Sunday, June 28, 2009

Veer, the movie about bicycling culture

If you like bicycles, infectuous fun, the good guys taking on the powers that be, outrageous costumes, and a lively music selection...then go see Veer. I saw Veer a few nights ago at the Columbia City Cinema, my neighborhood theater. Among other emotions, envy filled my chest at the unabashededly pro-bicycle aura that surrounds Portland, the city featured in the film. But sadness rolled around too as Veer delved into the dangerous side of cycling.

As we know bicyclists are vulnerable against automobiles and trucks. Portland has had more than its share of tragic collisions recently. This collision side of cycling is conveyed very powerfully in the grief of the victims' families.

Organizing for a new law emerges from their pain: "vulnerable user" legislation. I won't spoil the story, but David Hiller, lobbyist in chief for Seattle's cycling community and the Advocacy Director for the Cascade Bicycle Club, vowed during the interim between the early and late shows at the Cinema that we'd win "vulnerable user" legislation in Washington next year. I'm not completely clear, but I think the impact of the law would be that a motor vehicle operator who injures or kills a cyclist and is convicted of reckless or careless driving would have additional penalties added due to the relative vulnerability of cyclists.

Currently, a driver who kills a cyclist could get off with a small fine and not suffer any further consequences. I believe David that we could pass "vulnerable user" legislation, but it will take all of us backing up David's and the Cascade Bicycle Club's efforts. They will need our help.

But again, Veer is primarily about the infectuousness of bicycling. Even a Portland bicycle cop admits he'd like to go ZooBombing. ZooBombing is a weekly semi-organized event in which cyclists ride 16" wheeled children's bicycles really really fast down really really steep hills, including the one near the Zoo.

So where is the cause and effect in this wannabe cop Zoobomber? Does the Portland policeman who rides his police bicycle every day want to ZooBomb because riding his bicycle tunes him into the fun side of cycling, or is it that he chose to be a cycling cop cause he loves bicycles in the first place? Who cares? His unabashed admission is a kick.

What's missing, I'm afraid, is the randonneuring scene in Portland. I've participated in two Oregon Randonneurs brevets this year, and they are their own subculture too. The Oregon Randonneurs (ORR) is a great and highly organized group and would have made a balancing contribution to the film. Together with the commuter subculture and perhaps a little more depth to the cyclotouring segment, the ORR would have rounded out the age diversity in this protrayal of bicycling culture. Veer seems to imply the cycling subculture is a younger people's thing. Not exclusively so.
The showing I attended (perhaps the only night in Seattle) was a benefit for the Cascade Bicycle Club's Major Taylor Project.

Here are the goals of the Major Taylor Project:
* Engage youth to learn about the benefits of bicycle riding and maintenance.
*Introduce groups of 11 to 18 year olds to Major Taylor and different types of bicycling, including road touring, mountain biking, track racing, and cyclocross riding.
*Provide mentorship and physical activity in an out-of-school time activity.
*Partner in the community and increase cycling overall in targeted neighborhoods.
Marshall "Major" Taylor (1878 - 1932) was the first African American professional cyclist, and he endured enormous discrimination. If you aren't familiar with his story, explore a little; he's an inspiration.

Veer is spirited. Veer celebrates bicycles. Veer cheers what bicycles can do. Veer loves cyclists coming together.

Go see it!

All of the graphics and photos here are from the Cascade Bicycle Club website.

Here is the YouTube trailer for Veer.
Keep it bombing,


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