Film

It’s Activists Versus Highway Culture in Global Doc ‘Bikes vs. Cars’

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Bikes vs. Cars asks you to imagine a world in which more people biked than drove.

In Los Angeles, Dan Koeppel traces the grassed-over paths of old bikeways and dreams about what it was like when the bicycle ruled the streets of the car-happiest city in the U.S. In congested São Paulo, Aline Cavalcante zips bareheaded between cars stuck in hours-long traffic jams and agitates for infrastructure that will keep her fellow cyclists (250,000 in a city of 7 million cars) from being killed. Meanwhile, then-mayor of Toronto Rob Ford decries the “war on cars,” spending $300,000 to remove two-year-old bike lanes because, after all, Toronto isn’t Copenhagen — who’s even biking there, anyway?

The activists’ fights, documented here by director Fredrik Gertten mainly in L.A. and São Paulo, aren’t waged against any single person or entity so much as global driving culture. It’s not that anyone — except maybe that blowhard Ford — is opposed to bikes; they’re opposed to anything that might threaten the profits of car manufacturers and oil companies. And, as Brazilian urban planning professor Raquel Rolnik explains, changing the paradigm is a long and thankless struggle.

But watching a teacher lead a group of schoolchildren around busy Bogotá on their little bikes, teaching them how to safely navigate their city on their own power, you might feel hopeful for the future of eco-friendly transportation. If only any of them were wearing helmets.

Bikes vs. Cars

Directed by Fredrik Gertten

The 2050 Group

Opens December 4, Cinema Village

Available December 15 on Vimeo

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