Bicycle Diaries – David Byrne

In 2011, I experienced two “encounters” with David Byrne, ex-Talking Heads and multi-artist, who is currently known for his lifestyle on two wheels. In the 1980s, David rescued a bicycle from his teenage years and started cycling through New York. The option for the bicycle was not restricted only to his daily life, but became an integral part of his luggage on the various tours and work trips he made around the world. Bicycle tours have become more than an option for commuting, but have become part of a philosophy of life, a state of mind and an option for the future. From the height of his “celim”, David Byrne’s view became anthropological, positioning himself as an observer of cities and their culture, but always through the practical experience of his non-obvious, non-tourist and unconventional routes. All this rich and reflective experience is in his book “Bicycle Diaries”, launched in 2010, in Brazil, by the publisher Amarilys. The Brazilian musician and composer Tom Zé signs the preface to the Brazilian version.

During the reading of the book, it was fantastic to discover that David’s reflections are not restricted to the sustainable use of the bicycle, but also address how the different “projects” of the city become friendly or not to this means of transport, as well as promoting whether or not social integration through culture and entertainment in public spaces. The book travels through cities like Berlin, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, Manila and New York, among others.

After reading the book, I had the opportunity to “meet” David Byrne personally, during his participation in the Paraty Literary Festival (FLIP), in 2011. At one time I realized the dream of knowing the event and of attending a lecture by the former Talking Heads, with urban planning specialist Eduardo Vasconcellos. The latter approached the theme of sustainable transport in Brazil as a matter of changing mentality and culture, where education and citizenship are the main values to be constituted in our society, in order to achieve an efficient model of public transport with bicycle friendly routes. David Byrne, on the other hand, showed a succession of slides where the focus was the formation of community models, going through the “city” organized by termites, to the irradiated cities of Le Corbusier, where the premise is the verticalization of the houses, the automobile option for the displacements and the “death of the streets”, giving way to condominiums and isolated leisure areas. With so much information and identification, after the lecture, I ran to get in line for the autograph.

As David Byrne himself comments in his book, riding a bicycle puts us in a meditative state. On the two wheels we broaden our worldview, ponder our choices and reflect in a more participatory way on the problems and joys that cities bring us.

[Text and photos by Priscila Cabral]

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