Bike City, Great City

Bike City, Great City \ directed by David Chernushenko. Documentary Trailer.

City councillor David Chernushenko's documentary "Bike City, Great City"  showcases the facet of Ottawa transportation that is ready to shine: cycling. With a “silver” rating in terms of cyclist accessibility, designated by the League of American Bicyclists and the Share the Road Coalistion, Chernushenko shows how the nation’s capital can reach the same standard as bicycle-friendly Copenhagen.

The film acknowledges the video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s infamous statement that, “roads are built for buses, cars and trucks. Not for people on bikes”. The overwhelming opposition in “Bike City, Great City” challenges his belief, and everyone from politicians to cycling professionals speak up about the rights of the road.

Co-editor of the book City Cycling Ralph Buehler explains how cycling-friendliness makes for healthier cities by bringing people outside and encouraging them to be physically active, as well as reducing the pollution and energy use.

For the most part, the city council of Ottawa is in agreement that improvements can be made to make it a cyclist-friendly place. Developments such as more bike lanes to connect gaps between streets and safer bike parking are in progress for approval, and Chernushenko’s film aims to encourage the progress.

One of the most highlighted reasons North Americans don’t commute to work or school by bicycle is fear of ruining their appearance by being sweaty or windswept. Many associate cycling with spandex shorts and hair-crushing helmets. Ottawa Velo Vogue kickstarted an annual bicycle fashion show in 2012 to counter this thinking. Ensembles range from heels to flats, work pants to dresses, while the models ride on vintage and new bicycles to show their clothing choices don’t impact their ability to travel.

Chernushenko also points out the often-overlooked benefit of profits in retail neighbourhoods that can accommodate the needs of bikers. One example is how the protected bike parking created on Manhattan’s 8th and 9th Avenues and the Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn, New York resulted in a 50% increase in retails sales of those areas. Storeowners have noticed that although cyclists don’t purchase as much in one stop, they do stop more often.

The film offers some great tips to help audience members incorporate cycling into their transportation habits:

  • Teach children to ride: The best habits start young! By showing children how to ride bicycles, kids will be encouraged to stay active and be outside. More schools are implementing an after-school bike club that teaches basic skills to students. Check city program guides to see if any programs are available in your area.
  • Talk about it: Ask politicians to help make cycling safer in your city. Tell retail owners and businesses how you travelled to their locations. Start conversations with neighbours and colleagues.
  • Ask for bike benefits: Many workplaces are beginning to offer accomodations for cyclists, such as better bike racks and bike parking, as well as lockers and showers in workplaces.

Manny Sanudo of the Five Borough Bicycle Club leaves his lasting comments in the film, sharing his thoughts on a biker’s rights to the road. “This is where we belong. This is part of our city. We are doing more for the city and keeping it more clean and breathable and liveable than they are when they have one person in a big fat-ass car.”

Bike City, Great City, David Chernushenko, Ottawa: Capital Motion Picture Group, 2013, 40 minutes.

Reviewer Information

Kelly is an Academic Outreach intern at A\J. She in her second year of Environment & Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo where she also studies Drama and French. 

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