Posts Tagged ‘David Byrne’

Yep, David Byrne rode the Tour de Troit

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

While sitting at Blocktoberfest, an artsy gentlemen with white hair and a Kona Smoke walked down Lafayette.

It was David Byrne of the Talking Heads and much more. He was in town for a Sean Penn movie according to the Free Press.

The innovative musician arrived in town a few days ago and described Detroit as endlessly fascinating.

“Beyond the devastation, there’s all this stuff going on,” he said. “I’m noticing little initiatives happening all over town.”

He decided to stay another couple days and ride the Tour de Troit. He wrote about Detroit on his blog with an article titled, “Don’t Forget the Motor City.” (The title is perhaps a reference to the X song, The New World, which was perhaps a reference to Martha and the Vandellas, Dancing in the Street.)

While the blog is more than just about biking, as we understand it, we used his Wheelhouse Detroit rental bike to get around.

It’s a great city for biking. Not much traffic, and flat—apparently there were some hills but those got smoothed out to create more arable farmland. Right now the weather is gorgeous, sunny, but not too hot. There’s an event on Saturday morning called Tour De Troit; it’s a 30-mile group ride with beer at the end. It’s not a race.

3,000 folks joined this thing—they could have gotten more people but I was told the police said that without more cops they’d have to cut it off there. The ride began in the morning at the abandoned train station. Sometimes I sensed that folks here have gotten used to how things are, while we out-of-towners stare at the massive abandoned buildings with our jaws dropped.

Byrne does mention the house that MOCAD was moving around on the city streets. The police assured the Tour organizers that the cyclists had priority over the house.

Also, Wayne State University’s The South End has a great article on the Tour.

The first five miles were absolutely incredible. The shining sun, the brisk wind rushing against our faces, the daredevil feeling of speeding through an intersection under a red light – it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. As we pedaled down Michigan Avenue through the shadows of the buildings surrounding Campus Martius, one thought kept reverberating in my mind: It’s good to be right here right now.

Cities for Cycling: More Coverage

Monday, December 28th, 2009

We recently wrote about the NACTO Cities for Cycling project and its kickoff meeting in Washington DC earlier this month.

This meeting was actually about more than just this new project.

It was hosted by the Brookings Institute and featured Bruce Katz. Katz recently wrote the interesting article, The Detroit Project: A Plan for Solving America’s Greatest Urban Disaster. In DC, Katz spoke of the major upcoming debate on transportation policy. He emphasized the critical importance of advocates continuing to push non-motorized transportation during this period of change.

David Bryne

The next presenter was David Bryne, the front man of the Talking Heads. While he’s been cycling around New York since the 80s, he’s more recently become a bicycle advocate. The League of American Bicyclists summarized Bryne’s presentation.

Byrne began with a photo of Columbia, Md. where his elderly parents now live and are stranded due to the autocentric design of the community. He then went on to highlight some of his favorite books including: Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and The Timeless Way of Building. He continued with a photo diary of memorable scenes – both good and bad – of public spaces from his travels around the world on his beloved folding bike.

Bryne’s book, Bicycle Diaries does briefly recount his ride in Detroit. In a recent National Geographic Adventure article, Bryne’s listed Detroit among his eight favorite biking cities in the “Great rides where you least expect it” category.

So when speaking with him in DC after the event, I invited him to return to Detroit and provided our Detroit Greenways Brochure to spark his interest. We’ll see.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Our premier bicycle advocate in Congress spoke next and started with his standard question: How many people are stuck in traffic right now on their way to ride a stationary bike in a health club?

Blumenauer gave a brief timeline on bicycle advocacy. What was once considered “desireable” have become “important” and is transitioning to “urgent” and “critical.”

In conjunction with that transition, introduced his Active Community legislation for the upcoming transportation bill. The original push from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was for an Active Transportation 2010 program where 40 U.S. cities received $50 million over 6 years to increase biking and walking. Detroit applied for this as did Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. However, according to the congressman, that program smelled too much like earmarks and didn’t make it in the transportation bill.

His new Active Communities legislation would be a competitive $5 to $15 million grant program with a focus on mode shift — getting more people walking and biking.

Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan

The NYC DOT Commissioner presented next primarily on the Cities for Cycling project, much of which we’ve already covered.

Some additional Cities for Cycling goals we forgot to mention the first time include

  • Hosting workshops around the U.S. next year
  • Making sure the next MUTCD is designed for 21st century cities and not just highways
  • Streamline federal regulations for active transportation projects
  • Double active transportation funding

Khan also said that building for bicycles is a matter of customer service and that bikes lanes are a transformative change for cities which benefits more than just cyclsits.

Questions and Answers

A little Q & A followed the three presentations. One person asked if there was still opposition to active transportation.


New federal funding source for Active Transportation?

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Speaking about Detroit non-motorized issues with Congressman is reporting on new legislation being introduced in Congress next week.

U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) plans to introduce a new bill to Congress next week that would create a $2 billion grant program that would hasten investment in biking, walking, and other “active transportation” options.

Blumenauer’s office sent out a one pager and a PDF of the bill today, saying that the proposed legislation has already been vetted with national organizations and leaders. The bill would look to increase mode share for biking and walking through “concentrated funding for active transportation networks”. “It is time for the federal government to support communities’infrastructure investment,” the statement says.

This sounds much like the Active Transportation funding program Rails-to-Trails tried getting in to federal transportation bill. They were unsuccessful apparently because “it looked too much like earmarks.” The city of Detroit had submitted a $50 million request under this proposed program. That funding would have built 400-miles of bike lanes and countless miles of greenways.

This new legislation from Blumenauer’s office would be different in that it’s a competitive grant program (with a two-year application cycle). The grants would range from $5 to $15 million for five years.

Conveniently enough, $15 million was the estimated cost (in 2006) of adding 400 miles of bikes lanes across Detroit.

Next Tuesday is a Brookings/ National Association of City Transportation Officials bicycling event in Washington DC. Congressman Blumenauer is a guest speaker and may likely discuss this new funding opportunity. (Yes, David Bryne will be there as well. I’ll invite him to ride in Detroit again.)

Fortunately I was able to attend this event both as the Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and a media representative from this web site.

Learning about the event after registration had closed, I successfully made the following pitch:

Whether I can attend or not, I would suggest that bringing a Detroit perspective to the discussion would be invaluable. Detroit is not Portland or Chicago or New York. The city of Detroit has gained its high level of bike friendliness as residents (and their vehicles) have left. We are at our pre-WWI population levels with a post-WWII street infrastructure. Our 40 square miles of vacant/abandoned land provides unique challenges and tremendous opportunities for non-motorized transportation growth and designs.

Perhaps this New York Times op-ed provides a window into what we have in Detroit and in other Rust Belt communities.

But while the infrastructure is accommodating, the Motor City culture in many ways is not. Though it’s beginning to change, many still see bicycles as a last choice mode of transportation. We are exploring ways to turn that around.

Certainly, getting the funding to build 400 miles of bike lanes would be great, but how where would the money come from to maintain (e.g. repaint) them? It seems it will be all the more critical that we advocate for changes to SEMCOG’s Congrestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding formulas so make sustainable funding dollars available for any bicycle facilities we build.

Look for a follow up report after Tuesday.

David Byrne biking on Eight Mile

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne
Though not on the bookshelves yet, the Observer has a review of David Byrne’s new book, Bicycle Diaries.

From the review:

Byrne has cycled in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Manila and Sydney… Even more impressively, he once cycled from the centre of Detroit to the suburbs, through, as he puts it in his inimitably understated way, “some funky but at least inhabited neighbourhood”. He describes the experience of cycling along “Eminem’s now famous Eight Mile Road”, where the desolation makes him think of postwar Berlin, as “one of the most memorable bike rides I’ve ever taken”.

We’re looking forward to reading the book when it’s released this September.