Wednesday, December 9, 2009

David Byrne at the Newseum

It was a full house last night at the panel discussion sponsored by the Brookings Institute that included musician and cyclist David Byrne, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, and Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner, New York City Dept. of Transportation.

David Byrne is the author of the new book "Bicycle Diaries [which] chronicles David’s observations and insights — what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about — as he pedals through and engages with some of the world's major cities." His talk was more about liveable places and less about bicycling. In his first slide of Columbia, MD he noted that his parents moved there several years ago and now that they don't drive, find it very difficult to get around. "They're stuck." As are many people who have depended on driving for much of their lives and now need other ways to get around.

He mentioned some of his favorite books about places including Twenty Minutes in Manhattan by Michael Sorkin, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs, and The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander.

After discussing cycling in various cities of the world he noted the transformation of Portland, Oregon into a bicycle-friendly city. Merchants who at first resisted removing on-street parking for bike corrals, are now requesting them. Replacing two on-street parking spaces makes way for 25 bike parking spots. And instead of having a van blocking the view of the store, motorists can clearly see through the bikes.

Congressman Blumenauer continues his efforts for cyclists, whom he sees as indicator species for liveable communities (Sadik-Kahn says that families on bikes are indicator species for bicycle-friendly communities). He has a vision of kids, who aren't obese and who once again get to school under their own power. He hopes to expand the Safe Routes to School Program to include high schools.

The bike industry in Portland, which Blumenauer has represented in Congress for 10 years, is worth $100 million in economic activity each year. Families there spend $2500 lees for transportation each year. To foster active transportation choices in the U.S. he plans to sponsor the Active Transportation Fund of 2009 bill in Congress. (See the proposed legislation (pdf)). Portland "has been able to increase its bicycle mode share by 400% in the last two decades for the cost of one mile of freeway."

The final speaker was Janette Sadik-Khan who has lead the transformation of New York City streets. Noting that bicycle standards documents haven't kept up with some of the more innovative bicycle facilities being implemented in Portland, New York City and elsewhere, she announced the formation of Cities for Cycling "a project of the National Association of City Transportation Officials to catalog, promote and implement the world's best bicycle transportation practices in American municipalities."

Both Blumenauer and DDOT director Gabe Klein mentioned that the powers that be need to hear from cyclists. Blumenauer issued a call to action by saying "we've been too accepting of the status quo. We need to agitate more." We need to challenge people who say we shouldn't be spending money on more bike and ped facilities because most people drive. About 1/3 of us don't drive, the disabled, elderly, young, and those who choose a different path. We're not spending 1/3 of our transportation dollars to accommodate them and we should.

I hope Congressman Blumenauer is correct when he states "You will be stunned by what happens in the next 10 years" in the way of bicycle infrastructure improvements.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

David Byrne coming to DC

The Brookings Institute is sponsoring Cities, Bicycles, and the Future of Getting Around, "a conversation about practical and imaginative ways to promote alternative forms of transportation. The event will launch Cities for Cycling, a National Association of City Transportation Officials project to break down barriers to bicycle-friendly street design in municipalities around the United States." The event will be held at the Newseum on December 8 fro 5-7 p.m.

David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads and author of Bicycle Diaries will be one of the panelists. When on tour, Byrne travels with a folding bike and explores and writes about his adventures. Those writings formed the basis of Bicycle Diaries, a book about travel more than about bikes.

Other panelists include Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Should be a lively discussion.


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Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Byrne reviews "Pedaling Revolution"

Bike Messenger is the title of David Byrne's New York Times book review of Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes. David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads, is currently on tour and will roll into Wolf Trap on Saturday. He usually travels with his bike so look out for him on the W&OD Trail this weekend. As he states in his review:
I've ridden a bike around New York as my principal means of transport for 30 years, so I'm inclined to sympathize with the idea that a cycling revolution is upon us, and that it;s a good thing. Like Jeff Mapes, the author of "Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities," I've watched the streets fill over the years with more and varied bike riders. It's no longer just me, some food delivery guys and a posse of reckless messengers. Far from it."
He goes on to note that Mapes
"details how cities from Amsterdam to Paris to New York to Davis, Calif., have developed policies encouraging cycling in recent decades, and how other towns are just beginning to make way for bikes. He lays out in an easily digestible way a fair amount of material on trip patterns, traffic safety and air pollution. He quotes the relevant studies and shows how those studies have been either heeded or ignored."
The book sounds like a solid additional to your bike book collection.

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