As someone who has used a bicycle to get around New York for about 30 years I've watched the city—mainly Manhattan, where I live—change for better and for worse. During this time I started to take a full-size folding bike with me when I traveled so I got to experience other cities as a cyclist as well. Seeing cities from on top of a bike is both pleasurable and instructive. On a bike one sees a lot more than from a freeway, and often it's just as fast as car traffic in many towns.That's the paragraph that made me take the article seriously. Bikes are the way to come to know a city. Period.
Anyway, he cites New Orleans a couple of times, and I think he pretty much gets it right. Byrne's perfect city involves the correct proportions of the following: size, density, sensibility and attitude, security, chaos and danger, human scale, parking (he correctly doesn't much care about this), boulevards, mixed use, and public spaces.
He rates New Orleans high on sensibility and attitude. I was struck by the fact that he mentions New Orleans as often as or more often than he mentions places like San Francisco, Venezia, and Berlin.
Here's what he says about the sensibility and attitude of World Class New Orleans:
New Orleans is a city where people make eye contact. There's a more open sensuality there as well. I'd take that in my perfect city, minus some of the other aspects of that town, such as its tragic poverty, corruption, and crime.
To some, security means rigid order and strict rules. I do believe we do need some laws and rules to guide and reign us in a bit, and I don't just mean traffic lights and pooper scooper mandates. But there's a certain attractiveness to New Orleans, Mexico City or Naples—where you get the sense that though some order exists, it's an order of a fluid and flexible nature. Sometimes too flexible, but a little bit of that sense of excitement and possibility is something I'd wish for in a city. A little touch of chaos and danger makes a city sexy.