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Bicycle Film Festival rolls on to Pittsburgh

This week the bicycle film festival hits its next stop…the industrial town of Pittsburgh PA.
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Home to this year’s Stanley Cup Winners:
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and it has a thriving bicycle scene which is often illustrated in the pages of Urban Velo magazine.

I had a brief chat with Jeff Guerrero who along with Brad Quartuccio, not only run Urban Velo’s magazine and blog, but are hosting the BFF in their hometown.

jdg_salsa

Name age and where you live (ride)

I’m Jeff Guerrero, 34, and live and ride in Pittsburgh, PA.

What bikes do you own?

I own about 10 bikes, and I’ve got a couple on loan from Salsa and Redline.

What will be your next bike purchase?

Honestly, I’ve got enough bikes for the time being. If I buy anything in the near future, it will be parts to build bikes for my less-fortunate friends.

What’s the bike culture like in Pittsburgh? (I know that’s a complicated one…just a general overview)

Pittsburgh’s got a surprisingly rich bike culture. Surprising, that is, only if you don’t live here. It’s a tough town with a blue-collar mentality and terrain that makes cycling both difficult and rewarding. If you haven’t heard, we’ve got a lot of hills, and the roads are usually pretty narrow. Being that we’re not a wealthy city, a lot of the roads are in bad shape and there aren’t a whole lot of cycling amenities like bike lanes and pedestrian bridges. We’re working on that, though.

On the bright side, there are lots of great people on bikes here. When the bicycle co-op throws a party, hundreds of bike punks come out of the woodwork. The mountain bike scene is pretty impressive, and the road racing culture is simply legendary. You ever heard of the Dirty Dozen? The Million Mile Man? We don’t have a velodrome, but we’ve got a bike track where they host crits twice a week, and every other Friday there’s track bike racing. And we’ve got about a dozen great bike shops, especially Iron City Bikes and Kraynick’s.

Has Pittsburgh had a BFF? What is planned?

I’m really excited to be screening the films at the Andy Warhol Museum. That place is amazing. Not only are they a world-renowned museum, they’ve been incredibly kind to us. It makes sense, though, since half the people that work there are cyclists (or so it seems). We’ll be hosting roller races at Pittsburgh’s only bicycle-themed bar, and then a big afterparty at one of the coolest art spaces in the city. Finally, we’ll be wrapping things up on July 4th with a bike polo tournament and BYOP (bring your own picnic), followed by a group ride to watch the fireworks.

Who will be coming to the festival? Will you see new faces?

I know we’ll be seeing our friends from Cleveland, Dayton and Lexington because of the polo tournament. I think we’ll see other people from the rest of Western Pennsylvania and the surrounding states, because the festival has never been in this vicinity before.

Are their any local films?

Unfortunately, no. But I think people will identify with a lot of the films as though they were. The story of FBM bikes will strike a chord with Pittsburgh’s working class (even though it’s from New York), and the short film “Ski Boys” will remind a lot of people of their rural Pennsylvania/Ohio roots (even though it’s from Canada).

What do you hope people will ride away from the BFF this year? How will it impact the biking community and culture in the area?

My biggest hope is that people within the community will be inspired to do more, and people from the fringes of the bike community will become more involved. I’m surprised there aren’t more people building bike frames in Pittsburgh, or putting on more unique events. I think that kind of thing is cause and effect, like the way bike culture continues to evolve in places like Brooklyn, because it’s constantly on display.

Whats it like to ride a bike in Pittsburgh? Is their infrastructure? Has the city been responsive to the rise in popularity of cycling? What needs improving the most?

It can be pretty tough, as I said earlier. We’re working on better cycling infrastructure, and we’ve even hired a bike/ped coordinator to make things happen. In recent years we’ve opened a couple bike lanes, painted sharrows here and there and remodeled an unused railroad bridge into a pedestrian bridge. There are three bike paths that are incredibly useful if you happen to be going in those directions, and if BikePGH (the local advocacy organization) have their way, we’ll have a few more that “connect the dots” and make cycling a viable option to those who aren’t as comfortable or competent riding in traffic.

Is there Critical Mass in Pittsburgh? Whats the level of Car vs Cyclist perspectives in general?

Yes, last Friday of every month… Meet at the dinosaur in Oakland at 5:30.

People are people no matter where you go—some are rude, some are ignorant, some are respectful and some are friendly. I think Pittsburgh drivers just need more official reminders to share the road, and then we’ll be in good shape. Drivers are getting used to seeing more bikes on the road, and that’s leading to a little more courtesy, or at least an increased awareness.

What is Urban Velo?

Urban Velo is the magazine Brad Quartuccio and I started a little more than two years ago. It’s our take on what a magazine for city cyclists should be. We focus on the people and the culture, not so much on the consumer end of things. Of course that kind of stuff is essential, so we cover a lot of that on our blog, which is updated daily (often several times a day).

Urban Velo and the BFF get around all over the world, What has been your greatest traveling experience on a bike?

I’ve been pretty lucky… Most of my travels have been for mountain biking, and I have a special place in my heart for Southwest Utah. One of the greatest bike trips I ever took was to Negril, Jamaica. We rode around town on full-suspension mountain bikes, and they were totally appropriate for the road conditions. I’ve ridden in the Alps on the French/Swiss border, and it was unbelievable. Though we were riding mountain bikes and taking chair lifts, I got to ride a short portion of the Tour de France (Les Gets to Morzine) every day that I was there.

As for urban cycling, I especially like NYC and Chicago. Philadelphia might be my favorite city to visit, though. At the same time, I haven’t been to a lot of the big “bike towns,” like Portland, for example. I’m looking forward to getting over to Japan someday, but that may be a while…

What’s in the future for Urban Velo?

We’re really just getting started. As the magazine grows, I hope it becomes sustainable and that I can dedicate even more time to it. I think there’s a lot of room for growth online, but I just haven’t had enough time to develop some of the ideas I have. We’re doing pretty well, though, for two guys with day jobs.

What are your future cycling goals?

Right now I’m just enjoying what I do. I ride for transportation and play bike polo. I haven’t done much mountain biking lately, and even less racing, but I’m fine with that. When I get the itch again I’ll scratch it. In the immediate future, I want to get more people into cycling. I would like to do more to help kids get into cycling for transportation in the city, and I’ve even got some ideas, but I don’t really have a lot of time between my day job (teaching art) and my duties with the magazine.

Anything you wished I’d ask you?

You should have asked me how much I love Michael Green’s writing and filmmaking. He’s AWESOME! Really, I appreciate what you do, Michael.
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Events around the festival:

BFF PITTSBURGH JULY 2 – 4
TICKETS AVAILABLE ONLINE.

THURSDAY JULY 2
7:00 PM | Program 1 – Bike Shorts – BUY TICKETS
9:00 PM | BLACK & GOLD SPRINTS
Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe – 2518 E Carson St
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FRIDAY JULY 3
6:00 PM | Program 2 – Where Are You Go – Premiere – BUY TICKETS
8:00 PM | Program 3 – Urban Bike Shorts – BUY TICKETS
8:00 PM | AFTER PARTY – The Brew House – 2100 Mary St

SATURDAY JULY 4
10:00 AM | BIKE POLO AND PICNIC
8:00 PM | BFF GROUP RIDE
aw…no you’re great…no you’re great…thanks for the kind words Jeff and good luck with the BFF.

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