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David Byrne: not so lazy after all

August 2, 2011

David Byrne came to Guadalajara last week to talk about bikes, mostly. I think he probably played a gig here too, but no one gave me press tickets to that. To older folk, David Byrne is best known as the singer of Talking Heads. To my generation he’s probably more famous for that song “Lazy” he did with X-Press 2 back in 2002.

More recently he appeared on Arcade Fire’s latest release, wrote the soundtrack to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel, and featured on a couple of songs on the underrated N.A.S.A. project “The Spirit of Apollo”.  These included unlikely collaborations with the likes of Chuck D from Public Enemy and Charlie 2na from Jurassic 5. The videos are pretty good too:

Anyway, here’s my article:

Talking Head talks cycling sense

In an event tragically marked by the death of a local cyclist, U.S-based rock star David Byrne called for Guadalajara authorities to invest in cycling safety and infrastructure at a conference on urban mobility held in the The Roxy, an iconic city concert hall that was reopened especially for the occasion.

The former lead singer of popular 1980s band Talking Heads addressed a packed audience of cycling enthusiasts. Declaring that the city’s “weather and geography make it just perfect for bicycles,” Byrne urged Guadalajara to expand its current bike sharing scheme and follow the examples of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where “everybody rides a bike.”

After shooting to fame with Talking Heads’ hits such as “Psycho Killer,” “The Road to Nowhere” and “Burning Down the House,” the Scottish-born singer has pursued a successful solo career, experimenting with a diverse range of collaborators while also dabbling in art, photography and writing.

A keen cyclist, Byrne has been promoting the Spanish-language release of his book, “The Bicycle Diaries,” during his current tour of Latin America.

Fielding questions from the audience, Byrne declared, “Guadalajara seems a perfect place for bicycles. I’ve been biking around a little bit and I found it wonderful. Of course it needs more infrastructure, more bike lanes and more safety, but if people can ride in a rainy city like London, or a hilly city like San Francisco, they should really be able to ride in Guadalajara.”

The city is a notoriously dangerous environment for cyclists. As if to cruelly emphasize the problem, a young cyclist was hit by a bus and killed instantly while Byrne was inside signing autographs.

Byrne also discussed the “Five percent campaign,” which he has promoted throughout his tour. The aim, he says, is for “five percent of the total transportation budget (to be put aside for cycling infrastructure). It may not seem like much but that small percentage can make a huge difference, especially because the cost of these kind of improvements, compared to the cost of a highway, a giant bridge or a tunnel, is very, very small.”

The event also marked the reopening of the Roxy, albeit only temporarily. Once a focal point of the city’s music scene, the historic venue has hosted concerts by the likes of Radiohead and Manu Chao. The event organizers spoke of their pride at “reclaiming” this “symbol of urban culture,” but it only had permission to host this one event and will not reopen permanently until its licensing debts of 40,000 pesos have been repaid.

The organizers can point to some signs of progress in their campaign for a car-free city. In a trial run on Saturday, July 30, the left lane of Guadalajara’s Avenida Juarez will be closed to cars and open only to bicycles from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Here, have another video:

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