David Byrne

Or, More Songs About Buildings and Bike Lanes. The Bicycle Diaries (Viking, $25.95) of David Byrne convey some of the same bemused alienation from his old Talking Heads days. All these crazy cities, industrial wastelands, and soulless suburbs—who’d want to live there? Or ride there? But his book, a series of cultural impressions that leaps from city to city, isn’t the angry tirade of a frustrated urban planner or cycle zealot. The psycho killer of old has mellowed, perhaps because due to his decades of pedaling. Yes, Byrne would like to see more dedicated bicycle paths (as he finds in Berlin), and he’d like truck drivers to be fined when they block the bike lanes back home in Manhattan. Yet he offers more observations that prescriptions. For instance: Detroit, once the proud domain of the automobile, has now been so emptied of people and congestion that it makes for good riding. In Las Vegas, people ride only after their cars have been repossessed. And in New York, Byrne advocates helmets, regular clothing, and riding in a law-abiding, upright manner—the better to see and avoid oblivious pedestrians. (He swerves to avoid Paris Hilton, who doesn’t even recognize him.) As for a thesis, Bryne is pro-density and sustainability, but not stridently so. He sides with Jane Jacobs over Robert Moses. He sees hope that urban hipsters no longer regard biking as being hopeless uncool. And he admits of his removable basket, “I know it’s even more nerdy than riding a bike.” BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m., 2009

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