Pedalphiles (2000)

“You have to have a fairly exacting standard in order to be taken seriously” (SCAB collective member Michael).

The documentary Pedalphiles is the background story of SCAB (Skids Creating Apocalyptic Bicycles). SCAB is (was) a Wisconsin-based collective of bicycle enthusiasts whose mission was to promote the use of the bicycle as a “sustainable human-powered” and “viable alternative” to the automobile. Using scavenged bicycle parts, SCAB members created outlandish, ingenious bicycles and then infiltrated mainstream events, such as “Bike to Work Week” (AKA Middle Class Cop-Out Week). But apart from infiltration–with its goal of getting people to look at alternatives to fancy $2,000 bikes, SCAB just had a good time riding the streets of Wisconsin, developing new designs and passing out the word.

The film interviews SCAB collective members, and through these interviews the film explores the formation and growth of the group. Each of its members added their own unique talents, and this is clearly what made it work. Amanda explains, for example, how her welding skills helped the bike-making process. Collective members discuss and display some of their fantastic designs–the Preying Mantis, the Ghetto Way, the Pedal-Phile, the Huffy Nightmare, and…how could I forget…The Anal Intruder.

DVD extras include: Bike photos, and a Where Are They Now segment. This follow-up segment, filmed in 2005, 5-6 years after the original footage, is an essential part of the story. While SCAB is now a thing of the past, in individual interviews collective members all note the significance of SCAB in their lives. In spite of the fact that the collective members have taken different paths, some still maintain relationships, and some are still into bikes.

This energetic, and ultimately optimistic film from Brian Standing takes a fascinating look at how a group of young people with a range of talents and very little money put their beliefs into Direct Action. “Circumventing the whole buy-sale system” SCAB led by example. I am not much of a bike rider, I’ll admit, but after watching the film (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way) I started thinking that perhaps I need to break out my bike and start applying some pedal power in my life. A fair number of us realise that our current oil-dependent lifestyle will shortly come a cropper, and we all need to be prepared for that eventuality plus minimize our consumption for the health of the planet.

After the film concluded, I found myself mulling over the lives of these six very talented, creative people. I liked their decision to DO something about their beliefs, and I liked their positive approach. SCAB may well be a thing of the past, but I prefer to think of it as a beginning–not only for SCAB collective members, but also as a beginning for inspiration for those watching the film. Unfortunately, some of us are not lucky enough to live in a community with like-minded people, and so for us loners, a collective is not possible. And that makes the challenge for Direct Action a little different.

To quote collective member Tyson:
“I don’t know if I can even hope for a Utopian world at this point, just something better. And I think that’s just whatever we do in the time that we have.”

Pedalphiles is available at: www.prolefeedstudios.com

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Filed under Documentary, Political/social films

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