Tag Archives: context

The Bicycle Thieves was made in 1948 and is a classic of Italian cinema.

It is set in a post war Italy where work, food and simple conveniences are hard to gain, and harder to keep. The plot revolves around a man and his search for a stolen bicycle and draws you into his hopeless struggle to retain, and make something of his slim chances of providing for his family.

Essentially the movie isn’t about bicycles, but is worth watching anyway, it is that good! The acting from these unschooled actors would put many current, fame engorged actors to shame with the power they bring to the simple and direct dialogue and plot. The important place cycling had in the Italian culture is strongly evident from the scenes that show the everyday cycling culture around the action of the movie. More broadly speaking, the portrayal of everyday life in Italy seems very authentic and so the movie also provides a window into a lost world of suits, fortune tellers, markets, whore houses and homes.

The Bicycle Thieves has been broadly critically acclaimed and very much worth the time and effort to track down and watch. It’s a little melancholy but those were dark, grim times for Italy, made even more grim by bloody bicycle thieves.


Quicksilver is a movie about cycle couriers made in 1986 and stars a young Kevin Bacon and Laurence “Larry” Fishburn.

First thing you notice about this movie is that it has similar DNA to other classics from the period, like dirty dancing and footloose. You may be surprised to know that all 3 of these movies involve dancing.  The dancing scene in Quicksilver involves a bicycle and easily tops them all for romance and must be seen.The next thing you notice is that movie editing has come along way in the last 20 years.

The best parts of the movie, as you might imagine, involve bike chases, and essentially the rest of the film only really works to explain and build your excitement for the next cycling action scene.

One excellent scene worth noting is one which involves the main character transforming as he walks down the street. He starts off as a stockbroker and starts shedding clothing, as it was happening I wondered if the main character was going to keep devolving all the way to a teenwolf character which would have been interesting, but sensibly for the rest of the plot he ends up in in 80’s chic.

Another important scene involves a cycling trick session where the cycle couriers suddenly turn into russian circus performers and start pulling off crazy shit. This scene ends brilliantly with the owner of the courier business, who is wearing one of those natty little racing caps, calling everyone inside with a happy chuckle. It’s a quintessential 80’s moment.

There are lots of fun ingredients in this movie, but nothing of any substance, which is good because it would be probably too hard to swallow give everything else. It’s light, it’s fluffy and a perfect antidote for being stuck inside on a rainy afternoon instead of being out in the sunshine cycling. If you’re a fan of Raleigh cycles there is some bike porn here too – I won’t spoil it for you by naming the models.

If you like bikes, this movie is fun – it’s available on itunes.

Somethings are almost entirely about context. I think motorised bicycles are definitely one of them.

To begin with, I think some distinction should be made between the electric powered boffins and the petrol powered, two-stroke, bad boys. To begin with, all two stroke engine users set themselves apart from ‘normal responsible behavior’ by using the most noisy means of power available to them, but noise aside,  both varieties of powered bicycle have problems that set them significantly apart from other bicycles.

Petrol powered bicycles have been with us for a long time (, and recently seem to have found new devotees taking advantage of the combined affordability of a bicycle and power of the 2-stroke engine. In evolutionary terms they fall somewhere between bicycle and motorcycle, but having lost the grace and simplicity of the bicycle and having none of the utility of a motorcycle, they seem to the casual observer to be the worst of two worlds, spreading noise, oily smoke and the potential for limb tearing accidents at every turn. It is lucky that they make so much noise, because if they were silent they’d probably kill many unsuspecting bicycle path users. If you are hard of hearing, or too young to know better, you are at risk from these cycle path psychopaths.

Silence brings us to the electric motor, the young, geeky cousin of the powered bicycle world. This is a very different animal, but because of it’s speed and stealth, presents a clear and present danger to anyone using a cycleway, deaf, young or otherwise. Electric bicycles are unforgivably uncool, even with the potential to have them powered from something like solar power, but make no mistake, if you don’t spot them first, they are no slouches and can be upon you very quickly. The true horror of these vehicles is the potential to be knocked over by someone on an electric bicycle – the shame of it all! Given that you’d never actually tell anyone about being mown down by an electric bicycle, I believe injuries from these silent menaces go under reported. The one saving grace of electric bicycles is that they could be a stepping stone in the development of something else – lets keep our fingers crossed.

The biggest problem with powered bicycles is of course their owners, which in a round about way, brings us back to my original argument that motorised bicycles are about context. Many riders of motorised bicycles seem to feel that because what they are riding isn’t as cool, fun or useful as a motorcycle, they should be allowed to use cycle paths. This is patently wrong. They should take their place, at the bottom of the food chain, on the roads with other powered vehicles. They are counter to the reasoning of cycle paths more broadly, which are engineered to separate cyclists from motor-ists. The cycle path context is wrong for powered transport of this kind. On the road however they seem wildly appropriate, using less space, energy and materials to get the passenger from A to B and would be less deadly in the case of mishap.