Sunday, October 07, 2007

Biking the Concrete Prairies

David Byrne with Hal Ruzal
Hal Ruzal shows David Byrne how easy it is to steal a bike

Concrete prairies. That's Calvin Trillin's metaphor, not mine. It's how he describes riding his bike around Manhattan. Get rid of the buildings, he said, and that's what you'd have left: flat concrete prairies. I saw him last night at "How New Yorkers Ride Bikes," a wonderful program hosted by David Byrne at the New Yorker Festival. Byrne opened the program with video of his ride (via helmet cam) through Times Square to City Hall, then he rode onto the stage and locked up his bike, which was then promptly "stolen" Hal Ruzal from Bicycle Habitat in a demonstration of just how easy it is to steal a bike. His advice for the only way to avoid getting your bike stolen in NYC? Buy the most expensive lock and chain you can - and the cheapest bike.

Other highlights (and there were many) included Copenhagen architect Jan Gehl describing how biking has transformed his hometown over the past 40 years, a new bike helmet design for fashion-conscious New Yorkers from fuseproject (creators of the $100 computer) and Massachusett's choir The Young@Heart Chorus (no current member is under 73) singing Queen's "Bicycle Race" and Byrne's "Heaven." Byrne joined the group to close out the program to sing a spine-tinglingly beautiful new song, "One Fine Day." There was also plenty of information from dedicated city and non-profit folk who are doing a lot to make New York safer for cyclists.

New helmet design from fuseproject
Yves Behar & Josh Morenstein of fuseproject reveal new helmet design

Now, where can I get one of those helmets? They feature interchangeable components in different colors suitable for different seasons.

Also part of the fun: I rode my bike there, as the event provided free valet parking.

  • David Byrne's own recap of the event
  • NYC Bike Maps - great mashup with Google maps; "accurate maps, relevent information, and up to date news to facilitate a safe and enjoyable biking experience in the New York metro area."
  • TreeHugger - "The Bike Thief: Video Exposes Cyclist's Vulnerability, and Public's Complicity"
  • StreetFilms - "Hal Grades Your Bike Locking" - Hal Ruzal strolls around SoHo/NoLita grading folks on their bike-locking abilities (or lack thereof); most fail miserably
  • Transportation Alternatives - a 5500-member NYC-area non-profit citizens group working for better bicycling, walking and public transit, and fewer cars.
  • NYT - "Indie Rock's Patron Saint Inspires a New Flock of Followers"

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