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Streetfilms

By Clarence Eckerson

StreetFilms
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Streetfilms and Streetsblog: The First 10 Years

This summer, Streetfilms and Streetsblog celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and to mark the occasion, we created this film looking back at how our reporting and videos have changed streets in New York, the U.S., and cities all over the world.

This film showcases only a small portion of the work that thousands of volunteers and advocates have put in. It begins with the NYC Streets Renaissance, a collection of organizations that banded together in 2005 to rally people around the idea that streets can change, by showing best practices from other cities and photosimulations of what NYC streets could become.

You’ll see clips from important Streetfilms like the series on Bogota’s Bus Rapid Transit and Ciclovia, as well as recaps of how Streetsblog influenced transportation policy at City Hall, defended the work of transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and put pressure on Albany to stop raiding transit funds. Getting closer to the present day, we look at why Streetsblog’s coverage of traffic crashes matters, the new generation of elected officials working for better streets, and what’s next for advocacy in NYC.

A note: This Streetfilm runs over 12 minutes, but if we had the resources it easily be a 90-minute feature documentary. Apologies to anyone left on the cutting room floor and topics not addressed, but perhaps someday we’ll be able to make that film!

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The Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

For the last 12 weeks we’ve been counting down the most influential Streetfilms in preparation for our 10-year anniversary benefit, which is coming up on Monday. When we picked that date, we knew a long and draining election season would be over, but we did not anticipate this result. We’re looking forward to gathering with our readers and supporters to face the challenges ahead together.

Thank you everyone for supporting our work, whether it be as a reader or a contributor — we need you! On Monday, there are no sales at the door. If you’ve been meaning to buy a ticket, this is your chance. We’d love to see you.

Ciclovia: Bogotá

Number of plays: 239,000

Publish date: December 1, 2007

Why is it here? This video established Streetfilms as a leader in great media that connects with people beyond transportation wonk circles. And most importantly, it gave advocates and volunteers across the world an important resource to make the case for Ciclovia-style events in their cities. At the time we published it, there were just a handful of events like this in America. After this Streetfilm was widely shared, in 2008, nearly 20 major cities hosted open streets events. In one famous story of how San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom saw the film and immediately put plans in motion for what became Sunday Streets. Ciclovias and open streets have exploded since then.

Fun fact: This was our most-viewed Streetfilm for more than six years! Although in the last 10 years I’ve made far better technical films, this one remains the nearest to my heart. It got me to develop a more in-the-moment shooting style — I literally didn’t know what we would see next.

I had such a wonderful time on this trip with Aaron Naparstek, Karla Quintero, Ethan Kent — plus the indefatigable Gil Peñalosa, without whose help this film would never have happened. And this is the kicker: One late night stuck in my hotel room, I decided to join match.com and met my future wife that very night!

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The Second Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes

Number of plays: 308,000

Publish date: July 15, 2010

Why is it here? This video was shot during the Velo City bike conference in Copenhagen in 2010. While watching the opening plenaries, the idea hit me: To convey what makes Copenhagen’s bike network so incredible, why not get attendees from the United States to talk on camera about their experiences biking in this city for the first time? This was the first Streetfilm to ever hit 10,000 plays in one month, and I hear it’s a great tool from advocates all over the world.

Fun fact: I spent my entire five days in Copenhagen shooting while hobbling around on a badly sprained ankle. Why? Within minutes of my arrival and picking up a rental bike, I looked up and saw a group of 25-30 people biking toward me in a protected bike lane. I’d NEVER seen so many bikes! So I leapt off my bike to get this special shot — and that’s when my ankle went sideways. Ouch! As I spent the days icing, elevating, gobbling ibuprofen, and biking as much as I could handle (walking actually hurt more), I realized that wonderful scene I was in such a hurry to capture gets repeated dozens of times per hour all around Copenhagen. Yeah, there was really no need to rush.

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The Third Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

The Case for Physically Separated Bike Lanes

Number of plays: 123,500

Publish date: February 17, 2007

Why is it here? Ten years ago, there were no on-street protected bike lanes in New York City. We only had simple painted lines that were not getting the job done — they were frustrating for people on bikes and too dangerous to get more hesitant New Yorkers on two wheels. This video was part of an influential campaign to integrate safe, protected bike infrastructure into NYC DOT’s toolkit. It was an early smash hit for Streetfilms, reaching tens of thousands of people in New York and beyond. And pretty soon after it was published, the city got its first protected lane.

Fun fact: I created the 10-second animation that accompanies Mark Gorton’s segment on Hudson Street using just text, some lines, and color mattes — nothing complicated. Yet that visual turned out to be the most enduring part of the video. Advocates around the world excerpted just that segment (or stills from it) to make the case for protected bike lanes in their hometowns.

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The 4th Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

Number of plays: 259,000

Publish date:  October 9, 2013

Why is it here? This mega-length Streetfilm is adored the world over. What really makes an impression on people is how Groningen’s street network is divided into sections that make car trips indirect while allowing the free movement of people on bikes. For many trips, riding a bike in Groningen is two or three times faster than driving a car. In large parts of the city, bicycling accounts for 60 percent of all traffic.

Fun fact: When I got off the train in Groningen, I walked the mile to my hotel and was practically laughing out loud. There were bicycles everywhere. Happy people enjoying the outdoors, hardly a car to be seen, and almost no traffic noise. It was magical, and as much as I thought I would be prepared for it based on what I’d heard from our publisher, Mark Gorton, I was not ready. As I told many people, I felt like I was in “a magical grownup Candyland game for bikes”!

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The 5th Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Bogotá BRT/Transmilenio

Number of plays: 65,353

Publish date: January 28, 2008

Why is it here? Bus Rapid Transit was still an unfamiliar concept in most American cities when we published this Streetfilm in 2008. With this look at Bogotá’s Transmilenio, we showed the ingredients of fast, convenient, high-capacity BRT: off-board fare collection, center-running bus lanes, stations with level boarding — as well as Bogotá’s feeder bus system and bike parking stations, which extend access to the core BRT routes. While not every component of the Bogotá system translates to the context of American cities, this Streetfilm conveyed to a new audience how much is possible when you fully commit to high-quality BRT.

Fun fact: At one point while filming bus routes from an overhead bridge, a military police officer approached me with a rifle in hand. There were terrorism threats during our visit and the transit system was a potential target. Our guide, Gil Peñalosa, immediately interceded and straightened things out.

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The 6th Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

NYC Streets Metamorphosis

Number of plays: 490,000

Publish date: January 1, 2014

Why is it here? Well, no Streetfilm has been viewed more than this one! At the tail end of the Bloomberg years, I thought of this video as a nice celebration of the tremendous recent changes on NYC streets and to say “thank you” to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her team. But in many ways the video has been a lot more than that, providing people outside NYC with a reference as to just how dramatically streets can transform in a short amount of time.

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The 7th Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Park(ing) Day San Francisco

Number of plays: 144,000

Publish date: November 2, 2006

Why is it here? It’s hard to remember now that parklets and bike corrals are well-established street elements in many cities, but not that long ago, repurposing curb space for anything other than parking or deliveries was unheard of. The annual observation of Park(ing) Day helped people imagine different uses for our streets. Many official city initiatives to turn the curb over to pedestrians (“Pavement to Parks,” “Street Seats“) were inspired by the early work of Rebar, the collaborative that popularized Park(ing) Day.

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The 8th Most Influential Streetfilm of All Time

With the 10-year benefit for Streetsblog and Streetfilms coming up on November 14 (get your tickets here!), we are counting down the 12 most influential Streetfilms of all time, as determined by Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Complete Streets: It’s About More than Bike Lanes

Number of plays: 53,500

Publish date: May 9, 2011

Why is it here? Five years ago, protected bike lanes were still a relatively new thing in New York City. The press really did not know what to make of them — for most part, local reporters stuck to a sensationalist narrative pitting cyclists against everyone else. This film was an attempt to show how protected bike lanes include design features that make streets safer for everybody (even drivers), and that they fit into a new approach toward streets that prioritizes walking, biking, and transit.

Fun fact: Essentially this film exists because NYC DOT and Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan were getting a tremendous amount of tabloid heat for street redesigns that were saving lives. It was absurd, and called for some countermeasures. The idea for this Streetfilm was to show how the new designs were making life better by speaking to people on the street.

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NYC Buses: Time for a Turnaround

New Yorkers take 2.5 million rides on the city’s buses every day. While NYC’s buses provide essential transit, especially in areas beyond the reach of the subway, they are among the nation’s slowest and least reliable.

Now a coalition of transit advocates are promoting practical strategies to improve the performance of NYC buses systemwide.

Transit advocates knew something was wrong when they observed declining bus ridership despite increasing population, a growing economy, and record-high subway ridership. To figure out what could be done about it, they spoke to industry experts and researched successful efforts in peer cities to identify common sense solutions to NYC’s bus problems. This research is summarized in their report “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses”.

The bus system faces big challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming how riders get on and off the bus, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, policy makers in city government and the MTA can turn around the decline of the city’s buses and attract riders back to the system.

We’ll get to see how serious public officials are about tackling these problems on October 6, when the City Council transportation committee holds an oversight hearing on how to improve the quality of NYC bus service.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the second in a series of four films examining transit in American cities. If you enjoyed this one, check out the first film, “High Frequency: Why Houston is Back on the Bus.”