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We live in the city of dreams, We drive on the highway of fire
September 27, 2009 9:59 AM   Subscribe

David Byrne has just published a new book about bicycles called Bicycle Diaries. A long time rider, Byrne muses on how the world looks and works from the vantage point of a cyclist. It's getting pretty good reviews. To launch the book, Byrne is touring the US and arranging public forums. Each event features a civic leader, an urban theorist, a bicycle advocate, and Byrne himself speaking about bikes in cities. Here’s a schedule of the upcoming events. He’s also designed some bike racks for his hometown of New York City.

Special Bonus Links!

Byrne's review of Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes

A map of Byrne's Bike Racks.

A three part tour of Byrne's New York studio.

David Byrne on the perfect city. (Previously)
posted by Toekneesan (28 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like bikes. I like David Byrne.

I might like this.
posted by mazola at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2009


Awesome. I know he's been gabbing about bikes for the last couple years, so good to hear there's a book behind it. I just downloaded it to my kindle and I plan to read it over the next couple days. I'll pop a review here when I'm done.

Having gone from riding a bike in Portland, Oregon to riding one Las Vegas, NV in the span of a day, I'm keenly aware that transportation/urban design is a major difference on making cities more livable for various forms of transportation.
posted by mathowie at 10:10 AM on September 27, 2009


Nice, but those racks resemble sculpture more than a functional object. I'm waiting for some under-trained NYC cop to harass/beat/tase/ticket/arrest a cyclist for locking their bike to one of these, not knowing that they were actually designed for that purpose.

Besides, bike racks in New York City are quaintly useless, at best. What purpose do they serve, other than to provide convenient gathering places for bike thieves to hang out waiting for their next victim?
posted by deadmessenger at 10:41 AM on September 27, 2009


Here is a metal sculpture in Missoula, Montana being used as a bike rack.
posted by Tube at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2009


He's in Austin tonight. That's great.
posted by Pants! at 10:45 AM on September 27, 2009


He's got some stuff in the review of Pedaling Revolution that relates to the discussion of women and bike lanes we had here a few days ago:
For decades, Americans have too often seen cycling as a kind of macho extreme sport, which has actually done a lot to damage the cause of winning acceptance for biking as a legitimate form of transportation. If your association with bikes is guys in spandex narrowly missing you on the weekends or YouTube videos of kids flying over ramps on their clown-size bikes, you’re likely to think that bikes are for only the athletic and the risk-prone.
That strikes me as exactly right.
As Mapes points out, when more women begin riding, that will signal a big change in attitude, which will prompt further changes in the direction of safety and elegance. I can ride till my legs are sore and it won’t make riding any cooler, but when attractive women are seen sitting upright going about their city business on bikes day and night, the crowds will surely follow. A recent article in a British newspaper showed the pop singer Duffy on a pink bike. The model Agyness Deyn claims never to be without hers, and Courteney Cox reportedly presented Jennifer Aniston with a Chanel bike last year. Tabloid fodder does not a revolution make, but it’s a start.
That strikes me as silly. Generally speaking, I don't think that being associated with women, let alone with models and Hollywood starlets, is the way to mainstream acceptance in America. Or rather, it's the way to a kind of mainstream acceptance, but not the kind that gets you taken into account in urban planning decisions. I think it's great that more women are riding bikes, and it's fine by me if some of them are hotties, but I don't think that's going to be a factor in changing American transportation policy.
posted by craichead at 10:46 AM on September 27, 2009


My problem is that I can't read a book about riding bicycles while I'm riding a bicycle.
posted by fuq at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2009


Don't leave me stranded here
I can't get used to this lifestyle
posted by sourwookie at 11:29 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice, but those racks resemble sculpture more than a functional object. I'm waiting for some under-trained NYC cop to harass/beat/tase/ticket/arrest a cyclist for locking their bike to one of these, not knowing that they were actually designed for that purpose.

Actually, one extremely popular bike rack design (the kind that looks like several normal and inverted U's and is bolted to the ground in only two places) was copied from a piece of contemporary sculpture. There was a huge copyright suit about it (the bike rack guy won out).

I'm sorry I can't find a citation for this. I was told the story by a trademark lawyer.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:39 AM on September 27, 2009


To launch the book, Byrne is touring the US and arranging public forums.

Preaching to the converted in cities that are already bike-friendly.

Toronto and Ottawa are in Canada.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:15 PM on September 27, 2009


That's great David. Now get out of the street.
posted by Faze at 12:32 PM on September 27, 2009


I love those bike racks! And as an NYC cyclist I would find them completely functional, too, as long as it was well made. I once parked my bike on a rack, and when I returned half an hour later, the entire rack and all bikes on it had been removed.
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:01 PM on September 27, 2009


As Mapes points out, when more women begin riding, that will signal a big change in attitude, which will prompt further changes in the direction of safety and elegance. I can ride till my legs are sore and it won’t make riding any cooler, but when attractive women are seen sitting upright going about their city business on bikes day and night, the crowds will surely follow.
Oh, for heaven's sake, now we're sexualizing bicycling? I've been riding since I was four years old. Until I got my driver's license, my bike had always been my main means of transportation. As an adult, I used it strictly for recreation/exercise during my after-work hours. I would've loved to have biked it to work but I was always hindered either by A) distance, B) strict dress code that prohibited helmet hair stringy with perspiration and smelly employees (no shower facilitie) overall. A quick rinse at the sink didn't help the rivers of perspiration running down my person after my five mile commute, not to mention that it was awkward to ride in a skirt suit, and I was unable to carry a garment bag on my bike. When I did get a job within cycling distance that didn't care if you wore slacks and arrived sweaty, it was in a very unsavory neighborhood where even driving in a car was dicey. I'm regularly amazed/envious of all these folks I read about here and elsewhere who are able to commute to their jobs via bicycle. Do you change clothes when you get to work? Does the company provide a place to keep your suit? Are you able to shower before changing into your work clothes? The prospect of donning a blouse and blazer while soaked in sweat absolutely makes me cringe. Not to mention what the combination of perspiration and helmet does to my very fine, somewhat thinning, hair. I'm presuming these attractive women of which Byrne speaks are either not en route to any place important, or they have a complete hair styling and cosmetic kit tucked away at their destination.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:08 PM on September 27, 2009


My commute is about two miles each way, Oriole Adams. I leave with my hair wet, and it generally hasn't dried totally by the time I arrive. I pop into the bathroom and style it when I arrive, which takes care of the helmet head. I don't really sweat during my commute. If it's really hot I walk my bike up my one big hill or I leave the bike at home and take the bus, both of which minimize the sweating.

I bike to work in my work clothes. I don't work in the kind of office where anyone wears a suit, but I have definitely done it in a skirt and heels. When I started, I biked to work in a t-shirt, carried a different top with me, and changed when I got to work, but I pretty quickly decided that wasn't necessary. I really only sweated a lot for the first couple of weeks, before my body adjusted to bike riding.
posted by craichead at 1:44 PM on September 27, 2009


I'm not sure I understand the point you are trying to make- first you say cycling is being sexualized by a remark made about a demographic trend (I find the use of the adjective "attractive" strange, but to ignore demographic shifts and the potential they have to instigate change is also strange), and then you make a remark that insinuates that any woman that might fall under the "attractive" and "cyclist" column can't possibly be going anyplace important or spends time primping and preening after arrival. As a women who 1) considers herself reasonably attractive 2) cycles to and from the train to university and goes straight to class, I'm a little ruffled at the insinuation that I must not be doing anything "important". Do you make the same judgment about male cyclists?
posted by oneirodynia at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wasn't overly enthused about the implication that women who bike to work must be unimportant or slovenly, but I take her point about sexualization, oneirodynia. I thought Byrne's comment about attractive women was kind of weird.
posted by craichead at 1:54 PM on September 27, 2009


I ride about two miles. I don't break much of a sweat because I take it easy. I often wear formal trousers, and I just use a clip to stop them getting snagged in the chain. I have rain gear in my panniers. In other words, I am the sensible middle-aged high school teacher of your youth :D

Most of the workplaces I've had in the last 10 years have had showers, and when I've had a longer sweatier commute I would pack a change of clothes and use the shower. Maybe that's a cultural difference here.

I think Byrne is trying to make a reasonable point about changing people's perception of cycling, but I agree he chose a lousy way to make it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:14 PM on September 27, 2009


David Byrne was born in Scotland - so we claim him as one of our own. We'd probably even fight ye fur him if we hud tae, ya basturts. He's one of very many splendid Scottish contributions to the world. NY therefore is strictly speaking his adoptive hometown. And as adoptive hometowns go he'd have been hard-pressed to find a better one than The Big Apple.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:29 PM on September 27, 2009


and then you make a remark that insinuates that any woman that might fall under the "attractive" and "cyclist" column can't possibly be going anyplace important or spends time primping and preening after arrival.

I may be unique, but after riding five miles or more (and I've never worked closer to home than that) I work up a good lather, especially in warm weather. I have very fine, thinning hair, which takes a lot of blow-dry fluffing and hairspray after shampooing to make it look like anything other than a $1.98 wig I bought on sale. I'm not saying riding to a university class is "unimportant," but my reference point was a job that required women to wear suits with pantyhose and heels. When I wore a backpack with my work shoes and purse, I ended up with a huge sweaty patch on my back. I do wonder how male cyclists who were required to wear a suit and tie managed to bike to work without either looking sweaty and rumpled or managing to somehow shower and change when they arrived at work. I've worked at a variety of different places since 1976, and have never yet worked at a company that had employee showers for either men or women. Do male cyclists whose jobs require suits and ties wear said outfit while biking (other than Mormon missionaries, I haven't seen many men riding thus clad), or do they don their business suits over a sweaty body (if shower facilities aren't available)?
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2009


When I wore a backpack with my work shoes and purse, I ended up with a huge sweaty patch on my back.
That's definitely a problem. The general solution to it is to get a basket or panniers, pannier being a fancy name for a bag that attaches to your bike. You can put your stuff in that rather than a backpack, and you avoid the sweat spot on your back. There are panniers that detach and look like a backpack or briefcase. You can actually get special garment bag panniers, which are supposed to get your suit to work unwrinkled. I don't know if they actually work, though.

(I got this guy, and I just put my purse and lunch in it. I don't need to carry a briefcase, though.)

Another solution is to drive to work once a week, drop off a week's worth of clothes, and then change when you get to work. It seems like a hassle to me, but some people do it.

I'm certainly not saying that everyone can bike to work, because clearly some people can't. But there are sometimes workarounds to the problems people perceive with biking to work. And as you suggest, they're problems for men as well as women.
posted by craichead at 3:37 PM on September 27, 2009


after riding five miles or more (and I've never worked closer to home than that)

Ah, I think that explains a lot. I've never lived that far from my job in my life! Five miles is quite a reasonable ride.

When I had longer (say four mile) commutes, I would bike in shorts and a tshirt, which cut down the sweat a lot, and then change into clean clothes. I've had several colleagues over the years who kept their suits and shirts at work.

I think local culture has a great deal to do with it. In places where office workers go jogging at lunchtime it's typical for office designs to have a shower or two as part of the fit-out, and for co-workers to accept your temporary dishevellment.

But also, the kind of unhurried, unsweaty cycle transport Byrne is talking about really works best in cities where people live somewhat close to their jobs. "Close" is a relative term and probably is a much different distance in a recently sprawly car-orientated US city than in an older, more compact city in another country.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:41 PM on September 27, 2009


Do male cyclists whose jobs require suits and ties wear said outfit while biking ... or do they don their business suits over a sweaty body

I bike seven miles to my job. When I first started I just wore my work clothes (not a full suit, but if I needed a jacket I would have just kept it at work or carried it on my rack). I could keep a pretty good pace without getting sweaty most days. If I did get a little sweaty I would just take it easy the last mile and if needed coast around the parking lot a bit to cool off. As a precaution I kept an extra shirt stowed at work. (Here I am as caught by Google Maps attired thusly)

Now, I wear shorts and a tshirt in the warmer months because I rather like giving myself a good workout and not taking it so easy. Even though I am a bit more sweaty this way sometimes, I find that a few minutes of cooling down before I change does the trick of evaporating the sweat.

If I was biking less than five miles or in a more flat location my laziness would probably win out and I'd just wear my work clothes.
posted by mikepop at 6:57 AM on September 28, 2009


this is why i am sometimes wary about bike racks.

i wonder if anything has been done since then to improve them.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 10:08 AM on September 28, 2009


I don't think Byrne was sexualizing cycling, he was saying that attractive women are the polar opposite to burly lycra-clad mountain biking men. He's saying America won't change the burly stereotype in their minds until they see enough of the polar opposite to combat the idea. It's not so much that no one does anything until someone pretty does it, it's that normal people are more likely to do something if they see that clean, attractive people can do it without becoming sweaty gross people.
posted by toekneebullard at 1:03 PM on September 28, 2009


From Scientific American: Women are an "indicator species" for urban bikeability:
“If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,” says Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of several studies on biking and gender differences.

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ­rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

“Despite our hope that gender roles don’t exist, they still do,” says Jennifer Dill, a transportation and planning researcher at Portland State University. Addressing women’s concerns about safety and utility “will go a long way” toward increasing the number of people on two wheels, Dill explains.
posted by Lexica at 9:25 PM on October 3, 2009


David Byrne was on Weekend Edition Sunday this morning and discussed the book and offered more thoughts on cycling. Link includes an excerpt from the book.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:26 PM on October 4, 2009


Watch David ride his bike through New York in this New York Times video.

(So'd you ever get around to that review, Mr. Haughey?)
posted by Toekneesan at 12:57 PM on October 14, 2009


I saw David Byrne this summer at San Francisco International Airport, and agonized for an hour over whether to bother him.

That doesn't have anything to do with bikes, but that was closest I'd ever come to a celebrity I actually had an interest in.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:42 AM on October 15, 2009


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