Having already chronicled the rare beast that is the quintessential New York accent, filmmaker Heather Quinlan decided to tackle a considerably more divisive topic this time around: bicycles. In the 14-minute short Spoke, Quinlan interviews journalists, sanitation workers, lawyers, and more, whose stances on the rise of cycling culture in the city?the 200 new miles of bike lanes built since 2010, the launch of the Citi Bike bike share program, and all?range from enthusiasm and indifference to fear and out-and-out, nose-wrinkling distaste. Her explicit aim, in fact, was to probe the gray areas of public opinion on the topic. As she told Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, "I don't hate everything about bikes, I don't love everything about them. And that's what I wanted to get across in the film." It was shot using Google Glass, Brooklyn Heights Blog reports, and contains many choice lines from opinionated New Yorkers.
Cycling advocate Bill Weinberg, for example, views cycling as an indisputable, indispensable way of life (he does not possess a driver's license) but doesn't care much for Citi Bikes. Yet he's too pro-bike to let the visceral disgust of the corporate-backed program get to him too much: "Every time I see a an adult human being on a bicycle in New York City?even if its a yuppie in spandex on a Citi Bike?it gives a little bit more hope for the future of humanity."
A regular Citi Bike user interviewed doesn't like being a moving corporate advertisement, but has decided it's the price one pays for this kind of service: "You've got to live with yourself, and measure the benefits against the drawbacks, and this has been a benefit." There's the woman who insists the city doesn't need bike lanes, and the other woman worried about who takes legal responsibility for all the cyclist and pedestrian accidents. Daily News columnist Denis Hamill (yes, he of the notorious "I hate bike lanes" op-ed) insists that because cyclists of yore had to handle traffic, that was an education in itself: "I think it's disfigured, the way the city looks... using bicycle lanes takes away that element that I learned as a kid, riding a bike as a butcher boy in the city, of getting street smarts, of learning how to dodge, [go] with the ballet of traffic... your life depended on it."
A blunt, outspoken NYC sanitation worker, Ben Lee, has some of the most harsh anti-bicycle lines. Among them: "The city has been inundated with two-wheeled maniacs." "They're trying to turn this into Copenhagen. Guess what? Copenhagen is 1,000 years old, and the reason they ride bikes in Copenhagen is because their streets are not designed for cars, so bikes are efficient." And then: "My dad escaped North Korea so he wouldn't have to ride a bike to work, and here we are, in the greatest city in the world, and people want to ride their bike to work. I don't get it."
· Spoke: A Short Film About Bikes [Vimeo]
· Spoke [Jeremiah's Vanishing New York]
· World Premiere: Heather Quinlan's SPOKE, A Film About Biking In NYC, Filmed With Google Glass [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
· All Citi Bike coverage [Curbed]
· Bike Wars archive [Curbed]