Rob Forbes definitely knows a thing or two about fashion-meets-function. After founding the cult-followed home emporium Design Within Reach in 1999, he’s now turning the biking industry on its head with the introduction of his new company, Public Bikes. Headquartered next to S.F.’s beautiful South Park, the much buzzed-about brand combines stunning European-inspired design—most notably marked by a jaw-dropping array of playful hues—with comfort and performance. To find out more about Public Bikes, the rise of bike-riding in the Bay, and Forbes' favorite local bike routes, we went one-on-one with the man behind the brand.
How did the idea of Public Bikes come about?
“I've always been a bike and scooter person over a car person. For a long time I have carefully observed and been fascinated with cities across the globe. What makes a well-designed city? What do they have in common? What design affects the largest number of people in public spaces? I found that bikes make cities more livable and our daily lives more fun. Seeing people having a good time on bikes in cities led to my belief that more bikes, and less cars, will improve our civic life. In the last five years or so, cool fixies and more women riding bikes have altered the feel and look of S.F. and NYC. And right now biking is the most prominent, visible youth movement in the U.S. Public is here with a mission to educate and enjoy everyday public life more and get more of this civic mindedness across generations."
How long have you been riding?
“I’ve been riding all my life, in every city I’ve lived in, but mostly for fun. Around the world, through numerous cities, the bike has been my preferred mode of transportation and since the mid-'80s I’ve been riding in San Francisco. Most days I ride to work and I've probably been over the Golden Gate Bridge 1000 times. When it rains I ride my scooter and I walk when I need to think. Over the last five years, my love for public spaces has led me to ride for everyday transportation.”
What are your favorite rides here in the city?
“I like to ride anywhere where other people are riding and there are few buses. In general, I like riding in with the locals, so one of my favorite rides is from Russian Hill, down Polk Street to SoMa, and across town on Folsom Street and to the Public studio on South Park. I also love the "Wiggle" from Market to Golden Gate Park, since, again, I like riding with other peeps. And over the Golden Gate Bridge, up and over the Headlands, and back on non-tourist days is great. But the jerks closed the road recently."
How would you convince someone to start biking?
“Here are 17 great reasons to get on a bike: Health, convenience, independence, sex appeal, economy, exhilaration, stress reduction, making friends, community connection, visual stimulation, access to cool places, wind in your hair, rising gas prices, efficiency, helping the environment, sensual pleasure, and silence. I think the most underrated reason is that last one, that bikes are essentially silent. In streets bombarded with exhausting noises from motor vehicles, bikes remind us of the inherent pleasure of quiet. Are there any other machines so kind to our ears? Maybe gliders.”
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