Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"With My Own Two Wheels" Cleveland Screening

Last night, I went to check out the exclusive Cleveland screening of the film "With My Own Two Wheels." The film is a short feature that weaves together the experiences of five individuals into a single story about how the bicycle can change the world--one pedal stroke at a time.

Century Cycles is proud to have been a sponsor of the event; we donated door prizes for the raffle, proceeds of which benefit World Bicycle Relief. The event was part of Northeast Ohio's celebration of Cleveland Bicycle Week. Although Cleveland Bicycle Week doesn't officially start until May 16, as Kevin Cronin of ClevelandBikes pointed out in his opening remarks, we're considering any bike-related event this month (as well as some in June) to be a part of the festivities!

The story in the film focuses on 5 individuals throughout the world:

  • Fred, a farmer in Zambia -- In addition to supporting his wife and children as a farmer, Fred volunteers to provide care for local members of the community suffering with HIV/AIDS. With his bicycle, provided by the organization World Bicycle Relief, Fred is able to visit more patients in a shorter amount of time, and have more time left to spend with his family.
  • Mirriam is a physically disabled woman in Ghana. She works at a local bicycle repair shop called Ability Bikes, that was founded with the help of the organization Bikes Not Bombs. She is an inspiration not only to other disabled people who are normally shunned and ignored by the society they live in, but also to women in general, in a culture where women are typically considered not able to perform skilled mechanical work.
  • Bharati is a 14-year-old girl in India. In her rural region, most girls don't attend school beyond the elementary level, because the schools are often hours away by walking, and the girls are expected to spend more time at home helping their families with chores. With bicycles provided by a group called Ashta No Kai, Bharati and her friends are able to attend high school and still have time for studying and their other family obligations.
  • Carlos is an engineer who helped found Maya Pedal in Guatemala. The group designs and builds "bicimaquinas," or pedal-powered machines that enable local farmers and others to perform necessary work using methods that require less expensive resources that cause less harm to the environment. Some of their creations in use in their community today include a bicycle-powered corn thresher, water pumps, and a bicycle blender.
  • Sharkey is a volunteer bicycle mechanic at the Bici Centro bike co-op in Santa Barbara, California. His work has given him a sense of worth and positive connection to the community, which has helped to keep him away from gang activity in his neighborhood.
In seeing these people tell their stories of how bicycles have changed their lives, you can't help but be struck by the vast difference between them and us in their relationships to their bicycles. Personally, I love my bikes, and I believe that using them instead of my car as much as possible helps to save natural resources, save money, and save my health. But to be honest, the real reason I ride is just that I think it's a lot of fun.

This difference hit a note even further when, in one scene, Fred is shown strapping his medical kit to the back of his bike using an old inner tube. Of course, the first thing I thought was that he could us a few of the bungee cords that I routinely stop and pick up on the side of the roads during my rides. I started doing this a couple of years ago just on a lark, as a goof, if you will, just because I was amazed at the number of them that I saw. I've become known kind of as the "Johnny Appleseed of Bungee Cords." My friends now sometimes will say that they notice them laying on the side of the Interstate, and their first impulse is to stop and pick them up, until they realize, "Wait, I can't do that, I'm in the middle of a freeway." The whole thing kind of reminds me of a quote from the movie "The Book of Eli," where the main character (played by Denzel Washington), in comparing our world of today with the post-apocalyptic wasteland of his time, said, "We used to throw away things that people kill each other for now." Maybe that comparison is a bit extreme, but that's just what occurred to me.

Anyway, if you didn't get a chance to catch the film at the Cedar Lee Theater last night, check out www.withmyowntwowheels.org for other screening locations around the country. One of the co-directors, Jacob Seigel-Boettner, was there last night for a Q&A session after the film, and he said it will be available on DVD (and probably online) in 2012.

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