Binge Watch This Video Series Profiling Unsung Bike Heroes

From the creative minds of bike activist and filmmaker Joe Biel and feminist bike ‘zine writer Elly Blue comes a new project that I bet you’re going to love.

Groundswell is a series of videos that spotlight grassroots bicycle activists who don’t normally get much glory. Eight videos have been completed — the one above is the first and only to be posted online so far — with four more in production, and the duo has dreams of doing several dozen more. Biel and Blue have been showing the videos to audiences on their Dinner & Bikes tour, but they haven’t published any until now.

“The idea behind Groundswell was to recontextualize bicycling as a social movement and also to look at all the different people that have been excluded from that,” said Biel. “It is often people at a ground level that are the ones that create social change around bicycling movements.”

In the first published video, above, Groundswell introduces its themes by looking at the formation and disintegration of the League of American Bicyclists’ equity initiative.

“It seemed like a good centering point to begin with, because we’ve heard that same story so many times,” Biel said. “Admittedly, by their own words, the League is trying to catch up with where the national conversation about race, class, ability, and gender is already at.”

While Biel and Blue prepare to roll out the next batch of Groundswell videos, they put together some short clips to give Streetsblog readers a preview of what they’re doing. First up: Meet Portland’s Dave Griffiths, whose disability led him to depend on his hand-cycle like others depend on a wheelchair.

Biel says Griffiths “clocks more miles than anyone else I know, bar none.”

Next, we meet former gang members using bicycles to bring people together and create a new kind of role model.

And then to Reading, Pennsylvania, a town that despite having no bicycle infrastructure and no advocacy organization boasts the third-highest bike commute rate in the state. Planners were at first surprised by this finding, then realized that Reading’s immigrant population had brought with them a familiarity with bicycle transportation. The town has census tracts where 70 percent of households have no car.

Many of you may have heard of Peatónito, the pedestrian superhero of Mexico City who physically pushes cars out of crosswalks, paints his own crosswalks, and helps little old ladies cross the street — wearing a black and white lucha libre mask.

And here’s one on North Portland’s Sunday Parkways program, which at its heart is as much a bulwark against gentrification and segregation as it is a promotion of outdoor physical activity.

Together these videos celebrate the multiple ways bicycling can bring communities together across boundaries of race and income, even gang turf. Check the Groundswell website for new videos as they come online.

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