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Chernushenko premiers film encouraging a more bike-friendly Ottawa

By Natascia Lypny, Ottawa Citizen

July 8, 2013

OTTAWA — A bicycle-friendly city is a better city for everyone: That’s the thesis guiding Coun. David Chernushenko’s new film.

Premiering Tuesday night, Bike City, Great City is a 40-minute documentary aiming to influence the city’s decision makers to turn Ottawa into a cyclist’s heaven.

“I’ve been cycling all my life and I’ve always found it to be the most enjoyable way to get around, and often the most convenient,” says Chernushenko, who directed the film.

He says he wanted to “focus on the positive” by drawing from the best cycling practices of New York City, where he went on a cycling vacation last summer, and Copenhagen, the “gold standard” of bicycle cities.

Chernushenko says Ottawa is still coming into its own as a city that acknowledges and facilitates cycling not simply for recreation but as a common means of transit. He says the city got a head start in the 1970s and 1980s with the creation of recreational paths but has since slowed improvements.

He points to scary bridges, dangerously busy boulevards and “broken links” between neighbourhoods as key turnoffs for cycling commuters.

On the flip side, Ottawa has invested heavily in bicycle paths along its waterways. Chernushenko also praises the Laurier bike lane (whether it will become permanent is scheduled to be decided by city council next week).

“Generally, there’s the attitude in the city (that) cycling belongs in Ottawa, (and) let’s keep going … all I’m doing in my film is saying, ‘Yup! Let’s do it faster,’” says Chernushenko.

In 2011, the League of American Bicyclists and the Share the Road Coalition gave Ottawa a silver rating for its bike friendliness. Chernushenko wants the city to go for gold. Bike friendliness has public health, economic development and tourism benefits, he says, not to mention positive press.

Chernushenko filmed the entire documentary himself around his busy schedule as councillor for Capital Ward. It’s not his first: he previously directed Be the Change, about sustainable living, and Powerful: Energy for Everyone, looking at energy alternatives.

Bike City, Great City premiers Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Mayfair Theatre on Bank Street. A question-and-answer period with Chernushenko and the film’s producers will follow.

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Ottawa councillor releases new urban cycling documentary

 

Ottawa Coun. David Chernushenko hopes his new documentary on urban cycling will open up attitudes about urban design and transportation.

The 40-minute documentary, called “Bike City, Great City,” features interviews and scenes from bike-friendly cities in Europe and North America, focusing primarily on Ottawa, New York and Copenhagen. The Capital Ward councillor says he shot European footage and interviews during a summer trip in 2008, with the rest of the North American footage taken by him over the last year and a half.

“In a way it’s the story of Ottawa, and our slow but steady progress towards becoming a really good city for cycling,” Chernushenko said, though he adds there are significant steps to be taken to match progress made in European and other North American cities.

Chernushenko acknowledges there are significant differences between Ottawa and other cities in the film, but believes important steps can be made to create better infrastructure and perceived safety for cycling.

“It’s a shift towards adapting our cities so they work better for more people,” he says.

The budget for the film was raised through crowd-funding and sponsor donations, says the film’s producer Terry Kimmel . The film’s website says that $8,000 still needs to be raised to break even. It was produced in partnership with Tucker House, a non-profit environmental learned and retreat centre.

The first screening will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Mayfair Theatre, followed by a Q & A period with Chernuskenko. A second screening at the same time on Wednesday will be followed by a panel discussion including Citizens for Safe Cycling, the Canadian Automobile Association and the Envirocentre.