David Byrne: Talking Head on Two Wheels

In his new travelogue, Bicycle Diaries (Viking, $26), celebrated musician/artist/writer David Byrne talks about rethinking cities around the bike—and reveals that one has been his primary mode of transportation for 30 years, both at home and abroad. JEREMY SPENCER picks the brain of the world's coolest bike-commuting advocate.

David Byrne     Photo: courtesy of Todomundo

OUTSIDE: Do you find that daily riding is good for you physically and mentally?
BYRNE: Absolutely. There's a feeling of exhilaration and a little bit of an adrenaline high. That, I suspect, is what got me into it, not the green or do-good aspect.

How is it getting around in New York?
I think of errands and meetings in terms of how long it might take me to get there by bike, which is often far shorter than on bus or subway, cheaper than a cab, and a million times easier than getting around this city in a car.

Will the U.S. ever be a cycling country?
U.S. cities are transforming—but ever so slowly. I see dead industry on riverfronts as future lofts, arts centers, parks, and paths. I see snarled traffic as an incentive to consider other ways of getting around. A third of the work force in Copenhagen gets around on bikes, but even the Danes didn't believe that they'd take to biking as much as they have.

What's your favorite part of riding?
I shouldn't admit this, but when I'm alone on a secure bike path, I listen to music on my headphones, and it's the perfect soundtrack. Sometimes I sing along or practice harmony vocals. I hope no one hears me.

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