Promoting a 2-wheeled culture

Posted
Friday May 6, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- For fitness, for fun and for the good of the planet, why not go Dutch?

That is the central message of a film which the Putney Bicycle Club will present tonight, at 8 p.m., at the Hooker-Dunham Theater, 139 Main St., during Brattleboro’s Gallery Walk.

"Riding Bikes with the Dutch" is a 40-minute documentary which follows filmmaker Michael Wolfgang Bauch and his family as they leave the urban sprawl of freeway-choked southern California for the Netherlands, where bicycles are a big part of everyday life.

"It’s just a completely different culture over there," said Joe Cook, an avid rider and member of the Putney Bicycle Club, which is presenting the film in part to raise awareness about its activities and attract new members, but also "to promote cycling as a healthy way of life, a healthy way to commute to work."

The nasty commuting Bauch encountered in California drove him to the Amsterdam in the first place. In 2007, he, his wife and their young son exchanged homes for a month with a family in Amsterdam, so he could document the vibrant pedestrian and bicycle culture there. The difference was a beautiful shock.

"The first time I stepped off the train in Amsterdam, I was literally speechless. 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. This was too much to take in with just my own eyes. I needed to share this with everyone I could, and this is why I made my film, ‘Riding Bikes with the Dutch,’" Bauch writes on his website www.everydaybike.com.

While changing our automobile-based culture will take time, the film shows what the future can look like and lays out what changes need to take place.

To bolster the case, the event, which is billed as "An Evening Celebrating the Bicycle as Transportation" also includes a slide show titled "Extreme Utilitarian Bicycling" by Dave Cohen.

Cohen will present a historical (and sometimes hysterical) look at how human-powered vehicles have been used for all kinds of functions -- for funerals, freight delivery, snow plowing, firefighting, landscaping services, warfare, tree climbing, transporting wheelchair riders and more.

Cohen has been an environmental entrepreneur, educator and activist. He founded the Pedal Express Cooperative in Berkeley, Calif., a human-powered cargo delivery service capable of hauling loads as much as a half a ton. He has conducted presentations on bicycle transport for schools, organizations and institutions on the West Coast and at conferences in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Cohen is now embarking on career as a counselor with a specialty in ecopsychology.

In an effort to promote local cycling culture there will be information available on the new bicycling law in Vermont, "The Bicycle Commuter Guide," the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition and local advocacy efforts. Volunteers will also be registering participants for Way to Go Vermont! -- a statewide week, May 16-20, that encourages people to bike, walk, bus or carpool to work. The Brattleboro Energy Committee and Brattleboro Climate Protection are spearheading local efforts to promote other ways of traveling than the single-occupant vehicle. The local goal is to sign up more than 1,000 Windham County residents. Visit waytogovt.org.

You can also find out more about the Putney Bicycle Club, a community of cycling enthusiasts which organizes weekly rides throughout the area. Typically, a couple of dozen people turn out for these rides, but more are welcome.

"It’s as much social as it is exercise," said Cook.

You can also find out more about the Putney Bicycle Club on its Facebook page, which can also link to its blog and a schedule of local club rides.

Tickets to Friday’s event are $5, and door prizes have been provided by the Brattleboro Bike Shop, Burrows Specialized Sports and West Hill Shop.

Jon Potter can be reached at jpotter@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 149.


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