Bicycle Film Festival Gets Toronto Talking

Bicycle Film Festival panel, photo by Erin Simkin

The Bicycle Film Festival's fifth run in Toronto kicked into high gear on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at the Gladstone Hotel. The gallery space in the halls of the hotel's second floor hosted Back Breaks, an art show featuring a collection of illustrations, textiles, photographs, sculptures and vintage bikes giving us a glimpse into the past while celebrating the present and future of two-wheeled transportation as well as a panel discussion.

The show, curated by Kirsten White and Patricia Youn, featured artists Gillian Goerz, Jonathan Robert, InkYung Choi, Linda Varekamp, Kat Verhoeven, Janet Bike Girl, The Deadly Nightshades, Dmitry Bonderanko, vintage bikes donated by FLASHBACK, Mark Charlebois and Jessie Durham,

Propped against one wall, early bicycles made of wood and steel on display look uncomfortable and uninviting but they also remind us of the initial fears we had when learning to ride a bike and allow us to see just how far we've progressed. Nearby on the gallery floor sits a child's tricycle beneath hanging quilts, handmade and featuring bicycle designs by Linda Varekamp, a pairing that connects us to the the support of other people, each skilled in unique ways, required to keep us riding.

The panel discussion this evening, Building Bridges: How to tell good stories and win over non-cyclists at a dinner party, moderated by urban cycling consultant Yvonne Bambrick, looked at how we express our opinions as people who ride bikes and how to maintain a civil discussion in tense situations.

On the panel were dandyhorse magazine's editor-in-chief, Tammy Thorne; James Schwartz, founder and editor of The Urban Country; Dave Meslin, founding publisher of dandyhorse and founder of the Toronto Cyclists Union; and Shamez Amlani, co-founder of Streets Are For People!

"Building bridges, as well as going under and over them, are all things I'm very concerned about as a cyclist. As a cycling advocate and media professional I am constantly amazed at the incredible amount of negative - and just plain incorrect - information that is being disseminated by the mainstream media about cycling in Toronto," says Tammy Thorne. "We try to create positive stories that are also compelling and informative with dandyhorse. I think our Bike Spotting pages do a great job at giving cyclists a larger voice. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the regular people out there riding their bikes who are just as passionate about bike lanes as I am."

Each panel member took turns discussing personal challenges they've faced, from tense yelling matches on the roads to negative feedback from associating themselves with motorists. The assembled crowd groaned or clapped in agreement revealing many similarities in the challenges people who promote riding bicycles face.

Dave Meslin spoke of approaching bicycle transportation concerns not through conflict but by looking for solutions that promote sharing. James Schwartz relayed his experience with Toronto Star columnist Jack Lakey, The Fixer, and engaging him in looking for solutions to cycling problems rather than simply bemoaning them. Shamez Amlani reminded us all to keep our egos in check when discussing the many benefits of bicycles as transportation. And Tammy Thorne told us that some of the best ways to promote bicycle and pedestrian activism is to find examples of people leading exemplary lives, such as New York photographer Bill Cunningham.

Read more from the panel discussion at The Urban Country.

Photos from Back Breaks Art Show by Anna Gagno:

Highlights from the panel discussion Building Bridges: How to tell good stories and win over non-cyclists at a dinner party by Lisa Logan:

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