Writer, musician and former MICA student and Talking Heads front-man David Byrne had a thoughtful piece on biking yesterday in The New York Times. The peg was New York’s bike-share program which is going to start with 420 stations in Manhattan, Long Island and Brooklyn and ultimately make 10,000 bikes available.
But then he goes on to discuss how bicycles help us with “learning to live with cities instead of in spite of them” and how the failure of urban transportation in Baltimore contributed to white flight and the downward spiral of the urban core. And he anchors the piece with his own recollections of growing up around here:
“I realized that bike travel had practical value a long time ago, when I was a kid, in Baltimore. I lived in Arbutus, which is on the outskirts, near the city line. There was public transportation, a bus line, but it was designed mostly to get people into the central city. It was useful for an occasional urban gawking adventure, but it was useless if I wanted to visit my friends. So I rode a bike to get to the nearby neighborhoods where they lived and where my high school was.
“The house in Arbutus was flattened in 1970 and became a parking lot. My parents moved to a suburb farther outside the city, and I went to college. My parents were part of the phenomenon known as white flight . . . When I finished college, I wanted to live in the city, where the excitement was. Like a lot of other young people, I arrived in the city with no money and lived in glorious squalor; we spent most of our full, busy lives in bookshops, bars, tiny apartments and cheap ethnic restaurants. It was exciting and productive, but it wasn’t easy, and eventually we wanted life to be less of a constant struggle. We saw that people in other urban centers, especially in Europe, were finding ways to live with their cities rather than in spite of them. How could we do that? “