A lot of people could benefit from coming across a stylish utilitarian bicycle, in the ilk of the British 3-speed or French porteur bike, while shopping for a transportation among the Trek hybrids and Specialized Langster singlespeeds at their local bike shop. A lot of folks coming back to riding are just trying to get on a bike, and maybe a Dutch city bike, with its considerable heft and long wheelbase, may not be the best option (despite what the NYT Style section says). I think vintage is probably the best route for something practical at a relatively low price. Most 80s steel frames – especially the touring Treks, Miyatas, and Bridgestones – and old 3-speeds are as stylish and practical as they come (if you live in a flat-ish area). But some people don’t buy anything “used.” Kogswell, Surly, and Soma offer good utilitarian frames, but you have to know how to build them up.
Anyway, all of the above options are wonderful. But some folks just want something new, and often these are the same people who shop by price. So, they’re not going to support a custom frame builder — just yet.
I’ve always thought the Bianchi Milano was pretty smart. But here, Electra, a San Diego company, is coming out with the Ticino later this year. Inside word is that they will be at Interbike in September, and will be offered at different prices based on the builds (from basic single speed to kitted out randonneur models). They will come in traditional and step-through. Pretty cool, if it serves as a feeder to custom builders.
More information can be found here.