David Byrne tells us to Ride our Bikes

by Russell Arben Fox on May 29, 2009 · 7 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

When hipsters like the former lead singer of the band Talking Heads are coming out in favor of the “pedaling revolution”, can the masses be far behind? It’s a sign of hope, anyway. Here’s the key point:

The United States is as much a car culture as ever, even if the companies that helped make us that way are now in ruins. And governments and urban planners have all been in on the game, helping make the idea of cheap, effortless transportation and a car of one’s own a dream every American might aspire to….[The] “Pedaling Revolution” is not about mountain biking the Moab sandstone formations in Utah or the network of bucolic paths that link some of the rural Massachusetts colleges; it’s not about racing, Lance Armstrong or what kind of spandex to buy. Nor is it about the various forms of extreme biking that have arisen lately: bike jousting on specially made high-horse bikes, BMX tricks or the arcane world of fixed-gear bikes, or fixies. 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. Manufacturers in the United States have tended to make bikes that look like the two-wheeled equivalent of Hummers, with fat tires and stocky frames necessitating a hunched-over riding position that is downright unsafe for urban biking and commuting. But that’s been changing for at least a few years now. Whew.

And amen. When even relatively bike-unfriendly cities like Wichita, Kansas, can support a mad bike commuter like myself, and even a growing cycling-commuter scene, then maybe they’ll be hope for us all.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar D.W. Sabin June 2, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Another sign that there is hope still left to us…an awful lot of young folks seem to be getting on the biking bandwagon . Mr. Byrne is opening the annual Celebrate Brooklyn Festival in Olmsted’s lovely Prospect Park this coming Monday night and it is sure to be a great evening. I think I’ll pick up a dozen bagles and eat Senegalese before heading over to enjoy an early summer night in this borough of manic characters and loud community.

Unfortunately, I won’t be biking…if I did, I’d have to start now and chance squirting my spleen out my left ear somewhere around Danbury . As Ed Abbey said, “Theres nothing more tragic than an aging hipster”.

avatar Susan June 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I’d be a lot happier about this if I lived in a city with a lot fewer steep hills. Those with flat topography, go for it!

avatar Mark Shiffman June 3, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Before my bike was stolen out of my garage (which didn’t used to happen in this neighborhood before the Great Correction), I was biking around the neighborhood, and it definitely gives you a new and more accurate sense of the topography of your place.

avatar polistra June 3, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Wichita is definitely a good biking town. When I lived there in 1980 I didn’t have the guts to bike to work (from 12th & Jackson down to Planeview; just too many highways to navigate)… but every day after work I’d destress by tooling around the Riverside area. Flat land, brick streets, nice bridges, woody parks along the river, pretty bungalows.

avatar Thomas G. June 4, 2009 at 8:22 am

I’ve been biking to work once a week in the summer for about 6 years now. I am amazed at just how many people are doing it these days. 6 years ago it was just a handful of hard core nuts. Now its a cross section of society. I see all types of people, on all types of bikes. I am fortunate to live in a city that has invested in bike lanes, and paths to make it easier for people to commute. They have even put bike racks on the front of all of the buses.

avatar Russell Arben Fox June 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

A brief update to this discussion, here.

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