"You own a car, not the street,” says Aline Cavalcante, a Brazilian bike activist in the new feature-length documentary Bikes vs. Cars. She adds: “The street belongs to all of us.” Bikes vs. Cars is by director Fredrik Gertten and was part-funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, with 2,021 backers pledging $82,125 to get the film produced. The movie gets its UK premiere on 3rd May at London's Rio Cinema, and is part of the UK Green Film Festival.
A blurb for the movie says: “The bike is a great tool for change, but the powerful interests who gain from the private car invest billions each year on lobbying and advertising to protect their business. In the film we meet activists and thinkers who are fighting for better cities, who refuse to stop riding despite the increasing number killed in traffic.”
BikeBiz has seen the film – it is beautifully shot and is not as controversial or provocative as the title suggests. One of the best scenes is of a taxi driver in Copenhagen who struggles to move in a city with so many cyclists. He is shown driving gingerly around cyclists who, he claims, are “like insects, swarming everywhere.”
Much of the movie was filmed in Sao Paulo, with Cavalcante as one of the main protagonists. Sao Paulo urban studies professor Raquel Rolnik is filmed in her car complaining about the Brazilian city’s car-centrism.
The film doesn’t feature London, an emerging cycling city where some major roads are dominated by cyclists, or Amsterdam, the world capital of cycling.
Los Angeles based cycle advocate Dan Koeppel is shown researching the route of the elevated California Cycleway, part-built in Pasadena in the late 1890s (infrastructure that flopped because of design flaws, including neglecting the A to B desires of transport cyclists); and he also repeats the urban myth that General Motors conspired to kill off the use of trams in America.
There’s stock footage of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford taking his infamous potshot against cyclists, including a swimming-with-sharks rant about those on bikes deserving to be hit by cars. On the plus side streets-as-places promotor Gil Peñalosa said provision for cyclists in cities is "not a technical issue … [and] not a financial issue, it's a political issue.”
Bikes vs Cars will open the UK Green Film Festival, at the Rio Cinema in Dalston, London on 3rd May. Additional screenings take place around the UK in the week following.