A portrait of the cargo bike movement as a search for freedom and connection in a gas-powered, digital and divided world.
MOTHERLOAD is a crowd-sourced documentary about a new mother’s quest to understand our cultural shift toward isolation and disconnection, what this could mean for the future, and how life on a cargo bike could be an antidote. As filmmaker Liz Canning explores the growing global movement to replace cars with purpose-built bikes, she learns about the bicycle’s history and potential future as the ultimate “social revolutionizer.” Her experiences as a cyclist, as a mother, and in discovering the cargo bike world, make it clear to Liz that sustainability is not necessarily about compromise and sacrifice and there are few things more empowering, in an age of consumption, than the ability to create everything from what seems to be nothing.
The film is in the final phase of post-production: editing is complete, color and sound are being finalized, and we’ve entered festivals. GET INVOLVED and help us through finishing and distribution by making a tax-deductible donation below.
A few of the people you'll meet in MOTHERLOAD . . .
Ross Evans developed the longtail cargo bike at age 19, as part of a 1995 Bikes Not Bombs economic development project in war-torn Nicaragua. Upon returning to the US, Ross founded Xtracycle, but the company floundered at first trying to promote an idea that was a decade or two ahead of its time, and that went against the grain of mainstream culture’s addiction to convenience.
Brent Patterson and Stacy Bisker were struggling to manage student loan debt and mounting medical bills for their son. To save money, they traded a car for a cargo bike, which led Stacy to discover joy in simple tasks like going to the grocery store. “The mundane became extraordinary, and I needed that in my life,” she says. After they move to Buffalo, NY, they decide to go completely car-free: we see Brent commuting to work in a snowstorm.
Emily Finch becomes a minor celebrity in Portland, OR, when she starts transporting her six children by cargo bike. Emily’s moment in the media spotlight helps spread awareness about the utility of these bicycles, but also elicits backlash from some people who find this lifestyle extreme, risky, and even selfish.
Ole Kassow, from Copenhagen, started Cycling Without Age, an international program facilitating the use of cargo trikes to take senior citizens out of nursing homes and into their communities. Ole tells Liz, “People say taking risks is irresponsible. I think it’s irresponsible not to take any risks.”
Josef Bray-Ali, owner of Flying Pigeon Cycles in Los Angeles, shows us the cargo bike culture in his racially and socioeconomically diverse neighborhood. Josef says that, though he makes a “below-poverty wage” as a bike shop owner, his cargo bike allows him a very high quality of life. This experience, he explains, “is a big, important, human animal thing to have.”
Therapist Dave Cohen works with GoVermont’s outreach programs, offering home consultations for families considering cargo cycling. Dave’s practice focuses on the human need for connection to the natural world; he explains that cycling fosters such connection, whereas cars isolate and disconnect.
Cycling and Liberation
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the bicycle served as a social revolutionizer, especially for women and the working classes. In MOTHERLOAD, historian Ellen Garvey explains that bicycles provided a form of access to citizenship for women. Susan B. Anthony once declared that bicycling “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel ….”
Another woman suffrage leader, Frances Willard, wrote a short memoir titled How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle, in which she declared, “I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life—it was the hardihood of Spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed.”
Sensation – Freedom – Connection
Another central theme of MOTHERLOAD is the search for connection—to our bodies, our senses, each other, and the planet. For most of our history, humans were hunter-gatherers, deeply rooted in and dependent upon the natural environment. The rapid pace of change in the 20th and 21st centuries—toward ever increasing convenience and consumption—has left many of us feeling stressed, exhausted, lonely, and depressed. Can bicycling more for transportation help us find greater connection and joy?
THE MOTHERLOAD NETWORK AND SCREENING PLAN
MOTHERLOAD is in the final phase of post-production; we will be submitting to film festivals in fall 2018, aiming to premier in early 2019. After that, we will launch our community screening program.
Our growing MOTHERLOAD network already includes:
· More than 100 confirmed screening partners across North America, Europe, and Australia
· Promotion by People for Bikes, an advocacy organization with 1.27 million members
· A “Letter of Intent to Screen” from KQED, the PBS affiliate station in San Francisco
· An active Facebook community with over 4000 members
We are forming additional partnerships with parenting, sustainability, and bicycle organizations. Our community screening package will include discussion questions, suggestions for taking further action, and templates for events that could be paired with the film. Please connect with us by emailing Producer/Director Liz Canning at firstname.lastname@example.org.