Where Public bikes shine brightest aren't as design objects, but rather as bikes themselves. If you've ever spent a summer (or a year, or a lifetime) turning wrenches at a bike shop, you've built your share of flat bar-skinny tired get-around-town bikes and you know what a mess they often are. Their fenders arrive dented and ugly; the fender struts are ill-conceived, making the wheels noisy when you ride; the canti brakes feel cheap and don't easily adjust; the saddles feel squishy and the tires cheap. In short, wouldn't you just rather commute on your race bike?
This is a good bicycle industry recap, including the interesting gossip about Performance and Dorel.