Bikes vs. Cars plays on emotions

Bikes vs. Cars is available on Vimeo.

Bikes vs. Cars is available on Vimeo.


During the hour and a half you’ll spend watching Bikes vs. Cars you’ll be given a tour of big cities where transportation has become a daily struggle, and you’ll see how a handful of cyclists like Aline Cavalcante in Sao Paulo are fighting for their cause. It can be watched on Vimeo for $10.

You can’t help but feel sympathy for these mostly disenfranchised cyclists, especially when one of them loses an arm while riding and the offending driver speeds away, arm still in the car, then throws it into a nearby creek. True story.

It’s a well done film by Director Fredrik Gertten, who specializes in documentaries, typically standing up for the little guy who has no voice against big, heartless companies. He’s very good at what he does, knows how to set a mood and develop characters, turn dry facts into an emotional rollercoaster.

All of that works in Bikes vs. Cars, but I was left wishing for something more: the solution to the transportation dilemma. Gertten’s film clearly shows us that staying with the car is the road to ruin, but he doesn’t convince me that the bike is remotely the solution. It comes across as more of a sideshow, which is what the bicycle has always been even when it was the dominant form of mechanized transportation versus horses.

The exception, where Gertten’s camera takes us, is Copenhagen, a European city where four out of five residents own a bike and, I would wager, about that many use them for riding to work and around the city on a daily basis. Instead of delving into its transportation infrastructure, the camera turns on a hapless cab driver who expresses frustration about driving around with so many bikes.

An advocacy documentary like Bikes vs. Cars is supposed to motivate us to take some action. I Bought a Rain Forest (Gertten Executive Producer), a well-done documentary about a Swede’s quest to find out where his grade school’s donations to a rain forest fund wound up, did that for me. I donated money to a rain forest conservancy in Costa Rica.

With Bikes vs. Cars I felt no motivation to do much of anything. I rode my bike to work for 45 years daily, but I still own a car, drive to the store to buy groceries, for long trips, etc.

Something more needs to be done about our transportation system than making way for bikes. It’s coming soon to an Uber franchise near you — autonomous cars. But that’s another documentary and one that maybe Gertten should consider filming. One of the ironies about autonomous cars is that they’ll do more to make cycling safer than any safety law, bike lane or piece of equipment could ever hope to achieve.

All that aside, you should watch the movie. It’s entertaining and you’ll be moved by the people who are highlighted by the director.

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