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Go Green: David Byrne’s Favorite Biking Cities

Former Talking Heads front man David Byrne has traveled all over North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia—and that’s just in the past six months. His preferred mode of transport: a Montague folding bike with full-size wheels and good suspension (he once got sore wrists from riding on cobblestones—bad news for a guitar player). Byrne’s newly released Bicycle Diaries (Viking, $26) chronicles these urban rides. Here are the eight best (in his opinion).—Ryan Bradley


The  Byrne  Bikeability  Chart


CLASSIC: URBAN CENTERS DOING IT RIGHT

New York

“I’ve been riding a bicycle as my principal means of transportation in New York since the early 1980s. I feel energized and liberated as the air and street life whiz by. There’s a great route along the Staten Island boardwalk that lines the beaches (the Greenway Bike Path). There are no cars, and the beaches are surprisingly clean.” San Francisco“The local cycling organization has issued a wonderful map that shows, by deepness of the red shading, the steepness of the streets in a particular area… A deep red street is a major hill to be avoided unless you’re a masochist.”


EMERGING: FEW BIKE PATHS, BIG POSSIBILITIES

Rochester

“The riverfront is gradually becoming cool, but the bike infrastructure isn’t quite there. In the center of Rochester there is a waterfall, a smaller but still spectacular Niagara where the Genesee River plummets into a deep gorge.”
Pittsburgh

“I rode around through the hills that are everywhere here except by the waterfront… The downtown was jumping, the little neighborhoods thriving, and folks are moving back into the city.  Sustainability, public transport, and bike lanes aren’t scoffed at anymore.”

CHAOTIC: CHALLENGING OLD WORLD CITIES
Rome
“The least accommodating cities are sometimes the most interesting. Rome, for example, is amazing on a bike. The traffic in central Italian cities is notoriously snarled, so you can make good time and glide from one amazing vista to the next.” 

London

“No grid, which can be both good and bad for getting around. The random wandering clears the head of worries, and sometimes it’s even inspiring.”


MEMORABLE: GREAT RIDES WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT
Istanbul

“Stick to the many roads that run along the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara, thus avoiding 
the many interior hills. The minarets of the mosques make handy landmarks. I got some designer knockoffs at a shoe store here.”

Detroit
“I found myself riding through vast vacant lots, covered over with grasses and some filled with rubble. Once in a while there was evidence of some habitation, but mostly it was a postapocalyptic landscape at its finest. One of the best and most memorable bike rides I’ve ever taken.” 


Photograph courtesy of G.R. Christmas/PaceWildenstein