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Book Review: “Bicycle Diaries” by David Byrne

Earlier this summer (yes, it is still summer here in Florida no matter what the calendar says), the good folks at Viking sent me a review copy of David Byrne’s eagerly-awaited Bicycle Diaries (New York: Penguin Group, 2009).

cover

David Byrne first began riding a bicycle for transportation in the early 1980s. Toward the latter part of that decade, he starting bringing a bicycle with him on tour and keeping a travel and tour diary. Bicycle Diaries is an interesting look back at some of his adventures…part travelogue, part social/political commentary and part observations of what is right (and wrong) with the world around us.

In this book, the bicycle is used as a vehicle (pun intended) to introduce Byrne, and by extension, the reader, to some of the cities he traveled to during his tours. Once that introduction is made, the bike is not an important part of the narrative. Byrne discovered early on that the bicycle let him…

…[feel] more connected to the life on the streets than I would have inside a car or in some form of public transport: I could stop whenever I wanted to; it was often (very often) faster than a car or taxi for getting from point A to point B; and I didn’t have to follow any set route. The same exhilaration, as the air and street life whizzed by, happened again in each town. It was, for me, addictive.

The book is loosely arranged by country…a few stops in U.S. cities, some in Europe, the Middle East and South America. Byrne writes a rambling narrative…his mind is all over the map, both geographically and intellectually. His commentaries throughout touch on art and artists, music, urban and transportation planning, city history and many other subjects. Although it tends to ramble, the book flows nicely from city to city, from country to country, and from idea to idea. There is a lot to absorb here and a lot of references to other works that will make the curious want to read up on some of the subjects Byrne talks about.

Toward the end of the book, Byrne describes the state of cycling affairs in his hometown of New York City. He describes the events in which he transformed into somewhat of a surprise cycling advocate, talks about some of New York’s infrastructure plans for the future, and illustrates
his role in the bike rack contest held there last year.

Finally, he includes a couple pages of brief cycling tips and drawings of some of the bike rack designs he submitted.

I enjoyed this book immensely — while I don’t agree with all of Byrne’s advocacy stances, the book was a fascinating journey into his travels, his thoughts and his beliefs about societies throughout the world. Add it to your booklist!

Assorted Fun Stuff For Your Tuesday

Here’s a collection of odd bits I’ve been emailed in the past week — or things I’ve discovered surfing the Web. Enjoy!

Artistic bike racks have been all over the news…nice to see that cities are trying to simultaneously spruce things up AND add bicycling infrastructure. Here’s a shot of a really nice bike rack just outside Millenium Park in Chicago — forwarded by our friend Ann Rappaport:

bike rack

Faithful reader Kevin Turner of Jersey City, NJ forwarded a link to the following online cartoon:

system

The complete cartoon series is called “The System” and can be found by clicking here. Based on the cartoons’ content, I can gather that the artist is a bike commuter, graphic designer and a serious smartass — thumbs up all the way around! There are several other commuter-friendly strips in his collection, too.

I spotted this on the excellent Cycleicious blog a couple weeks ago. Since then, I’ve scoured the Web looking for a high-resolution version so I can print and distribute these beauties wherever I go. No luck…but if any of you happen to find a better version out there, please post a link in the comment section:

car recall

And finally, good friend and fellow commuter Richard D. (known around here as “The Punisher” in keeping with our B-list superhero theme) sent me the following photo to let everyone know that he talks the talk even while relaxing with a bigbore shotgun. The tshirt is from KHS Bicycles clothing collection. Gas Sucks — Blast a Hole in the Sky!

gas sucks

Enjoy your Tuesday!