For most people, bicycles represent a means of transportation, a fun activity, or even objects of affection. For David Byrne they’re much more – they offer a unique opportunity to experience the culture, history, and vitality contained within our built environment. Due for release today, Bicycle Diaries is a freewheeling travelogue that finds Byrne pedaling through the cities of the world as he expounds upon architecture, infrastructure, and life within the world’s great cities.
David Byrne next to his design for a New York City bike rack
David Byrne has been using a bicycle as his primary mode of transportation in New York since the 1980’s. He describes riding a bike as offering a unique perspective: “The point of view – faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person – became my panoramic window on much of the world over the last thirty years – and it still is.” Through this window Byrne finds the perfect frame to reflect upon a tremendous breadth of subjects ranging from fashion to art, architecture to infrastructure, religion to politics, globalization, and gentrification.
According to Byrne, “Our values and hopes are sometimes awfully embarrassingly easy to read. They’re right there – in the storefronts, museums, temples, shops, and office buildings and in how these structures interrelate, or sometimes don’t… Riding a bike through all this is like navigating the collective neural pathways of some vast global mind“.
Byrne’s work as an artist, designer, and musician have presented him with a unique key to the cultural cache contained within some of the greatest cities of the world. From gallery hopping in Berlin with Steven Sagmeister to talking design in Cupertino with Jonathan Ive, Bicycle Diaries offers a trove of interesting anecdotes as Byrne travels from London to New York, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, and beyond.
Each chapter of Bicycle Diaries flies by as an impressionistic pastiche that jumps from physical place to theoretical space as Byrne explains how highway corridors have cleaved communities in half and how modernist concrete high rises quash healthy neighborhoods. Funny, poignant, and thoughtful, Byrne’s narrative takes on big topics and often asks more questions than it answers.
Summer may be on its way out, but for those still itching to take a trip, Bicycle Diaries offers an enthralling view of the world’s cities that never loses sight of the human scale.