David Byrne, former Talking Heads frontman, discusses his passion for bicycles and what he thinks New York City should do to become more bike friendly.
This is a New York Times video oldie I happened to have among my files, but it's good listening practice, although the clip isn't easy at all.
Watch the video clip and say whether the statements below are true or false.
1. David never wears a helmet when he cycles.
2. David is well-known in New York for defending the use of the bike.
3. David plans his routes depending on where the bike lanes are.
4. David himself has designed some of the bicycle racks in the city.
5. He has no time to enjoy the surroundings as he cycles.
6. He moved to New York in the 1970’s.
7. On his last tour the band had bikes available to cycle.
8. In Copenhagen, a third of the workforce cycles to work.
9. Towns in northern Italy are the least bike-friendly.
10. David feels a quick change in the city is happening.
So a lot of folks ask me if I wear a helmet. I have a really nice helmet and I do wear it if I'm in kind of parallel city traffic. But when I feel completely secure and pretty safe like here on the West Side, I don't feel the need, I don't feel like it’s…, I don't need to risk helmet hair.
To many New Yorkers this has become a common sight, David Byrne the musician, artist and former Talking Heads front man riding his bike through New York City.
It's hard for a lot of New Yorkers to remember what this area used to be like. It was a pretty much of a dark underbelly of downtown.
Byrne is of the city's most visible and vocal advocates of urban bicycling.
This city has gradually become more accommodating. They started adding like painted bike lanes. Now in the last few years the pace has really quickened. I plan my route from A to B based on where these bike lanes are.
Lately he is taking his advocacy to a new level , designing bike racks, promoting bike share programmes and pushing for more bike access in city streets.
Well as a commuter, right now I live in Midtown, on the Westside and I use the Hudson River bike path as a way of getting up and down town. How it feels to ride around in a city? It's just an exhilaration to get this kind of, very kind of nicely pace perspective of the city that I think because you're kind of gliding on wheels it feels kind of dreamy and. There is a sense of kind of floating through the landscape and watching it as it goes by. But you can stop at any moment if something catches your eye.
I started biking around Lower Side few years after I moved to New York. When I moved here in the mid-70's it was you know Gerald Ford to the city dropped dead. It was a city on its knees. But that's a lot of that has changed. It's viewed as the place to grow up and have a life and not a place just to quickly make some money and then escape to the suburbs as soon as you can.
The band I toured with, the band and the singers and dancers that I toured with last year we had 7 bikes on the road with us. They would fold up and go into the luggage compartment of the bus. Usually a few of us would go up and explore during the day.
In his new book called Bicycle Diaries, Byrne chronicles his experiences and musings riding in many of the world’s great cities.
Probably the most bike-friendly cities in the world aren't the ones you would expect. You would expect Amsterdam, Copenhagen, they are very bike-friendly, especially for their size. The ones that are incredibly bike-friendly are these Northern Italian towns, Ferrara, Modena. Those ones… it's almost like the whole, the whole center of the city is closed off. In the center you see like grandmas, beautiful women, kids, everybody is just biking around.
So what recommendations does a gracefully aging rock star have for his home city?
Bury the West Side Highway, put it underground. Put the highway underground if you want to keep the damn highway. More bike lanes in areas that aren't served, which means probably the East Side, there aren't many bike lanes say on… each village connecting each village to different…, there is a couple but not that many.
For a guy who has been biking here since the 1970's the pace of change in the city might seem slow but David Byrne seems to think that someday maybe we will get there.
Yeah, but little by little. It's not going to be something overnight.
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