An undeniably likable narrative of getting around various cities via bicycle (and meeting an array of awesome/important people along the way), David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries
is a nice enough account, but don't go looking for much of a glimpse into the persona of Mr. Byrne. While he spends a good deal of time philosophizing on a variety of topics (architecture and art, mostly), he tends to keep himself at arms' length--he talks a little about his work, but apparently the idea that a diary might be personal doesn't appeal to Byrne.
Which is all well and good, I suppose--everything of Byrne's that I've encountered and loved has always functioned more in the head than in the heart. So, should we call this Bicycle Reflections
instead? Probably not, because with the exception of the New York chapter and the Epilogue, there is precious little discussion of cycling here. This, along with so little of Byrne's personality coming across on the page, is a bit of a disappointment, particularly because I really enjoyed his thoughts on biking. But most of this is him just talking about cities and his observations on how people interact with one another.
I was glad to see Byrne speak so warmly, and at considerable length, of Pittsburgh, PA, my home city. I was glad to see that he picked up on its efforts to revitalize itself post-industry, and its successes that haven't been shared in places like Detroit, a city I've often heard people inaccurately lump together with Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's geography prevents it from being an entirely bike-friendly city (unlike Fort Collins, CO, my current home and extemely bike-able place to live), but it is getting there, however slowly.
I was also glad to see that some of Janette Sadik-Khan's thoughts on New York's future developments in the direction of sustainability were included here as well. She's someone who has just very recently come to my attention via an article in Slate
, but I really respect the effort she's making to improve things in New York.
Good stuff, and intellectually stimulating, but I was hoping for just a little more bicycle, a little more diary.