David Byrne is a renowned musician, visual artist, author, and most famously, the former lead singer for the music group Talking Heads. He also happens to be a bicycle advocate who has used a bicycle as his primary means of transport in New York City for nearly 30 years. His new book, Bicycle Diaries, is a chronicle of his experiences riding his bicycle through New York City and a number of other major cities around the world. From DavidByrne.com:
Since the early 1980s, David has been riding a bike as his principal means of transportation in New York City. Two decades ago, he discovered folding bikes and started taking them with him when travelling around the world. DB’s choice was initially made out of convenience rather than political motivation, but the more cities he saw from his bicycle, the more he became hooked on this mode of transport and the sense of liberation, exhilaration, and connection it provided. This point of view, from his bike seat, became his panoramic window on urban life, a magical way of opening one’s eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city’s geography and population.
Bicycle Diaries chronicles David’s observations and insights —what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about —as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities. In places like Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, and London, the focus is more on the musicians and artists he encounters. Politics comes to the fore in cities like Berlin and Manila, while chapters on New York City, and on the landscaped suburban industrial parks and contemporary ruins of such spots as Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are more concerned with history in the urban landscape. Along the way, DB has thoughts to share about fashion, architecture, cultural isolation, globalization, and the radical new ways that some cities, like his home town, are becoming more bike-friendly —all conveyed with a highly personal mix of humor, curiosity, and humanity.
I recently received a pre-release copy of Bicycle Diaries. I’ve only just skimmed the book, but what I’ve read so far is fascinating. Bicycle Diaries is due to be published on September 21; I plan to finish the book before then and follow up with a short review here.