Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Veer -- the review

Last Thursday (June 2), Maurie and I went to see Veer. As mentioned below, the showing was a benefit for the Major Taylor Project, which is a project of the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation.

We arrived at the Columbia City Cinema shortly before 8:30 for the panel discussion. The panelists for the discussion were David Hiller (Advocacy Director at Cascade Bicycle Club), Willie Weir (bicycle touring travel author and columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine), Davey Oil (BikeWorks and The Bikery), Erica Barnett ( and formerly The Stranger), and Greg Fredette (the filmmaker). The discussion covered topics from legislation to the demographics of cycling, to the overall cycling culture. Much of what they discussed related directly to the film. Those of us who were there for the 9:30 showing were at a bit of a disadvantage as far as knowing what they were talking about.

One observation about the panel discussion; although the theater in which we were viewing the film and holding the discussion, it was difficult to hear. Some sort of PA would have made it easier to hear the discussion. Also, and this is a hazard of wooden floors and an abundance of cyclists, it was impossible to for many to walk through the theater quietly. It wasn’t the fault of the individuals; it was their cycling cleats on the wood floor!

The movie is fantastic. The trailer barely touches on how good it is. The film maker did not simply follow five individuals who are active in Portland’s bicycling culture, but he showed how the facets of the bicycling community, no matter how different, all contribute in a real positive way to the health and vitality of the culture as a whole. We followed Scott Bricker of the Bicycle Transportation Association as he lobbied for Oregon House Bill 3314 in 2007, seeing it to passage and signed by the governor; one of Portland’s famous (infamous?, notorious?) “Zoo Bombers”; Scott, founder of Exchange Cycle Tours as his organization packs up to move out of one location, and the search for a new location and finally the grand opening in a new location which has been underserved in terms of cycling accessibility; A staff member and cycling educator from the Community Cycling Center as he runs an after-school bike club for elementary students; and finally one of the founding members of the Sprokettes “mini-bike synchronized dance team.”

I walked out of the theater with a real strong sense of how closely tied all these aspects of the cycling community are, and how they fed and fuel others. Rather than rant and rage about what the others are, or are not, doing, those profiled seemed to really see the positive in what the others were doing; the Sprockettes and Zoo Bombers bring an aspect of pure, unadulterated fun (and possibly insane adrenaline) to cycling, the BTA really focuses on the policy aspect and the ECT and CCC at getting others into cycling.

Another thing I really appreciated is that the film showed interactions with the police, for the most part, in a positive light. No aggressive confrontations, no bashing—just an acknowledgement of the job the police have to do.

There were also some poignant moments of the film: the final field trip and graduation for the bike camp kids; the aftermath of a break-in at the Community Cycling Center and the Portland Ride of Silence.

The film was truly outstanding. I don’t know how the filmmaker plans to distribute it, whether in DVD only, if he plans to continue to tour it for viewings in various cities, or what. If you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend making the effort to do so. If there’s no city near you that is listed in their screenings, contact them from the form on the website, and see what you need to do to arrange one.

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