I’ve been excited about this film ever since I first heard about it at Bike Lounge. I was so excited that I contributed to the crowd funding project for the film. Thanks to BFOE I was lucky to be able to go to the screening of the film as part of the Birmingham Cycling Revolution. Stakeholders were invited to attend a private screening before the two sold out public showings at the MAC.
The film itself documented the history of the bicycle from when it was invented to Britain today. The first version of the bicycle was the penny-farthing, which was predominantly used by athletic, rich, white men in Victorian England. A more user-friendly version of the bicycle was invented, which has remained similar to the bikes of the 21st century in design. The newer version of the bike helped give independence to people as it was a cheap way to travel longer distances than before. Cycling grew in the post-War period as people had more disposable income to spend on things like bicycles than they did pre-WWII. The West Midlands was a powerhouse for the cycling industry with Birmingham being the home of important cycle manufacturers, including Dawes, which is the main bicycle manufacturer sold by Sprocket.
Unfortunately, in the 1960’s and 1970’s as it became more affordable, the car became king. Cyclists dropped off the radar and our transport system became the domain of the car. Birmingham is a great example of this with flyovers and a motorway leading to the city centre! After this, the film talks about the growth of cycling post-1992, first at the elite level and now as a form of transport. The film ends on a campaigning message that the growth of cycling will only continue if we fight for it. The Dutch were going in the same direction as us but made a conscious decision to prioritise cycling. Chris Boardman’s speech about cycling infrastructure is inspiring.
Interwoven amongst the history are personal stories of cyclists, including Danielle Khan, an elite level cyclist from Solihull. A lot of the footage was filmed in Birmingham, including the Rea Valley Route. Our very own Phil Burrows makes a starring cameo. I enjoyed the film Bicycle tremendously and I think that it clearly demonstrates how wonderful the bicycle is and the potential it has to be a key part of a sustainable society.