Heather Quinlan, the award-winning filmmaker who gave us "If These Knishes Could Talk," offers her latest film, Spoke: A Short Film About Bikes, exploring New Yorkers' feelings about bike lanes and the Citibank-sponsored bike share program.
“The city’s been inundated with two-wheeled maniacs," says a garbage truck driver. "They’re a cross between a vehicle and a pedestrian, so they think, ‘Okay, I can use the infrastructure that’s designed for vehicles, but I don’t have to obey the rules for vehicles, I’m a pedestrian on wheels.’” Meanwhile, a Citibiker enjoys the freedom of riding and tolerates the corporate branding, saying, “I’m riding around on a giant advertisement. What can you do? They won. They won completely. You gotta live with yourself and measure the benefits against the drawbacks, and this has been a benefit.”
SPOKE - A Short Film About Bikes from Heather Quinlan on Vimeo.
For Quinlan, the bike issue is not black or white. She told me, "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."
I asked her what she thought about the way bicycling in the city has become such a contentious and divisive issue, whipping people into a froth on both sides of the argument.
She said, "Denis Hamill wrote an article about hating the bike lanes, and got raked over the coals by people who misunderstood and thought he was anti-bike. He wasn't anti-bike. But people get so caught up their own opinions that they can't see any other sides. I actually tried to get an interview with Paul Steely White, who's the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, but once he heard there were people in the film who didn't like various aspects of the bikes, like the bike lanes or CitiBikes, he didn't want to do the interview. He kicked me out. I also made several inquiries to get an interview with Janette Sadik-Khan or someone from the DOT, but no one got back to me.
It's definitely a cultural thing. I met a man from Holland who said bike riding is so ingrained in Dutch culture that there's no Us vs. Them aspect to it, like there is here. But here it's relatively new, and especially in New York it gets tied in with yoga, artisanal mayonnaise, and all those other aspects to the new New York. And that does a disservice to those who just want to ride a bike instead of take a smelly subway. Like I said, very few things are black and white."