Review “Bikes vs Cars” (Sweden, 2015)

Frocks was lucky enough to be invited along to the opening and the panel discussion screenings of Bikes Vs Cars at the Bicycle Film Festival currently running at Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision. There’s one more bonus screening, this Saturday at 2.30pm. Catch it if you can. There’s also the Big Bike Film Night, on tonight, and other screenings worth catching. Check it all out here:

Here’s a great review of Bikes Vs Cars written by Leah, who also spoke at the panel discussion:


Bikes vs Cars was not as confrontational as I expected. It was somehow sad, frustrating, informative and uplifting all at once. It relays the personal experiences of Dan Koeppe living in LA and Aline Cavalcante living in Sao Paulo. Through their experiences and opinions about cars and cycling, the movie unveils the challenges of cycling around in large car-centric cities.  It reveals a number of interesting statistics about traffic jams, links between car companies and politics and the impacts of car driving on inhabitants of cities. There are some impressive images of intense traffic jams and extensive motorway systems from around the world that make Auckland’s Spaghetti Junction look minor.

Images of Aline making her way in-between lanes of traffic filled with fast moving and often swerving cars, buses and trucks are heart stopping. We learn that a close friend of Aline lost her life in the traffic of Paulista Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Sao Paulo. We accompany her on a vigil and protest ride in the rain to put up a ghost bike (bike painted white and installed on the side of the road) and spray paint a white cyclist on the road. For a little shock value, we also learn that another cyclist got his arm torn off by a car also along Paulista Avenue. The car driver did not stop but drove on for 5 miles to drop off a friend and then dropped the arm in a creek.  These stories and the related statistics about deaths from cycling are sobering.

Dan talks about how as a cyclist, LA is not the best city to live in: 70% of the land in LA either in use as roads or car parking. We accompany Dan as he tries to track down remnants of the historic California Cycleway which was intended to link Pasadena to LA. Only ever partially completed, the trails demise could be pinned to LA’s love affair with the car.  

We learn about ‘Carmegeddon’, anticipated traffic chaos when it is announced that 10 miles of Interstate 405 in LA will be closed for road works over a weekend in 2011. There is so much hype in the media that people stayed off the roads that weekend. We follow a cyclist as he enjoys a rare ride around quiet smog free streets, ironically with moving oil rigs in the background.  

Returning to images of severe traffic jams in Sao Paulo, we hear Professor Raquel Rolnik argue that traffic jams are part of the solution because it gives a good reason to invest in alternative modes. In New Zealand’s case its true. This government invests in cycling and other alternative modes because of the congestion relief benefits.   

The film leaves you with a clear sense that change is needed. Statements like: biking is like swimming with the sharks, or, ‘I wish I had the nerve to ride a bike’ make viewers realise they don’t want people biking in their cities to have this experience.  Aline discusses the sense of entitlement that car drivers have to the road. She pulls out one of the best lines of the film ‘you own the car not the street’.  Thankfully, and after some effort on the part of Aline and her friends who talk to council about the situation, Paulista Avenue gets a new cycleway. It is opened in 2015 amid media claims that Sao Paulo is becoming bike friendly. Let’s hope it is the beginning of the end of ghost bikes.