In Theatres: BIKES VS CARS

bikesComing to theatres today, Friday, December 4: BIKES VS CARS

Fredrik Gertten’s look at a transportation debate made its debut at the Tempo Documentary Festival earlier this year. It went on to screen at SXSW, Docs Against Gravity, Sydney, Melbourne, Transilvania, Big Sky, Sedona, SF Green, and DC’s Environmental fest, among others.

Couching an overarching environmental message in a perhaps too simplistic question of personal transportation choices, Gertten suggests a battle waged between cyclists and motorists in urban environments. Primarily focused on São Paulo and Los Angeles, where the “bikes” side of the equation are presented in a decidedly sympathetic light, the film also spends some time in Toronto and Copenhagen, while namechecking other cities. Regular cyclist deaths, often due to a lack of bike lanes and aggressive bus and car drivers, provide an unfortunate impetus for mobilization and lobbying by Brazilian activists, while LA’s historical catering to cyclists offers an intriguing background to Gertten’s portrait of community organizer Dan Koeppel. Strangely, despite offering Copenhagen as one of the utopian ideals for cyclists, the film’s profile of that city is through the lens of a frustrated taxi driver who must navigate the city streets while avoiding scofflaw cyclists, scoring some points for the “cars” side of Gertten’s film. Still, these are undercut by the striking statistics the film offers about the worrying growth of cars, cyclist deaths, the influence of the car/petrochemical lobbies, the insight of an engaging Brazilian urban planning professor, and even former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s pandering to car-loving suburbanites. What remains problematic is the reductive argument at the core of the film, however, which willfully ignores the role that public transportation must play in any rethink of car culture, and that, for many, socioeconomic factors don’t make it quite so easy to choose between the only two options the film seems to present as viable.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Releases

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