Showing bikes some love – Bikes vs Cars hits Toronto


Showing bikes some love - Bikes vs Cars hits Toronto

Interview by Tammy Thorne, Story and photos by Claire McFarlane

Despite what the title might imply, Fredrik Gertten’s documentary, Bikes vs Cars, isn’t about evening out the score or about swimming with the sharks, it’s about sustainable and efficient urban planning.

The film, which was recently screened at Toronto’s Hot Docs Cinema on Bloor, explores what it is like for cyclists to get around in car-centric cities like Sao Paulo and Los Angeles, then compares it to cities like Copenhagen where 40 per cent of the population commute by bike.

Gertten explains through the documentary how poor infrastructure and streets that are designed only for cars can be damaging. Not only does the overuse of cars contribute to climate change but they contribute to pedestrian and cyclist deaths. The reliance on these less efficient vehicles creates a culture where major cities are stuck in gridlock for several hours a day, making it almost impossible to get around. The film also shines light on the influence the car industry has had both socially and politically.

The solution? Bikes of course.


The filmmaker with dandyhorse publisher, surveying Toronto's new bike lanes downtown.

"The challenge for Toronto, and for every big city is to create and develop a complete grid so everybody can go everywhere on a bike, and then make it safer because if it’s safer to bike when more people bike," said Gertten when dandyhorse met up with him for a bike ride. 

A darker, and frankly, exhausted side of Toronto's cycling history was brought up in the documentary which included then-mayor Ford's famous "swimming with the sharks" speech as well as the current deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong, stating that cars are a necessity in the city.

"Toronto is not about Rob Ford," said Gertten. "It’s about people in the suburbs who are always victims of poor city planning. These victims can be exploited by a politician and that happened here in Toronto but the problem is that these politicians, they can't deliver - they can’t give any freedom to the frustrated people in the suburbs because [that isn't achieved] by taking away public transport, they don’t [delivery freedom to suburbanites] by taking away bike lanes." 

Gertten hopes the film will inspire change and will act as a tool for people who want to make it easier for people to get around their cities.

To see improvement in Toronto, Gertten thinks that the city should show cyclists some love. He says that doesn't always have to mean installing protected bike lanes everywhere (although that would be nice) but doing things as simple as filling in potholes.

"It symbolizes ambitions so even if you can’t come to everything at once it shows that this is important to the city," said Gertten.


Gertten says that even though he believes in gravitating towards more sustainable forms of transportation, he doesn't consider himself a cycling activist.

"I mean, I’m a filmmaker, I'm also a human being, I'm also a citizen of Malmo and also of the world," said Gertten. "I’ve always been on a bike, never as an activist or never as a statement, I'm on my bike because it’s the best way to get around."

The film can still be seen at the Bloor Cinema and continues to screen across canada and around the world. Find out more here.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

What King would look like if people were the priority 

Bike Spotting on King Street - Would you like a pedestrian mall here?

Vision Zero: A road safety plan for Toronto

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