Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Talking Head for Cycling

Many people are already aware that former Talking Heads front man (and much, much more) David Byrne is a cyclist and cycling advocate. If this is or isn't news to you, enjoy his review of the book, "Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities," by Jeff Mapes.

Byrne points 0ut an important aspect of bike transportation: it's fun. It requires effort, but gives enjoyment. The exercise just comes along for the ride:

“Pedaling Revolution” is not all facts and figures. Mapes, a journalist who covers politics for The Oregonian, describes how he gained weight and started feeling a bit down when he was forced to exchange his 10-mile daily bike commute in Portland for a “super-sized, 50-mile” drive to the Legislature in Salem. He argues that cycling promotion can raise society’s level of general fitness, since people exercise more when it seems less like exercise and more like something mostly enjoyable that also performs a function, like getting to work. “Bike and walking advocates,” he writes, “have been rebranding their cause as ‘active transportation,’ which manages to come off as nonthreatening to your average couch-bound American while carrying a nice touch of gravitas as well.”

Byrne points out that some of the more extreme manifestations of cycling hobby and sport may give the public the impression it is too intense an arena for them. The industry's fumbling for silver bullets that will suddenly turn bikes into the hot commodity they were at the early peak of the mountain bike boom hasn't helped. Consumers are more confused than ever by all the choices. Manufacturers continue to apply technology to what is a communication problem.

As an urban cyclist, Byrne understands that facet of transportation cycling very well. I would have stayed in a town if I could have afforded to live there. Annapolis was great for cycling, but lousy for a member of the working class. Now I live in a rural area, so my bike commuting is a more athletic and time-consuming endeavor. The work I do here is important. I worry a little, however, that the longer-distance cyclist in a growing area might get plowed under and paved over by arteries between urban enclaves. True urban areas need attention, but areas of lower density present more of a challenge. Meat grinder traffic churns in six-lane troughs with high curbs and deep storm drains, from stoplight to stoplight, mall to mall. That, my friend, is Hell.

Anyway, the book sounds like a good one to own and share. Cycling advocacy has to proceed on many fronts, to allay the fears of uncommitted riders and slay the notion that bike riders are freeloaders sucking off the financial contributions of the dutiful motorists.

Remember, the jersey should say "One More Parking Space" not "One Less Car."


Ham said...

I was only musing while doing a 500-mile round trip in the car last Saturday, it's a shame that the hard shoulder on the motorways (whatever you call the bit that's there to break down on) couldn't be used by cyclists to ride between towns and cities.

Ham said...

Oh, and I blame you. You may not know that we have a tube strike in London, these last two days I've never seen as many new & shiny bikes on the road. I CAN NOT get out of my head a bastardised version of an REM song:
Shiny happy bikeys laughing
Meet me in the crowd
People bikeys
Throw your love around
Love me love me
Take it into town
Happy happy
(and I can never remember more of the original)

Ham said...

And don't ask how I got from David Byrne to Michael Stipe. I still blame you.

cafiend said...

Everyone I know does this with songs. Coincidence?

greatpumpkin said...

Regarding cycleways along motorways, I had a similar moment some months back while driving from DC to New England. I had a sudden vision of an elevated cycleway in the highway median. Elevated to have room for it even in a narrow right of way, and to isolate it from the motor traffic. It could be at ground level--there are practical aspects to work out either way. But the point was to use a bit of the expensive highway system for bicycling, just as rail lines are sometimes laid in the median (I may have had my first vision of this on Interstate 66, which has Metro tracks in its median from Arlington to Vienna). The practical aspects to work out include keeping the bike and car traffic out of each others' way, and the safety and security of the cyclists--such a bikeway might be very attractive to human predators. But if we can do this for cars, we can do it for bikes.

cafiend said...

I do remember you mentioning this. It is worthy of independent posting on your site and mine.

Doohickie said...

some of the more extreme manifestations of cycling hobby and sport may give the public the impression it is too intense an arena for them.

And to the public, here is my advice: Go to your local city dump and fish out a 1970s Schwinn. Fix it up and make it your own. Rediscover the joy of cycling.