Monday, September 4, 2017
Video from Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling
Recently the Washington Post woke up to an issue that had been percolating for a while - a controversy over where to put a multi-use trail that will run parallel to an widened version of an existing interstate highway (I-66) in northern Virginia that is a key commuting route for workers seeing to get into Washington DC (and other points). The problem (or challenge) is that widening the highway (and having a trail with it) will push further into the backyards of many homeowners along the route. These homeowners and their neighbors would prefer to have the cyclists and pedestrians who use the trail on the highway side of the large sound barrier wall that is now an established element of such highways. If the trail is on the neighborhood side of the wall, the trail users will be in what is now someone's backyard (in effect). Not surprisingly most users of such a trail would prefer to be on the side of the wall away from the road traffic, for pretty obvious reasons. Most of the trail users (other than those who own these homes, it seems from the Washington Post) are not concerned with riding in what was recently someone's back yard if the alternative is riding in a concrete and asphalt valley with a bunch of cars, trucks, and buses. Particularly since one can guess that even after the highway is widened the traffic will be going slow or at a standstill, generating lovely exhaust for cyclists and pedestrians to consume in large quantity along with large amounts of waste heat during the warm months of the year.
To me, that such a discussion is proceeding with so little consideration for the views of the trail users says a lot about the relative power and interests of motorists versus pedestrians and cyclists in this country.
OK, enough of that, now a bit about the documentary movie "Bikes vs Cars" that I just watched on Netflix.
Trailer on YouTube for the documentary "Bikes vs Cars" that also invites you to pay to view the whole thing
The New York Times had a reasonably positive short review.
A review on the CityLab site suggests that the movie is "waging the wrong war."
The movie was made in Sweden and was not intended specifically for an American audience. (Some parts of it are sub-titled). The narrative moves shifts between Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Copenhagen, with a different focus in each location. In Sao Paulo, the emphasis is on a particular activist who zips through the streets on her single-speed bike but eventually attends meetings with mayor - her character (if you will) is the most developed. On the other hand, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford is presented as the buffoonish voice of the most extreme enemy of cycling (which is pretty easy to do given things he has said on camera). A certain amount of factual information is presented, but unlike many discussions of the advantages of cycling, the move doesn't devolve into a sea of facts that are difficult for most people to assess. The main fact-based point is simple - the number of cars is apparently going to jump from one billion at the time the movie is made to twice that in 2020 and in cities such as Sao Paulo and Los Angeles in particular (but also many others not mentioned specifically) the utility of owning a car that is unable to get you anywhere in continuous traffic jams by itself suggests there is a problem.
I think the CityLab reviewer missed a certain point. The movie title, "Bikes vs Cars," is meant ironically. The "vs" relationship is not bikes vs cars but rather a conflict between a vision that allows a vast worldwide growing middle class to have and use automobiles even as the resources to support that are limited and a vision that for something more sustainable and realistic. This alternative reality is where Copenhagen fits into the story, although I thought the main weakness of the movie was that relatively little was shown and said about the successes of cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
This is not a documentary intended to provide a viewer the best possible facts supporting views one way or the other (and certainly not all possible facts for all possible views). It is an attempt to stir a particular emotional reaction - outrage. That's OK, in fact that can be a good thing.
Movie web site: http://www.bikes-vs-cars.com/thefilm.