I was honored this weekend to be a guest of Vélo Québec to ride in the 30th annual Tour de l'Île, a 50km group ride I did way back in 2001 & 2003. It's really a great way to experience the city on car-free roads with 25,000 other people. In fact, I find Montreal to be one of the most fun places on the planet. The entire city is so beautiful, relaxed and interactive from a visitor's standpoint. And everything is accessible by bike.
Additionally, I was invited to take part in Friday night's Tour la Nuit, which is the companion night ride to Sunday's big event. As you can see from the above video montage, it was a celebration of people and joy, sort of like an official critical mass with closed streets. I really don't know why more cities don't try the night ride concept. I hope you enjoy the music I used. It's a little happenin'.
While there I got to learn more of Vélo Québec's mission including taking in a scrumptious meal at their cafe La Maison des Cyclistes which is on the ground floor of their staff headquarters. I got to talk to Vélo Québec's CEO Suzanne Lareau about what their organization does and why they created the cafe at its location, which is at the intersection of two of Montreal's most used cycle tracks.
Every time I visit Montreal I can't wait until the next time I come back. The quality and tranquility of its many pedestrianized areas I have documented before. It's a city that is constantly utilizing its public space for the health of citizens and visitors in unique ways. Art is everywhere.
Which brings me to the "21 Swings" interactive musical installation. The video says about it all, but to say I felt like a kid again (with plenty of other adults!) would not be doing the exhibit its due magnificence. There's more info on "21 Balançoires" here on the Daily Tous Les Jours site. I was fortunate to catch it on its final working day of 2014.
My coverage will continue later this week with a Streetfilm of my ride on the Tour de l'Île and what it has meant for cycling in Montreal.
If you're having trouble garnering public attention for one of your advocacy initatives, one thing you should consider is performing some crafty, quirky street theater or parody. Both equally enlighten, and if done intelligently, lead to action.
Streetfilms has been around quite a few good ones over the years. One of the earliest is the above 2002 video I participated in and shot was our car-free Prospect Park Theater protest! We had a nice group of advocates show up in cardboard automobiles. Then Brooklyn T.A. Chair (and future Streetsblog founder) Aaron Naparstek was the creative force behind the action and also supporting us at the rally? Our then-Councilmember and future Mayor Bill de Blasio!
Soon after Mayor Bloomberg and then NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan pedestrianized parts of Times Square, the tabloids and tv stations were running amok with stories about how "controversial" it was. We decided we needed to point out how ridiculous these assertions were. Enter Veronica Moss, a character invented earlier to make fun of the fictional A.U.T.O. lobby. This time we brought her to Times Square. The results are hysterical, mainly because behind that wig is the ultra-talented comedian and newest star of Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon!
This is from the 2008 Javits NYC Auto Show and it's absolutely hilarious. We captured this demonstration from Transportation Alternatives & Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Rev Billy presided over the mock marriage of Lady Liberty (Karla Quintero) and Mr. Transit (Noah Budnick) as attendees watched on. Just about every shot in this Streetfilm (from Elizabeth Press) is priceless so watch it to the very end.
I've had my share of making myself look a little foolish to make a point. One came early in Streetfilms when I wanted to make the point that traffic calming and bicycle accommodation in Portland, Orgeon was so good, that it brought the legendary Sasquatch out of hiding! Yes, that's me as "Clarence the Traffic Calming Sasquatch" in this vid made with Dan Kaufman. It's production occurred when Dan called one day during my visit and said he had a big foot costume at his house. Less than an hour thru the magic of improv, we had our video.
In many cities, there's a "Bike Party" movement that has the traditional critical mass morphing in to something more celebratory and less confrontational. Having ridden enough times during both, it basically just seems like a re-branding to allow fun bike riding in a large group. "Bike Party" seems to always have a theme, although many critical masses have as well. The Bike Party from D.C. was a toga ride. And as you can see from the footage, it was plenty of fun.
Today I fly back to NYC after nearly a week in Dallas and Houston. For a guy from the Northeast I have been both pleasantly surprised by nice things I've seen and also intimidated by the numbers of cars - big cars - everywhere I go. Here are just a few Streetfilms shorties to give you a small taste of what I have seen. The above video is from Dallas where Klyde Warren Park a newly opened public space has attracted a lot of visitors. The park was built over the top of a freeway. But it cost quite a bit of money to do so - $110 million dollars! It has a lot of great programming and the food trucks make it a constant draw.
Over in Houston, I fell in love with the Metro Rail's Main Street Square stop. As you can see in the video montage, the train passes thru an amazing car-free block filled with fountains and dazzling lights. I've never seen anything quite like it anywhere. I only posted nighttime footage as the transit nerd in me wanted you to feel as I did soaking it in just sitting there one night.
Back to Dallas, the main reason I went there was to do a profile on The Better Block's Jason Roberts, who has gained worldwide fame for what he's done in Oak Cliff with his Better Block initiatives. I was in town to document the 4 year celebration and as a teaser to that piece, check out the above photo of one of the innovative wrinkles they put in the mix this time around: re-purposed, sliced up billboard wraps as temporary crosswalks! Radical! I tweeted the above photo from the event which was joyusly re-posted umpteenth times on Twitter. I'll be working on getting a big deal of this Streetfilm completed by this weekend.
Finally, there are quite a few challenges to riding a bike in Dallas. A few painted lanes and sharrows on the roads, that's about it. Not much to encourage more than the brave. But there are some very nice biking trails. I got to ride a few miles on three of them: the Katy Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and the White Rock Lake trail.
Sometimes I have bits of video or short stories that don't amount to a full on Streetfilm, but I want to get them out in the world anyway. On our Vimeo account you'll often see some of these thrown up with little fanfare, most with only a few hundred plays. But every once and a while I'll get one with thousands of views.
So I wanted to post some of them here for your enjoyment. The first one (above) is a fun excerpt from our next installment of "Hal Grades Your Bike Locking" which features George Hahn and Hal discussing bike theft.
The next one shows what happens when you finally get a GoPro and test it out. I decided to take Citi bike jaunt down Lexington Avenue to see how it handles. It looks a little scary, but my goal was to attempt to do a sort of PSA about legally riding while moving my head as little as possible. It's your call whether or not it worked.
And finally, a few weeks ago I realized I never posted this Guadalajara Streetfilms Shortie I weaved together in 2011 while at the Houston airport waiting for my connecting flight home!
While I was in Guadalajara, I was amazed by the richness and network of their car-free public plazas and streets. Especially since there was a tremendous amount of the city that was inrcedibly dangerous to walk or bike - or even drive! Even when you had the walk signal you needed to be on high alert!
I can't help that I'm a obsessive creature when it comes to anything to do with transportation and complete streets.
But what really gets me irked is the awful treatment the movie industry to continues to spew on our wonderful car-free spaces in Times Square. I've seen the roads of the once-snarled bow-tie still choked with cars in at least a half-dozen recent films - including here from the most recent "Resident Evil" picture.
Summer 2014 trailers show there are a few films coming out with scenes in Times Square. In what looks like it could be an otherwise tremendous film, "Lucy" stars ScarJo as a woman who develops some sort of telekinetic crazy super powers. However, as you can see in the top and below snapshots those powers do not seem to include "Livable Streets 101" of Times Square.
That's not to say all movies have gotten it wrong. It looks like the next Spider-Man installment will be returning to duel with evil baddies in Times Square. The sneak-preview trailer shows what appears to be a ped-friendly Times Square (though there seems to be a few blown up NYPD vehicles tossed about.)