Monday, March 26, 2007

Cycling in the Media

Reader Nathan had this comment in the exchange that followed my post on his first comment:

My beef may come from a larger concern about activism. Sometimes I feel like the desire to realize an ideal about how the world works causes one to be rigid about that ideal. The long and short of it is I agree with your point: the video should not be taken as an "instructional video," but I think there is room to also admire this guy who had the thought and took the time to film himself riding to work, set it to music and put it up on YouTube. I think this moves in the right direction vis-a-vis making bicycle commuting more visible and more a part of our cultural expectations.

It got me thinking about media portrayals of cycling, warped as they are by the needs of a cinematic script (Breaking Away, Quicksilver, American Flyers, Key Exchange) or commercial sports television (The Tours de Lance and other treats dished up by cable sports networks)

Nathan is right that this personal micro-documentary can help raise awareness and interest. I really wanted to see the videographer's ride, because I'd seen his still photos on the ORG. I was distracted by what my experience told me were bad choices in traffic, but if I'd been on that ride I would probably have been arrested for drafting the big, fat, square police van in the left lane.

Cycling really can be all things to all cyclists. I don't want to huck big drops on a mountain bike or play on ramps and jumps with a BMX, but I don't care if you do. I learned the hard way, long ago, the difference between calculated risks and blind-luck hole shots in traffic. I'll grant you this: it isn't obvious. But I don't want to be told my bike is a toy and relegated to some side path to nowhere. When street cycling is outlawed, only outlaws will ride the street. And I'll be there.

If you want to make an exciting video, hop the back of a dump truck and draft it at 50 miles per hour for six or eight miles (I wasn't late to work that day). Lay into some corners. We all just choose our risks. Mine tend to go the same direction as traffic and don't fall prey as easily to swerves and errant car doors.

We're limited by single-camera, rider point of view videos. Has anyone made a multi-rider film, so the "crew" remains highly mobile, but we get some other views? Probably.

Of course we're competing for viewership with parkour.

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