LESS CAR MORE GO and the Hero’s Quest:

I’ve been a filmmaker/ editor for 14 years or so, with a focus on documentary. I spent close to a year combining a huge variety of sources to form the Sundance award-winning film, American Blackout. So I was quite aware, from the beginning, that 100 testimonials from love-struck cargo cyclists would not a compelling story make! A successful 90-minute film requires a narrative spine, commonly provided by one character’s quest.



Lucky for me, one of my first interviewees was Ross Evans, the Ted-Talk giving, big-idea-spouting, Geodesic dome-building CEO of Xtracycle. The meeting became a tipping point in the birth of LESS CAR MORE GO: suddenly I had a Hero, a Quest, and a Central question, all wrapped up in a charismatic, enthusiastic and media-savvy subject.

















Ross Evans works to make people feel ALIVE. Cargo Bikes are his tool of choice.

 

Ross relayed his amazing story: At age 19, while collaborating with disabled veterans as part of a Bikes Not Bombs program in war-torn Nicaragua, he invented the Xtracycle cargo bike conversion kit.




Upon returning to the US, he formed the Xtracycle company and created a community of hardcore cargo bike evangelists with whom he set out to transform American culture, initiating what would become the current cargo bike boom almost twenty years ago! Best part: he shot tons of photos and video! Here is a teaser, followed by a 22-minute preview of the Xtracycle story, Birth of an American Cargo Bike:

 

It was obvious that the rapidly growing network of cargo bike users heard the same call; what if I helped them connect and we tackled this project as a team? I had to try it. Given my knowledge and love of filmmaking, we had to make a film.

So, in the Spring of 2011 we started LESS CAR MORE GO (formerly know as (R)Evolutions per Minute) with a video trailer, a website and a Facebook Group. I bought a handful of mini-hard drives, a couple HD mini-cams, and two GoPros. Through our cargo bike network we began to share equipment, resources, and the skills of several like-minded professional shooters.

Since then the 2 edits of LESS CAR MORE GO trailer have been viewed over 107,000 times and traveled the world as part of the Bicycle Film Festival. The very active Facebook group has over 1500 members. I’ve been inundated with email. And Co-Directors just keep shooting. Some have hosted gatherings now called “Cargo Bike Roll Call”s wherein cyclists bond, tell there story and go for a ride, all on video. Others have spent their summer vacation interviewing riders wherever they found them. Some started wearing a helmet-cam when running errands  At the same time Co-directors have flown, housed and fed me while I’ve been shooting up and down the west coast.






















Reactions to the trailer for LESS CAR MORE GO:

This is one of the most inspiring videos I've ever seen. Thank you!....Bo***ox to the car, I'm selling it in favor of an electric assist cargo bike and if I can do it here in the NorthWest Scottish Highlands then it should be possible anywhere...... I'm in!!!

It plays to people culturally outside of cycling's perceived core of radicals and racers, but who definitely connect the dots in terms of larger community benefits extending citywide and globally.

The cargo bike video is changing the way I view bikes, and I've never owned a car. She converted a convert, freaking awesome.

I drive a big truck= 7 mpg. I am what you would call a conservative. Having said that...I feel inspired! If it wasn't 50+ miles to work, I would totally consider a bike commute. Maybe a change in employer or career in my future!

A 100% promise to the world: My family will be living with one of these very soon!

Since I rely on bikes for transportation, this beautiful video hits close to home....With a surprising emphasis on electric assist, it's all very hopeful and exciting -- the start of something new.

A little squooshed & very happy!



At once I understood all the stories I was reading of regular folk--some who hadn’t been on a bike in years, getting on a cargo bike and instantly becoming fanatic evangelical advocates, reaching out and befriending every cargo bike lover they could find. They can’t contain their excitement and neither could I. I felt duty-bound to make the cargo bike experience accessible, to show people how easily it can be done, how much sense it makes, how completely ALIVE it makes you feel.



Bumper sticker designed by cargo bike blogger (and my personal inspiration) Sara Armstrong.

 

 

The Kickstarter has ended. Thank you all! We surpassed our goal and connected with more bike lovers all over the world. Anyone who missed a chance to back us can back us using the  “Donate” button below. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

The Project:

In early 2011, almost three years before the Wall Street Journal dubbed cargo bikes "the New Station Wagon," filmmaker Liz Canning began making LESS CAR MORE GO. The project is a crowdsourced documentary on the past, present and future of the cargo bike movement, co-directed by over 100 cargo cyclists. A rapidly growing online network of bike lovers from all over the world has shared hours of video footage capturing how cargo bikes change lives. The number, quality and content of submissions to LESS CAR MORE GO is a stunning testament to the power of bicycles, community and art. And we’ve only just begun!

























By interweaving Co-Directors’ footage with interviews Liz has shot with riders, designers, shop owners, advocates and pioneers, LESS CAR MORE GO will tell the tale of the cargo bike, from the original bakfiets and rickshaws in Europe and Asia, to the birth of the Longtail in Australia and Nicaragua, through the year 2014 when sales are doubling and tripling annually, and the global cargo bike culture is exploding! 
































Furthermore, the collectively illustrated story of the cargo bike boom will be framed by the parallel story of the synergistic LESS CAR MORE GO project. Our goal is to produce an authentic, collaborative document of a cultural revolution in progress: a tribute to the potential of teamwork, bikes and the internet.

The LCMG trailer, produced in 2011 as an introduction to potential Co-Directors:

Leaders are not, however, always winners, and often pay a price for being so far ahead of their time. By the time the cargo bike concept began to make sense to people, Xtracycle was battle-worn and weary from 10 years or so of beating their heads against a sport-focused bike industry and a car-loving population. There followed an onslaught of new competition, primarily in the form of the now ubiquitous Yuba Bicycles, founded by former close friend and early partner in Xtracycle, Ben Sarrazin.



















Ben Sarrazin left Xtracycle to start his own cargo bike business, the fast-growing Yuba Bicycles..

 

When I began following the Xtracycle story in 2011, the stakes for Ross were enormously high. He and his company were broke, beat and bitter. He had a new wife and son and faced losing his legacy; could he summon the wherewithal to save Xtracycle and take his rightful place as father of the American cargo bike? Here was a fascinating coming of age tale of dedication, betrayal and redemption, played out on the east and north sides of the San Francisco Bay. With plenty of “impassioned visionary vs. savvy businessman” drama to spare. 

Furthermore, just when Ross was facing the challenge of his life, the bike industry and cargo bike advocates everywhere were looking around and asking: Is this it? Has the Era of the Cargo Bike arrived? 


Award-winning documentary editor and storytelling consultant Karen Everett writes: Like narrative films, documentaries are at their best when the protagonist’s object of desire and the movie’s central question are concrete and specific. Ross’ fate and the success of the cargo bike movement are intimately tied and easily identified. So it makes beautiful sense that LESS CAR MORE GO will use Xtracycle’s quest as the narrative train to take viewers through the past, present and future of the cargo bike movement, as captured by Co-Directors and me. 




















Reason #1:

So, modern bike advocacy was formed in the 60’s and 70’s, by many of the same wise people behind the concurrent growth of environmentalism, right? But 50 years later, these movements have failed to appeal to the public at large and their great ideas have yet to truly sink into the mainstream consciousness. This is no surprise to urban mobility expert Mikael Colville-Andersen. In his interview for LESS CAR MORE GO he explained that the finger-pointing, guilt-tripping, and holier-than-thou tone typical of their messaging does not engage your average Joe, and instead encourages inherently exclusive subcultures of Avid Cyclists and Nature Lovers. (“You’re not a real cyclist, on that cruiser, in that skirt and heels...”)

Colville-Andersen goes on: 

Ownership of cycling--for almost an entire generation in some countries--has been claimed by the roadies, the Mountain Bikers, the recreationalists. But they don’t own the Bike! ...And they have nothing to do with mainstreaming bicycles. Let them ride their bikes and let them love it--it’s not about them anymore, it’s about the 99% who could be riding bikes, who maybe want to ride a bike, if they are given the right inspiration.


Colville-Andersen is changing the image of cyclists with the Cycle Chic movement and creating space for bikes through Copenhagenize Design Co.

 

For these reasons, LESS CAR MORE GO will not be a sort of Inconvenient-Truth-on-two wheels; our message is urgent, to be sure, but cargo bikes are FUN! Our documentary will instead offer an accessible and exciting alternative to the lycra-clad, gear-obsessed archetype of the modern cyclist. The characters in the film are not showing off, competing or shaming anyone; they ride because it makes sense and it feels good. No scary climate-change messaging needed; all it takes is a test ride! 

When it was invented 125 years ago, the bicycle was meant for the common man and woman: it liberated women, it liberated the working classes, it impacted the gene pool positively...it was amazing stuff that happened, and that’s what’s happening again!                                                       

                --Mikael Colville-Andersen


Emily Finch competes in the Portland Fiets of Parenhood event.

 

Reason #2:

The utility cycling explosion is, like this documentary, not about the bikes! Modern life is crazy-making, yes? Hyper-paced, high-tech, disempowering, overwhelming. The sort of cognitive dissonance created by living in a system we don’t control or necessarily believe in can leave us feeling boxed-in, worn-out and disconnected.

Get on a bike. Preferably one with the power to replace your car. Ideally carrying a passenger. Pedal. Breathe. Wave. Smell. Comment on the changing colors. Stop to chat. Sweat. Notice how your legs are moving two people where they need to go. Notice smiles. Smile back! Then smile to yourself. Congratulations, and welcome back. You are reconnecting; to your body, your community, your family and your environment. 

Like the first time you balanced on two-wheels, the freedom is intoxicating. Underlying all this is a calming awareness that you are simultaneously saving resources, money and (often) time, reducing traffic and emissions, and creating health and happiness. You are doing all these things, in public, everyday. We believe this is immensely powerful.

Josef Bray-Ali rides and sells cargo bikes at Flying Pigeon LA. He said it best: The night I assembled my Workcycles bakfiets in the autumn of 2007 and rode it home, I cried tears of joy. For me, the bakfiets was a release from the obligation most parents feel to trap themselves in minivans, traffic, stress, and health and happiness goals that are ‘unrealistic given our hectic schedule’. It was a middle finger to the entire 20th century pattern of sprawl, urban ruin, and over-investment in a car-only lifestyle.




Our Request:

Thus far the project been fueled by passion and funded by co-directors and myself. A successful Kickstarter campaign will sustain us through post-production and ensure that all this inspired work pays off. A documentary (especially a crowdsourced one) is really made in the editing. I will need time and some assistance to weave all these disparate elements into a coherent and exciting story.

Kickstarter funds will also pay for a handful of video equipment to be shared by co-directors, media storage drives, an assistant editor/producer, and travel to cargo bike hot spots in and possibly outside of the US. There will be other expenses like music and archival rights, motion graphics and color correction/finishing, DVD authoring and outreach, press and publicity.


I’m asking asking for $36,000 because I’m accustomed to making films on a shoestring, but the more we raise, the more polished and professional our documentary will be! All Kickstarter funds will go into making LESS CAR MORE GO as powerful as possible!


The Rewards:

Because our goal is to grow the cargo bike community WHILE making this film, we’ve continued the theme of crowdsourcing and collaboration with rewards that allow you to get involved and become part of the team--check them out below! Remember that we will be funded ONLY if we reach our goal. So please back us however you can and spread the word! 

 

My Story:

I, Liz Canning, became a filmmaker while studying at Brown University's Department of Modern Culture and Media. After years of making and curating experimental films in San Francisco, I began a career as an editor (Bio/resume/previous work available here.)

I have always loved bikes. Just never entirely grasped the car-as-rite-of-passage-into-adulthood thing; it was my bike that made me feel free, bold, and adventurous. This was surely inconvenient at times, but I didn’t drive until I was almost 40! By that time I felt intimately familiar with the power of life on 2-wheels. I did not expect that mid-midlife crisis I would be Reborn as a new kind of cyclist: empowered and called to action--by new kind of a bicycle.











I discovered cargo bikes when having twins threatened to end my bike-centric lifestyle.

 

It happened when my twins were about two. I was forced to admit that dragging the double bike trailer stuffed with fat toddlers up the very long steep hill to our house--though adventurous-- was not at all fun and becoming dangerous. So, defeated and bored, I resorted to the car, even for 2 mile-trips to preschool or the store.

The thought that kids--beings undeniably drawn to, and seemingly designed for transport via bicycle, whose future may depend on on our consuming less--the thought that they could actually force our family into a car just killed me. 

I began to wonder: might there be a bike out there that could happily and safely get us up and down that hill? I typed “carry kids on bike” and hit “search.” In a pivotal, life-changing moment I discovered what would become my lifestyle, my fellow filmmakers and my extended family. There it was: the beginnings of the cargo bike boom, manifested in blogs, groups, chats and tweets, buzzing with passion and decorated with the elated faces of families, commuters, messengers and business owners moving heavy things on giant, burly bicycles.

A month or so later I was riding a beautiful blue front loader. Within a year, we’d added an electric assist hub motor. The steep climb that once forced us into a car became irrelevant. What had previously been a chore--errand-running and carting kids--became an adventure. I began to pile things on: 2 kids plus their bikes, 4 kids and backpacks. I could ride farther, faster, with awesome acceleration and, frankly, more fun! I charged that battery about every three days and the car sat idle for weeks.