An Urbanist Talking Head Considers Livable Cities

Musician,visual artist, writer, blogger, and Jane Jacobs fan, David Byrne, knows a thing or two about cities. Followers of the travel blog on his website know that wherever Byrne is touring, he is usually exploring cities any chance he gets. The indie rock elder statesmen commonly rides to shows on his bicycle in his home town of New York. This past year he even teamed up with NYCDOT and designed bike racks for the city.

Byrne just wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal discussing what constitutes a "livable city" and which cities, in his mind, are the best at being livable.

A rock star urban planner? Too good to be true? I think not. Just consider some of the following lyrics Bryne penned as a member of the Talking Heads over two decades ago. (He's clearly had the perils of cars and suburbia on his mind for a while!)

"We live in the city of dreams
We drive on the highway of fire
Should we awake
And find it gone
Remember this, our favorite town"

"It's over there, it's over there
My building has every convenience
It's gonna make life easy for me
It's gonna be easy to get things done"

"Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it"

"We're on a road to nowhere
come on inside.
Takin' that ride to nowhere
we'll take that ride....

There's a city in my mind
come along and take that ride

and it's all right
it's all right."

And perhaps the most apt -

"I see the shapes,
I remember from maps.
I see the shoreline.
I see the whitecaps.
A baseball diamond, nice weather down there.
I see the school and the houses where the kids are.
Places to park by the fac'tries and buildings.
Restaunts and bar for later in the evening.
Then we come to the farmlands, and the undeveloped areas.
And I have learned how these things work together.
I see the parkway that passes through them all.
And I have learned how to look at these things and I say,


I wouldn't live there if you paid me.
I couldn't live like that, no siree!
I couldn't do the things the way those people do.
I couldn't live there if you paid me to.

I guess it's healthy, I guess the air is clean.
I guess those people have fun with their neighbors and friends.
Look at that kitchen and all of that food.
Look at them eat it' guess it tastes real good.

They grow it in the farmlands
And they take it to the stores
They put it in the car trunk
And they bring it back home
And I say ...


I say, I wouldn't live there if you paid me.
I couldn't live like that, no siree!
I couldn't do the things the way those people do.
I wouldn't live there if you paid me to.

I'm tired of looking out the windows of the airplane
I'm tired of travelling, I want to be somewhere.
It's not even worth talking
About those people down there.

Goo Goo Ga Ga Ga
Goo Goo Ga Ga Ga"


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