29 Dec 2009
The Waltz of the Bikes
A movie for Australian cyclists.
I’ve had this little film The Waltz of the Bikes in mind ever since I looked through the one tape that Violeta sent me of a sunny day’s shooting on the streets of Amsterdam.
I’d asked her to just watch bikes, the variety of riders, the flow and curve of them. But nothing prepared me for the ballet she sent me on the tiny tape.
I knew that these were the perfect images to prompt you to see yourself on such bikes, but how to do them justice?
Since then, about two months ago, I’ve been nibbling at the footage, using a few shots here and there, mustering my courage to do justice to the whole feast. The best use so far was probably in;Talking to David Hembrow
Usually, I rely on a strong story telling voice to pull you into my short offerings, but this time I knew it had to be music, and music which would make the pictures dance.
Then, The Blue Danube came to me, and I began playing the images in my head to the music but cutting nothing, fearing it would not work as my imagining said it must.
Also, I was fearing it would not build, but just be more of the same, round and round like a wheel.
Then finally, yesterday, wedged between Xmas and new year, the sky pouring unseasonable rain on us, I began The Waltz of the Bikes. Cutting, showing it to Katya and cutting some more.
Try this Vimeo version first. The YouTube upload (below) is stopping as starting.
Violeta Brana-Lafourcade has not seen her material so shaped as yet, she is off with her family on a boat, but I am happy. Indeed, I look at the waltz again and again.
It has always fascinated me how disparate shots can hint at stories in the lives of people I’ll never meet, who may never know they were filmed.
The women chatting, two pairs, two conversations, glimpsed and gone.
The two guys with guitars, one like a gun turret on a pocket battleship, the other, an unwieldy parcel.
The couple dinking, he riding and she on the back in her turquoise skirt.
But then she parks the bike, clearly hers. The shot continues beyond what you see, as they unlock a shop, maybe it was theirs.
There’s the mum who gives into buying an ice-cream for her blonded pillion rider, her son for sure.
Long legs texting who?.
The men in power clothes, one cresting, and the tiny white dog who zips past, used to riding in the basket.
The grumpy look of the pink shirted man is good too, for surely all is not fine just because the sun is shining in the city of canals.
Towards the end had to come the father and his moppet. She’s in her baby shades, waiting as he secures the cargo bike, the family SUV.
Behind, if you look closely, two men eye a poster of another man, a naked torso.
The last flurry of the music, ( two minutes of the waltz are cut out under the jingle of a bell) just had to go with the flurry of the hurrying woman’s summer dress.
Then the way for the power glide of a rather imposing personage in white, down the long leafy canal.
If any of these riders see this, thank you, and if you contact me, there’s DVD for you.
Meanwhile, the message for Australia is this; let’s at least admit to ourselves that this is how riding in a city, even our city, could be.
It could leisurely too, the Dutch are no less happy no less prosperous for taking their travel slowly.
And it could be, without the danger gear that more and more we wear, the helmets and the day-glo vests, confessing we are in hostile territory. Why should it be here and not there?
If we slowed our traffic, if we impressed on motorists that if they hit something smaller than themselves, they are to blame (that’s the Dutch rule) and if we ride regally like this, seeing and been seen, then this waltz could be us as well.
But then, we’d have to celebrate that we do want this and not always and only the cultish adversarial side of cycling, as is now the case, the glorying in the fight.
(“Share the road, Damn you!” reads a T shirt in Canada infected with the same virus)
Racing, speed, the high performance bikes which cost a fortune, the Tour De Francing, all of that is fun, challenging and noble in it’s own way.
But it’s no longer the whole story. Ad it should not take all the oxygen to leave this other possibility, this simpler more join-able biking stifled, breathless, marginal.
When, Australian Cyclist recently wrote about Copenhagen as Pedal Paradise, which is very true, they primarily interviewed Mikael Colville-Andersen
You’ve perhaps met Mikael here, for Violeta filmed him too, (The Guy from Cycle Chic and; Talking to Mikael).
Robin Barton of Australian Cyclist was right to pick Mikael to talk to, but it was not so fine to reduce his famous photos of beauty on the bike to almost thumbnails.
All the beauty of the those famous photos in Copenhangen Cycle chic was lost, and moreover, you’d have to look very closely to see no one was wearing helmets.
(Australian Cyclist, Jan. Feb. 2010)
May we not see them?
There is something going on here, something a bit awkward.
I have been reading Australian Cyclist for only a year but I have yet to see a photo of a gloriously un-helmed rider. Might it might put ideas in our heads? Is that the worry?
It’s always pics like this. Now I’m sure these ladies love their lids, but how about not shying away from the rest of the world?
Whilst helmets might have seemed like a good idea here at the time, virtually no one has followed our lead overseas, in making them compulsory for adults, and and some of those places which have, are now in second thoughts.. (See Israel below ) for adults,
People like Milkael have very strong opinions as to how counter productive helmets are.
It is not right to make him the core of an article in Australian Cyclist and avoid his views , passing over the dramatic lack of helmets there with this offhand remark: “with cyclists feeling so safe on the streets, so safe in fact that most don’t wear helmets…”
The truth to report to that is that Mikael is very disappointed and frustrated that official bodies in Denmark have been using a fear campaign to provoke helmet use in a country where before there was none, and that that fear campaign is working somewhat, to the detriment of cycling. So he feels.
For as is proven again and again, when you push fear to sell helmets, you do sell helmets, but you also convince many people to stop riding.
As Mikael ends the second video he did for me, (Talking to Mikael) he said;
…they have actually become the world’s fattest country, a higher percentage of obese people than even America has.
So, you can either promote helmets and kill off cycling, or promote cycling and reap the health benefits, and extend the lives of your citizens. You have the choice but you can’t do both. “
Dr. Ian Charlton said the same thing in…. Doctor on a bike
The Australian Cyclist can disagree with that polarity, but it should report what the man, the most respected blogger on cycling in the world, believes.
As for Israel. They brought in compulsory helmets for adult cyclists just a a year ago.
Now, they are having second thoughts. Why?
It’s nothing to do with the fact that helmets actually offer very little protection, and in some circumstances, are actually dangerous in that they can result in brain damage through twisting shock.
No, it’s for other unexpected, reasons which might just provoke a rethink here as well.
The big news, the sensation in urban biking is how bike share schemes like the Velibs in Paris and the Bixis in Montreal are sweeping the world.
Cities, their citizens, and their visitors, love the the easy access bikes scattered all over the city, bikes which you don’t have to own or store, but just use and leave.
The success of Bike Share is massive , despite vandalism….
….as it benefits each host city in terms of less traffic , less greenhouse gasses and the upward tourist dollar. becomes more and more irresistable.
But Tel Aviv quickly realized that that the 2000 bikes slated for that city, can’t be deployed because of their new helmet law.
They’d made themselves a catch 22, since there is no way to dispense a tested, sanitized helmet on the street, along with the bike.
Here is what Mikael has just reported on his blog, Copenhagenize.com, reporting Israeli sources.
The bill, sponsored by MK Sheli Yehimovich (Labor) repeals part of the Helmet Law which was passed last year.
Instead of requiring a helmet for intra-city riding, Yehimovich’s bill would leave that decision up to the adult rider. Children, those riding off-road or those biking between cities would still be required to wear a helmet.
“Riding a bike in communities and especially in cities, significantly reduces traffic congestion, parking difficulties, air pollution and accidents.
Requiring helmets drove many people away from their bikes and back to their cars because of the hassle of wearing a helmet and carrying it around,” the MK said in a statement.
“In Paris and other European cities, there are wonderful programs which provide bikes for transport and no one requires a helmet there.
Tel Aviv has also signed a contract to station 2,000 bikes around the city but the project has been held up because of the Helmet Law.
Moreover, the law is unenforceable and the police have said they do not plan to even attempt to enforce it,” she added.
Mikael ends. “The bill hasn’t passed just yet. There are three votes in the Knesset to come. Nevertheless there are signs that rationality is returning to our species.”
Over to us in Australia. We are aware of the problem as; Bike Share and helmets dont mix? discovered.
But what will we do to enable the Waltz of the Bixis?
By the way did Waltz, leave unanswered questions in your mind? Well maybe Michael Bauch can answer them for you.