Why cyclists find it hard to save the world: Bikes vs Cars

It’s not a war, it’s a city” the young bike activist Aline Cavalcante states, referring to San Paolo, her adoptive city. But still in the Brazilian metropolis, as in many other places in the world, there are casualties on the roads, and people daily fight an uneven battle aimed to ensure cyclists’ safety against forces that seem unstoppable.

Bikes vs Cars”, a documentary by the Swedish director Fredrik Gertten, is focused on this important issue: bikes can be the key to solve enormous problems related to traffic, pollution or global warming, but strong economic powers exerting pressure on both politics and media are tackling the transition to a possible new system.

“The car industries invest a lot of money to protect their own sick business and invest billions of dollars into not to make the world better, even if we know that we need to” the director tells us, kindly answering some questions about the premises and goals of his film. “There is a bike movement but it has strong enemies, and they often are enemies that say they are friends. If we want to change the world, we need to know that these powerful people with all their lobby money and their publicity…they don’t want to change the world, they want to keep going like they have always been doing”. If we need a recent example, here is one: “If I had this Volkswagen story before I made the film, it would be in there of course, because it’s such a crazy story..!

fredrik gertten

Fredrik Gertten, photo CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival

This is a really tough, weighty challenge for all the people in the documentary, who present their personal experience on the roads of different cities from different places all around the world to the audience of potential allies. “I believe in having small stories which tell a bigger story, that is to say small stories with a global aspect. So all the people in this film could have been someone else in another city, but these people represent everyone. Even if Aline is in San Paolo, she could have been another woman, in Torino for example, making the same fight. If you can find people who are strong enough, other people would identify with them and it would be a more emotional story”.

After all, the incredible power of cinema is nothing but this: the combination of emotion and information. Sometimes in journalism there is lot of information… But in films, if you do it well, you can package information in a way so that it really goes to people’s hearts. That information will be stronger and people will hopefully not forget it so quick, it will stay deeper in people. That’s what cinema can. I think that’s also why documentary film is so successful all over the world now. Documentary film is adding something to normal tv or normal journalism”.


For its direct and purposeful style, along with the modernity and the urgency of the chosen topics, “Bikes vs Cars” is collecting several awards in many prestigious international festivals. The Green Film Network is no exception. As a matter of fact, the film received the Best Feature Award at San Francisco Green Film Festival 2015 and the Grand Prize for Best International Documentary at Cinemambiente Environmental Film Festivalfor its fresh look at a dilemma many people face every day. It makes you want to drive less and become part of the change”. A change that moves forward… by bicycle of course!