting complete with matching toenail polish

I was with a group of American friends last month, riding around the streets of Copenhagen. We were checking out the way the Danes have made cycling the appealing, logical, and safe choice of transport in the city. The most noticeable differences, after the sheer number of people riding, was that there are as many – or maybe even more – women than men on bikes and that people wear their everyday clothes while riding.

There is still the expected competitive cyclist attitude with faster riders forcing slower riders to get out of their way, but it takes a different form:

“Back home the riders passing me are typically aggressive guys in bike shorts and cleated shoes on racing bikes pumping away with their heads down. Here it’s women in leggings and sandals, or some guy with dress shoes, on three-speeds sounding a warning from behind with a bell.”

– New Yorker bicyclist

Here is a sampling of some hard-core commuter footwear from Copenhagen.

Bikes and sandals - a perfect picture of summerSocks over the pants make up for lack of chainguardSummer sandalsA more traditional lookRed heels, classic white fendered bike, and a skirted rider make a beautiful imageYou won't be seeing these in the Tour de FranceBallet slipper flatsA version of Chuck Taylors pedaling awayEven the simple flip flop is comfortable to ride withCasual sandals and a visual example of why a chainguard is a good ideaRed flats on a commuterCycling doesn't mean having to give up your business attireMaking a statement with blue Chuck Taylors - and check out those stripesIn the US, we're used to seeing flip flops like these on the boardwalk more often than on a bikePoppy red low heelsTasteful heels with denim - but when's the last time you saw this on a bicycle?Stylish strappy redBright blue flats

July 2nd, 2010

Bracelet with orange pom-pomOrange banners contrasting against ornate, Danish doorsEven lamp posts look fabulous with orange boasPublic Orange M3Great design for a cafe bench, made even better with a flashy orange wheelOrange banners adorning a city street

Holland appropriated the color orange for its national identity centuries ago. How that occurred is not nearly as interesting as the fact they continue to stand by it and identify with it in unison. They don’t have blue states or red states in Holland; it’s just one big orange State. What other country has pulled this off an aesthetic cultural coup like this? A color is so much more provocative than a windmill as a national identity. If they had picked pastel green we would not be so impressed. Orange has far more personality, like the Dutch themselves.

We ended up in Amsterdam last week on a bike trip while the World Cup was in full swing. We watched Holland play Slovakia one afternoon with our Dutch pals at a local bar. It was a riot of orange, inside, outside, and all around. The servers were all wearing the orange dresses that have become infamous for the scandal that ensued in South Africa and got busted by Budweiser. The bar atmosphere was more like a carnival than a sports event and there were as many women as men watching the match. The World Cup, and orange, has this effect—it makes most people convivial, energetic and social.

The city was also playground for the color orange. There were the obvious banners and t-shirts. Lamps, trees and public monuments were wrapped up but more interesting was the discreet use, like this orange poof on a stylish woman’s bracelet or designer Marcel Wanders’, a soccer fan, orange bling on his necklace. With all the orange mania you lose the ability to distinguish between soccer specific orange and everyday orange. You see it in common objects like milk cartons, tarps and wheel hubs. Orange got the World Cup bump, and for this we thank history, Holland and the World Cup.

PUBLIC Bike in Orange

Color theorists say that orange has special powers to make us more creative, curious and hungry. We can’t say for sure. We selected orange for our bikes for reasons that are entirely personal. But since our best selling bike is orange, we know that we are not alone in our adoration. In fact, we have run out of stock in certain sizes of PUBLIC M’s. But if we do not have your model and size in stock you can place an order for fall and receive a 10% discount for the next delivery. We’ll plan to be back in stock for Halloween and certainly before the Holiday colors kick in.

Stripes Sale

Our cute little a summer sale ends on July 11th with the last World Cup match. This is your chance to be part of the World Cup action. (Holland plays Brazil tomorrow.)

Hiring: Web Producer

We have an open position for some local talent. Please send referrals our way. They don’t have to love orange but they have to love bikes.

See more of our Orange Gallery on our Flickr account.

Marcel's jewelryShowing their orange at the localMarcel Wanders & companionOrange can make just about any object more attractiveYoung, orange-shirted pedalerRiding on the front of a bike with dad and an orange boaAn orange cap adds some pizazz to a mild cartonShopping around town with an orange skirtFixed gear rider wearing orange t-shirt