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20 May 2011

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

David Byrne is better known for his music than his writing output. Although he's authored quite a few books this one stands out as one of his more mainstream offerings.

It's a book driven by, and full of, a passion for cycling and written by a practising pedal-head. Someone who's enthusiastically used a bicycle as a principal form transportation in his native New York since the early 1980s. And who endeavours to explore various parts of the world in the same human-powered manner.

The first chapter is a wide-ranging, and rather nostalgic, exploration into a number of American Cities. Unfortunately, he encounters many rather frustrating, disconnected rides through communities chopped into ghettos by massive concrete ribbons.

Subsequent chapters are dedicated to one particular city. As seen from a cyclist perspective, it offers a new way of exploring and interacting with cities you might already have some knowledge about. His artistic eye picks out the unconventional, the significant, the sublime and the striking across the urban landscape and in the local art, music and film culture.

Always a deep thinker, his views are heartfelt and expressed with zeal - at times in an intensely earnest discourse. His observations and very personal points of view are enhanced by a collection of text-embedded photographs. As you might expect, the majority of these images are very different to the usual tourist fare, and interesting in their own right.

It's a brilliantly eccentric and highly personal book, delivered in a lovely embossed cloth cover. Even the epilogue entertains with its look into the future of transportation, and an eye catching selection of drawings illustrating some of his bike rack designs - many of which now adorn the streets of NewYork.

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