Michael Bauch is creating a new, two-wheeled meaning for the term “going Dutch.”
Bauch’s film, “Riding Bikes with the Dutch,” will premiere at the Art Theatre at 5 p.m. May 9 as part of the Long Beach Bicycle Festival’s bike-themed film festival. Years in the making, the film takes place in the district of Jordaan in Amsterdam and looks deeper into the bicycle culture of the city.
Bauch has worked on numerous documentaries, non-profit and promotional productions over his 14-year career. After college, he interned for the American Film Institute. He shot interviews for a History Channel series titled “Sworn to Secrecy: Secrets of War,” narrated by Charlton Heston, about World War II espionage and behind the scenes work. But the moment he was nearly mowed over by bikes in Amsterdam got Bauch’s wheels turning.
“I got great experience doing these types of projects,” Bauch said. “And at one point, I wanted to tell my own story and do my own documentary.”
In 2003, Bauch and his wife traveled to Germany to visit family. A one-day layover in Amsterdam turned into three as Bauch, inspired by the city’s bicycle community, filmed an impromptu project titled “Amsterdam: The Bicycling Capital of Europe.”
Later that year he presented the film, less than five minutes in length, at the California Bike Coalition’s first walking and biking conference in Oakland representing the European biking scene. He was also able to sell some raw footage to a company that sold bike parts and to bike clubs. Inspired by the initial success of his small film, Bauch decided this project wasn’t quite finished.
“There’s a lot more to the story that I wasn’t able to cover in this short film,” Bauch said.
In fall of 2007 Bauch, his wife Rachel and their 7-month-old son, Leo, left Long Beach for The Netherlands.
Amsterdam is a city built for bicycles. Its extensive bike path network totals over 400 kilometers (about 248 miles) and about 40 percent of all traffic movements are by bike. Bauch set out to exemplify the “bicycle psyche” of the Dutch. The documentary explores how this culture is very normal in Amsterdam.
Bike riders aren’t seen as left-wing, environmentalist or exercise fanatics, Bauch said. They are regular citizens doing something that makes sense.
Doing a home exchange with a family in Amsterdam brought in key characters for Bauch’s self-funded film. Not only did it help financially, but Bauch interviewed the parents and friends of the Dutch family whose home they stayed in. Other stories include the life of a family who owned the bed and breakfast the Bauchs stayed at during their 2003 visit. The film documents how involved biking is in this family’s life from taking their kids to school to how the young daughter learns to ride a bike.
But where was the story going? Where was the ending? Bauch described his initial view of Southern California’s car culture as pessimistic compared to the lively bike culture in The Netherlands. But upon his return home, the answer was there.
“I was waiting for the plot twist and it has come: Long Beach is stepping up to the plate and making all these changes that make biking easier,” Bauch said, particularly in reference to Long Beach’s speedy installation of the green Shared Lanes on Second Street.
The bikes had followed him home. The film’s goal is to change the perception that people must be extreme athletes to do something like ride bikes and to show that the city of Long Beach is making that lifestyle easier than ever.
“I want to normalize bike use,” Bauch said. “You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to ride around the block, to run local errands.”
A Covina native – he moved to Long Beach to kayak and ride his bike – bicycling is Bauch’s main form of transportation. Though he considers his situation a bit different because he works from home, biking allows him time to relax while running his errands.
“Forty percent of all car trips in general are two miles or less,” Bauch said. “You don’t have to drive a two-ton vehicle to pick up a toothbrush.”
Bauch’s low-hanging fruit, the goal he wants to achieve is replacing those short car trips with an alternative.
“Riding Bikes with The Dutch” focuses on the importance of the lifestyle rather than the object itself. Bauch doesn’t want potential riders to get stuck on the color, brand or features of the bike. He hopes that viewers, most of whom probably have a bike tucked away in the garage, will pull them out, dust them off and start riding.
“Riding Bikes with The Dutch” premieres at the Art Theatre, located at 2025 E. Fourth St. Tickets are $5 per person and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Bauch will participate in a question-and-answer session after the premiere. For more information on the Long Beach Bicycle Festival, visit www.longbeachbikefest.org. For more information on Michael Bauch and the film, visit http://everydaybike.com/.