CBC Doc Zone
Thursday September 24, 2009 at 8 pm on CBC-TV
Repeating: Friday September 25, 2009 at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld
Summer, 2008: Igor Kenk, owner of The Bicycle Clinic, a Queen Street repair shop, is arrested. The former police officer from Slovenia has 2,865 bikes stashed away in various places around Toronto and he's hit with 58 charges related to bike theft (and an additional 22 charges relating to drugs).
Cyclists are stunned by the discovery, but not completely surprised. Everyone's lost a bike or two and wondered where they went. But worldwide interest in the Kenk case signals a tipping point in the history of urban culture. Bicycling, once seen as a simple pleasure from childhood, has become a political act. For the first time post World War II, the dominance of the automobile is being seriously challenged, with cyclists demanding their share of asphalt real estate from drivers.
From bicycle-mad Paris to rush-hour New York and the back alleys of Toronto, Pedal Power takes a ride through the changing world of bike culture. And with exclusive background access to Igor Kenk - exclusive footage of how he operated and built a legendary reputation on Queen Street West - this major documentary explores the two-wheeled revolution in our streets.
"The sickening thud was unmistakable. A cyclist lay crumpled on the streetcar tracks. A motorist talking on her cell phone had "doored" him. Right outside Igor's shuttered bike shop. Across the street from our office. Beyond that scene we found a battle brewing for a fair share of the streets from Amsterdam to Vancouver - a new mass activism for bikers' rights in the decline of the Age of the Automobile. Every now and then a movement becomes a revolution. That's what we found." (Robin Benger)
Bicycles and automobiles have to share the same roads - a recipe for conflict - and many potential cyclists just won't ride in the city because they see it as too dangerous. Add in the plague of bike theft and a lot of cyclists are simply leaving their bikes at home.
In Canada, bicycles "don't get no respect." From the story of Igor, and the anatomy of the underground world of bike peddlers in Toronto, this film spins out to how other cities are making riding safe. Using innovative "bike-cam" techniques to convey, up-close, the sensation of bike riding, a series of character-driven mini-narratives propel the film through a study of what makes a city "bikeable". Whether it's the public bike program in Paris, bike mega-garages in Amsterdam, bike paths in Vancouver and Montreal, or the surprising leadership of New York City, we follow the story of this remarkable little conveyance as it wheels though the first decade of the 21st century.