Published Jul 31, 2015The battle between bikes and cars is a fight most people probably don't even know they're a part of (unless you side strongly with the former). It's a continuous war whose winners and losers are decided most often by consumer choices, which politicians are in office, and, as Fredrik Gertten's documentary Bikes vs Cars tries to argue, the lives lost when drivers from both sides accidentally collide. In short, it's a fight that's happening all the time, whether you bike or drive as your main form of transportation, and there's seemingly no end in sight.
Using cities and their inhabitants as individual case studies, Bikes vs Cars takes a deeper look at a worldwide problem and tries to bring it back to a local level by showing how communities across the globe are dealing with it. At its best, it presents a clear and concise argument for scaling back car use and holding automobile manufacturers accountable for their actions (to stop the depletion of the world's natural resources, an eroding ozone layer and, of course, to preserve the health and safety of cyclists and motorists using roads). At its worst, it reduces the argument to too base a level (life vs. death), and although the statistics about how many cyclists are hit by a car in Toronto every day (one every seven hours) or die in São Paulo every year (at least one a week) are helpful, it's hard not to feel like this is a subject that is way more complicated than it at first seems.
Gertten does a good job covering all the bases, letting ordinary bike activists discuss the problems facing their individual communities and how they want to go about fixing them (in short, making cities more like Copenhagen, a mecca of sorts for the cycling community); by doing so, it makes the cyclists' side of the battle seem a lot more relatable (it's hard not see the benefit of less air pollution and stronger local economies). But it seems like the Western way of thinking has made most people too cynical to deal with the matter, a fact made all the more obvious anytime someone working from the automotive industry steps in front of the camera and talks about how great their growing market is.
Rather than offer concrete answers, Bikes vs Cars tries to start a conversation that more people need to be having and presents its ideas in a clear and fair way. Just don't be surprised if you see another film like this a few years down the line.