The Proverbial Good British Cycling Documentary Film

Exciting news! No, really.

After over a year of monitoring the portrayal of cycling on TV from the failure of The War On Britain Roads, through the unintended hilarity of The Route Masters and whilst expecting more of the same from ITV’s forthcoming Road Rage Britain we may, finally, have a decent documentary about what cycling is and can be in the UK. Maybe Chris Boardman will be happy…

…but it’s not from Chris Boardman. No, it’s Car na Cuibhle from BBC Alba.   Yes, that means it’s partly in gaelic – but don’t worry as usual it’s subtitled (in English it’s called Wheels of Change). So rather than my usual transcription approach from before, I’ll share a few screenshots to explain why it gets it right.

We start with a father and son riding together into Glasgow for school and work, we see their struggles on the road and niggles with parking outside the son’s school.
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.27.07

The son goes to gaelic school, the father goes to work on health in Glasgow, and he is interested in how active travel can improve it. Many questions are posed.

How realistic large scale change is now:
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.10.35

Where the money that’s needed might be going:
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.11.27

How people feel they have to cycle in Edinburgh now:
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.11.06

What those who’ve left Edinburgh for the Netherlands found:
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.10.50

How cycle cafes fit into our culture or cycling culture:
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.11.38

Why cycle sport isn’t just about young men:
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.11.56

But more tragically, what even a young professional cyclist knows:
Trusadh_Series_6_-_14._Wheels_of_Change_Car_na_Cuibhle_b0450gnf_default_4 Jun 2014 14.12.28

There’s a lot in here. And I think there’s a great deal of intelligence in it. It would be great if there was some perfect ‘kerb nerd’ in here talking up the ideals of Space For Cycling, it would be nice to understand the details a bit more, but for an hour it gets in a hell of a lot.

Watch it now!

Here’s the programme’s blurb:

Scotland’s city streets and roads have long been a daunting place for cyclists, with the car firmly established as the transport method of choice. However, a change is afoot with the number of cyclists on the road growing rapidly.

Glasgow alone has seen an increase of 25 percent in those cycling in to the city centre each day in recent years, but the numbers are still small. It’s a different story in Copenhagen in Denmark though. 40 years ago it was as car-clogged as many UK cities.

Now 36 percent of all journeys to work or education are made by bicycle, with 1.2 million km cycled in the city on a daily basis. But how to did this biking revolution come about? Trusadh: Wheels of Change looks at the ways that the face of Scottish cycling is beginning to change, and we’ll see what can be learnt from the experience of countries like Denmark

You had until roughly 9PM on the 9th of June to watch it before it disappeared from iPlayer forever but someone uploaded it to YouTube. Maybe we should get it networked? If not, perhaps London Live can afford to make something similar in a London context. I can’t imagine they have much less budget than BBC Alba!

Watch it now!

p.s. Serious thanks to Andy Arthur (@cocteautriplets on twitter) for mentioning this, I so nearly missed it completely.

3 thoughts on “The Proverbial Good British Cycling Documentary Film

  • It started off really well, but slowly descended into pointless nonsense.

    For a programme which was meant to be about transport, they spent a lot of time on completely unrelated cycle sport things – mountain biking, stunt BMX riding, and an interminably long segment of two old men at a velodrome. Charming, but irrelevant.

    They also spent far too long talking about silly frippery such as bicycle cafés and boutique bag shops. They don’t really think that’s how mass population transport change happens, do they?

    The interview with the Scottish woman living in the Netherlands was good, though it seems a shame that the camera crew went all the way there and didn’t get even one shot of a cycle path, possibly leaving many viewers thinking that maybe it is the mountain bikers and boutique bags that creates mass cycling.

    The woman speaking for Copenhagen, however, was excellent! I don’t think I disagreed with a single thing she said. I particularly like the way she speaks of bike infra as progress, the way of the future. Who doesn’t like progress?

    One thing it has made clear is that Scotland will not even vaguely reach it’s 10% modal share by 2020. It won’t even get half that. (Though that’s not a surprise.)

    • Alex Ingram

      I don’t think pointless nonsense gives it enough credit, and I don’t think it was really about transport either. No, this is a documentary trying to look at the place of cycling in Scottish culture and how that has changed. I don’t mind them talking about some of the things the media has picked up on before like cycle cafes, because it is all part of cycling in Scotland. We need to remember that we’re not the audience. The documentary campaigners need has to engage pretty much anyone and make them want more liveable cities, if it’s just an argument for more cycle facilities it’s too niche. If there’s a problem here, it’s that it’s a cycling documentary at all.

      I definitely need to write a longer more considered critical review of this one, and The Human Scale and a few others (Urbanized?). No documentary out there is quite right, but I’m not sure we’ll ever get the perfect film unless we make it ourselves. Is it time to give in and start crowdfunding so we can get the campaigners ideas out? Maybe. I’d certainly rather that than yet another bloody light with tendrils and a special pattern that reflects my hormone levels.

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