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Monday, June 12, 2006

Cycle Killer

Musician David Byrne blogs pretty regularly and occasionally writes about his New York City bicycling exploits. If you happen to browse around his site, you will also find out that he smartly carries a folding bike around to various parts of the world and scouts out the local scenery from said bike. So far I have noticed Byrne mentioning biking in Boston, Reno, and the Philippines [search]. And he has had bikes stolen near and far.

I have always held to the idea that nothing beats biking or walking (and getting lost) to get the feel of an area.
Is it more interesting to look at a river than a highway? (A highway with cars passing on it, I mean.) Is a colorful paint spill on a sidewalk as beautiful as a sunset?

People enjoy contemplating rivers. I bike along the Hudson almost every day. The constant motion always stays more or less the same. Is that what it is — a visual metaphor (as are many other things)? And is the headlong never-ending flow of water over rocks, around piers or by the shore, constantly changing and varying but structurally the same — is that some sort of metaphor for a bigger picture? Is that why we like it and find it so mesmerizing to look at? Is the water us? Is it life, flowing eternal but never the same?

Why shouldn’t a highway be perceived more or less the same way? The never-ending flow of cars, often fairly evenly spaced, has a similar constant variation, more or less like a river, and it remains more or less one thing, like a river. Small eddies and ripples of traffic occur, sometimes a fleet of trucks appears, like a large boat or flood of debris, but most of the time the flow of traffic is constant in its variation. So aren’t they more or less the same?

Is it a cultural prejudice? Over the millennium have we grown accustomed to gazing at rivers and viewing the works of man as impressive, but not as moving and beautiful as a river? Do we see the works of man as suspect, impure? Highways, in particular, are seen as practical devices to get us from one place to another in vehicles of one sort or another. And while some interchanges and triple-layered overpasses might be majestic and even aesthetically lovely, gazing at traffic going by an ordinary stretch is seen as the pastime of a psychopath.

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5:49 PM  

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