Documentary That Rethinks Our Car Culture Caps Long Beach Bicycle Film Festival

Sunday's Long Beach Bicycle Film Festival serves two purposes, helping to close out the three-day Long Beach Bicycle Festival that begins today and reviving the Long Beach International Film Festival, whose return is TBD.

Actually, there is a third and fourth purpose: showcasing local documentary filmmaker Michael Wolfgang Bauch's Riding Bikes With the Dutch and furthering the pedal pushers' goal to remake Long Beach into the most bicycle-friendly urban center in the U.S.

The second annual bike fest, which is expected to draw thousands of bicyclists and bicyclist watchers, kicks off today in the East Village Arts District with the City Council Tricycle Race, where city leaders race one another on trikes for one lap. A Fixed Gear Fest, which includes freestyle riders performing tricks, sprints and skid contests, and the Tour of Long Beach, a four-mile family ride or 30-mile open course run beginning Saturday morning, are among the other festival events.

Beginning at 1 p.m. Mother's Day, family friendly movies, bicycle classics like The Triplets of Bellevue, several bicycle short films and live rock and roll fill the Art Theatre before the 5 p.m. debut of Riding Bikes with the Dutch.

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The doc compares Holland's bicycle culture with Southern California's car culture, and shares Bauch and Bike Long Beach's goal to promote cycling in the LBC. Amsterdam's streetscapes and bicycle parking structures are contrasted with the Los Angeles freeway system and Long Beach bike paths.

"The first time I stepped off the train in Amsterdam I was literally speechless," Bauch has said. "As soon as I set foot on the ground I was almost run over by a mob of bikes. I turned to look up and to my amazement there was a three-level structure dedicated to just parking bicycles. Everyone from 3 years old to 93 seemed to be tooling around the city on two wheels."

He said he felt compelled to document this on film.

"Bikes aren't just for Lance Armstrong," he said. "You don't have to have the latest carbon fiber frame; and wear a spandex body suit to ride a bike . . . what a revelation. Bicycling is a lifestyle--not; just a race, a hobby, or the latest fashion craze. Bikes aren't just for kids. Adults can play too."

He realized this himself when he noticed how many errands he'd been running with a car were three miles or less in distance. So, he outfitted his bike with a basket, put away the keys and changed his life.

"A bike is the ultimate multi-task tool," Bauch says. "Get your local errands done, your exercise, and do your share for the environment all in one fell swoop. I didn't understand why my neighbors weren't integrating them into their everyday lives."

He believes this may be due to the reputation of bikes among Americans tantalized by high-performance sports machines--or, as Bauch puts it, "toys for children."

"This cultural perception intrigued me as it was in direct contrast to the values shared by my family living in Europe who use bikes as daily transport--and one of my inspirations for this project."

So, in the fall of 2007, Bauch, his wife and their then-7-month-old son exchanged their home in Long Beach for a canal-apartment near the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam. They later returned home to pick up production in SoCal.

However, by then, bicycle culture was taking root in Long Beach, as urban planners began implementing an integrated bicycle plan, complete with infrastructure and facilities and similar to what Bauch observed in Dutch Cookieland.

His biggest hope: that Long Beach is foreshadowing a larger rethinking of our car-centered lifestyle.

Admission to the film festival is $6.50, and tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.


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