David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries now on tour near you!

 Bicycle Diaries by David ByrneDavid Byrne of Talking Heads fame bikes. Where ever he is. Every day. And he blogs about where he bikes and what he sees.

And so a book has come out about his adventures by bike in cities around the world, providing him with an opportunity to go on an unusual book tour: he’s stopping in cities across the country to talk a little about the book and to sit in on panels to provide a forum for conversations about biking and the future of cities.

I went to hear him when he stopped in Los Angeles earlier this month. Since there was wireless, I decided to try to live blog the  ALOUD event at LA’s Aratani Theater in Japantown: “Cities, Bicycle and the Future of Getting Around” led by David Byrne.

As we drove in from Ventucky, as we left the crowded freeway and found ourselves on the city streets, cars were joined by more and more bikes. In fact, it looked like there were several hundred bikes in a sponsored bike corral.

The program starts out with various video clips almost like one world one bike, one world one bike ride. Every film you’ve ever seen from the wizard of oz’s witch and Dorothy must have shown up in this 5 minute clip, followed by a request turn off cell phones and not to tweet which got a laugh. Hopefully my live blogging will be permitted.

David Byrne is up first. He’s got some slides to get us going including a shot of LA which he took as he flew in.

We’re right in front!! And David Byrne is right in front of us! OK I’m feeling a little star struck. Back to business.

The slides focus on various books about how we’ve built our cities so we can understand our patterns. A slide of a beautiful city is actually built by termites. The “buildings” are naturally air conditioned. While downtown is not…

A drawing by David Ferris and others of cities of the future planted seeds in our imagination. How did we get here? We can’t get somewhere else until we know why and how we did what we did. Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and many others had drawings and conceptions which fortunately weren’t realized.

Corbusier for example said we must kill the streets. Basically nobody would come in contact with anybody else.

We’ve ended up with cities which have no parks, but lots of parking lots.

Anything you say may be taken down and used as evidence. A sign in England.

Cities are adversarial with its citizens.

Some cities do work. There’s a mix and mingle, he says. He shows an image of the Grove and Rodeo Drive, extremely popular shopping districs.

I’ve used a bike as a way for getting around in New York city for the past 25 years, and it’s getting easier he says. He travels with a bike when he oges on tour so he can get a wider radious than walking and it’s easy to stop. Biking is  amore human pace he seems to be saying. You can see more, do more, engage more.

As biking as  a way of getting around becomes more popular other issues arise. Where do you park your bike when there’s so many? He’s got some slides of bikes in China (impossible to imagine how they park the bikes believe me) and in Amsterdam where they are so packed so close together that it’s impossible to imagine how you’d get your bike there either. In Tokyo there’s a nice bike park where you don’t need to lock them because no one steals things I guess.

On to several cities which have great places to park adn take a shower etc. In paris and other cities, there are getting to be more popular programs where you can bottow a bike to get across town or rent a bike if you need it for longer. He says it’s changing the way people live in the city of Paris, how they think about getting around, their social life. Getting around is no longer dependent on parking, on a car, on a bus schedule, on cab fare.

Oh, no, I lost my live blogging link!  Unfortunately in that process, lost all my notes of the great presentation by Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA. When I went to save it, oops! No connection. Maybe I can get copy of his presentation or get him to put it upon slideshare or something.

So now a woman, Michelle Mowery SR Bicycle coordinator City of LA talking about bicycle planning in LA.

To make change, we need technical support within the transportation dept with in the city.

And it takes money, big money, for intrastructure to make cycling safe.

Most important, she says, is political will. Cyclists have to come forward and speak at public meetings at the local, state and federal level.

Successes: new bike path along the LA River

Now up: Jimmy the guy who started the Bicycle Kitchen. OK, I give up, gonna just listen and watch the pictures.

Panel discussion time based on Q & A from the audience. Jimmy says it took 30 years for Copenhagen to develop the Bicycle Highways which provide an infrastructure and new habits, new ways of living.

Michelle says there’s a plan afoot to put in a few thoroughfares for bikes east west and north south. But it’s really complicated…

In SF, the Bike Coalition has 10,000 members; it’s the largest political group and largest activist group and got candidates thinking about bikes.

Beyond email: Hard copy letters need to happen ot political leaders. Emails can be deleted, phone calls ignored. They need to hear from cyclists. They need to hear all the stories—they need to hear the fear, what it’s like to try to ride with your kid to school with all the cars, the limitations. And these stories need to be documented in hard copy letters.

How did David Byrne become a bike activist? someone asks.

First, he reminds us that it took time for Copenhagen to change—it was incremental, progress is slow but over time change happens.

Byrne got into cycling in NYC when noticed how easy and fast it was to get around by bike. At first, it was “purely practical,” he said, and then he noticed they were other benefits, and it’s more enjoyable to travel by bike.

Makes sense to me!

Before we left, we bought a signed copy of David Byrne’s book, and I talked about our First Friday ArtRides to at least 100 people and gave out about 75 flyers. Looks like we may be joined in November with some LA bike Super Heroes!

Overall, I’m not sure if the lecture itself was worth driving through LA Friday traffic for 2 hours, $50 in tickets, $4 in parking, and an evening of babysitting. The money does go to a good cause–free programming at the LA Library downtown.

But the level of discourse at the event remained superficial. There wasn’t much VISION, and people weren’t good at asking questions that might have produced some discussions of vision –and that’s what I came for. Most of the questions indicated to me that there’s a pent up demand to be met here–a  need for City Hall transportation planners in LA to set up Town Hall meetings on a regular basis with bicyclists to get them up to speed about what’s going on and to then get them to advocate for projects.

PS I live blogged  a lot more than you see here but I kept losing it when I’d lose the connection. Very frustrating. But I did get some of it and I hope it’s worthwhile.

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