Public Bikes Launches in New York with Style

public bikes orange photo

Public Bikes claims that it's not a bike company, but is a "more livable cities" company. Founder Rob Forbes launched Public Bikes in New York at ICFF with a big public ride from Javits Center in midtown to the Tretorn store in SOHO. Forbes calls his bikes "supremely practical objects" but they are also very beautiful.

public bikes rob forbes photo

Public Bikes founder Rob Forbes organizing the ride. Look for the photographer on the right in other photos; he videoed the ride while riding, very fast, on a skateboard.

There were quite a few Public Bikes for people to ride, but we were encouraged to bring our own. young and old riders arrived on young and old bikes, not a bit of spandex in sight. Forbes wants it that way; he talks about his experiences in Amsterdam:

public bikes young people photo

I spent several days riding a bike around the city and taking a million pictures. I saw firsthand how bikes connect people to their communities in a way that other vehicles cannot. They are the glue that keeps things human and humming throughout the city.

public bikes participants photo

I also realized that bikes were supremely practical objects. Riders dressed in street and work clothes, used bikes for everyday activities rather than for recreation. People were actually having fun getting around. And virtually everybody rode bikes. Older folks and kids. Women in dresses. Workers carrying plumbing tools. And somehow people looked so much sexier and chic than they did back home in wild colored spandex outfits.

public bikes at 34th street photo

The experience made me rethink the nature of the bike itself. I found that it's essentially an invention for getting around more easily, rather than a machine for racing. Ever since, I've been thinking and writing about bikes, and their value to our communities and our culture.

public bikes ride southbound photo

A major shift in biking can be seen in almost every major US city. In San Francisco young men and women are riding very simple, single speed bikes often assembled from old and new frames and components, each individually customized. The Riders were wearing jeans and skirts and sweatshirts and anything but Lycra. College students are choosing bikes over cars as their primary vehicle. Cities from New York to Louisville to Portland are building infrastructure for biking to support this "livable cities" movement. This has become a broad scale movement.

public bikes tretorn photo

It was a lovely ride, seeing so many people enjoying the nice weather, the congenial group and the wonderful bike lanes that are everywhere on the lower west side of Manhattan, which has truly become a cyclists paradise. Public Bikes are are not cheap, starting at $ 600 for the simplest single-speed. But as Forbes says, he is not selling bikes as much as the idea that his " real mission is to help make our communities more enjoyable." Old Schwinns and Raleighs were as welcome on the ride as were Public bikes.

On the bike trail next to the West Side Highway we were passed by many on far fancier, more expensive bikes, with riders wearing colourful lycra and clip-in shoes. I thought that they were a lot faster, but we were having a lot more fun.

More at Public Bikes

Rob Forbes describes Public Bikes at TED:

More at ICFF:
Camping at Home: Minimalist Living from Snow Peak
Transformer Desk from Urbancase Discreetly Hides Your Computer
Booth Trends: Live Action Demonstration Instead of Passive Presentation
The Designer's Material of the Year: Cork
Personalized Street Grid Stainless Steel Earrings: You Pick the Place
Canadian Cabin for Fluffy Little Critters from Loyal Luxe
Nobody Will Get Near You When You Ride with DesignKug's Bi-King Handlebars
WOOW Felt Bike Bags Carry the Small Stuff

Follow me on Twitter! @lloydalter

Related Content on