David Byrne tells us to Ride our Bikes

By Russell Arben Fox for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

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.

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