There’s a gender gap in biking in San Francisco. Just 32% of bike trips are made by people who identify as women in our city. While that’s above the national average of 24% of all bike trips, these percentages should be much higher. Why is it that American women shy away from biking for transportation, and what should our city do to change that?
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Kristin Tieche
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Women Just Want To Be Safe is a project that emerged from collaborating with photographer Adrienne Johnson to produce a series for the advocacy journalism site Human Streets. We recognize that there’s a gender gap in biking in North America. Just 24% of bike trips are made by people who identify as women. Why is it that American women shy away from biking for transportation, and what should city government do to change that?
As women who ride bikes, we have a theory. It’s frankly not safe enough for many women to choose to ride a bike. In cities like San Francisco, women often feel attacked and harassed, and biking here offers no relief.
This episode in the series tells the story of a woman who was doored in an unprotected bike lane in San Francisco. Our goal is to show the ways in which city government has failed women who might choose to ride a bike, and to inspire women to become more active in demanding safe streets.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Adrienne and I decided to offer an authentic look into how it feels as a woman to ride a bike in a city that tries to flaunt itself as a great biking city. The bottom line is that San Francisco is not safe enough. The roads are potholed. Drivers are aggressive. Bike lanes and sharrows provide little to no protection. The air at ground level is polluted from exhaust pipes. Ubers, Lyfts, taxis and delivery vehicles block bike lanes. People in cars yell out their windows at people on bikes. Car doors open too close to bike lanes. There are too many vehicles on the street and not enough room for humans. This kind of violence to the psyche makes women afraid to bike, especially on a daily basis sharing the roads with people who commute in cars.
This is not a pretty picture. And yet, it’s the reality of the women-identified riders who take the 32% of trips by bike in our city every day, the two-wheeled warrior women who brave adversity and take up space with their bikes on our city streets.
Not every woman is a warrior. For some women, riding a bike means putting yourself in harm’s way, and the risks are too many for them to consider riding a bike as a viable means of urban transportation. Women’s bodies, families, health, jobs and dignities are not worth the degradation or sacrifice just to get from here to there on a bicycle.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
We all should know by now that climate change threatens life on earth as we know it. The number one source of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere comes from fossil fuels. Top climate scientists from Stanford University cite building safe bike infrastructure as one of the solutions to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We want to call attention to the urgency of creating safe spaces to bike for all types of riders, including women. Increased bicycle modeshare should be prioritized in every city's climate change policy.
In addition, riding a bike should be an empowering experience for women. It's a shame that so many women associate riding a bike with fear. After all, Susan B. Anthony said the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. That statement can ring true for so many more women today in 2017 if cities could build safe biking infrastructure like protected and connected bike lanes. It's time to put the pressure on our elected officials to get more women on bicycles by building bike infrastructure.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
This is our first episode, so it's a project that will keep evolving. Each episode will feature a story about a violent incident that happened to a woman while she was riding a bike. Our second episode focuses on the California 3-foot law, in which drivers must give cyclists three feet of space when passing on the left.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We need funding! A corporate sponsor or a private donor could support our work immensely and we'd be able to accomplish so much more. Our production partner, Human Streets, is fiscally sponsored by Community Initiatives so any donation is tax deductible.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We believe that Women Just Want To Be Safe will resonate with people who ride bikes in cities all over the United States, so much that they will advocate for better bike infrastructure.
Would you like to add anything else?
Please stay tuned to Human Streets for our second episode of Women Just Want To Be Safe to be released in December 2017.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I have another film premiering at the New Urbanism Film Festival. It's the fourth episode in my series, Velo Visionaries. This episode features Gabe Dominguez, bandleader of SHAKE YOUR PEACE! and co-founder of the Bicycle Music Festival. Adrienne Johnson and I look forward to creating more bike advocacy films together and promoting them at film festivals around the world.
All photos feature Angela May Chen on her bicycle. Photos by Adrienne Johnson
Interview: October 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Women Just Want To Be Safe
Length: 5 minutes 34 seconds
Director: Kristin Tieche
Producer: Kristin Tieche
Writer: Kristin Tieche
About the writer, director and producer:
Kristin Tieche has earned an international reputation as an environmental filmmaker and skilled documentary editor. She is known for her award-winning environmental and social commentary films, including "Forms of Identification” (2011), and "The Spinster" (2013), which won the Jury Prize at the Boston Bike Film Festival. Her popular short film series "Velo Visionaries" (2015-2017) is enjoying global exposure at film festivals focusing on urbanism, sustainability and biking. Kristin holds a Master of Arts in Television, Radio and Film from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and is continuing her studies in sustainability, climate change and ecology from City College of San Francisco. She is also a dedicated urban cyclist.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Funders
Social media handles:
Made in association with: A co-production of Selvavision & Human Streets
Where will the film screen in the next month?
New Urbanism Film Festival
October 20, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Acme Hollywood Theater
135 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036