If there is a more important urban filmmaker working today than Clarence Eckerson Jr., we don’t know him or her.
Nor does the United Nations — yes, that United Nations — which gave Eckerson a “lifetime achievement” award for his 1,000-plus films advocating the car-free lifestyle from all over the world. That’s an honor that he shares with virtually no one on the planet.
But did this so-called “Orson Welles of the street” let the accolade go to his head? Of course not — he spent the year doing pretty much what he’s always done: hitting the pavement to bring you video coverage of the livable streets movement.
Now it’s time to watch all the nominees and vote at the bottom for your favorite Streetfilms production (polls close Friday at 5 p.m.):
Eckerson opened the year with a look at a number of city families, shot over several months, loading up their conventional or electric cargo bikes with children, gear, groceries, and what-have-you for trips tooling around town, to the park, to the zoo, between boroughs, over bridges — you name it.
As a number of parents note in the video, the trend has accelerated during the pandemic, as families have sought alternatives to transit-riding and the city has built out protected bike lanes. Enjoy it here:
Concurrent with Jesse Coburn’s ground-breaking investigation into the danger that school kids face in New York City, Eckerson was also looking at the problem. His own coverage has taken him to streets in London, Paris and Barcelona, where they keep kids safer than we do in New York.
But that’s not true everywhere. In neighborhoods with successful open streets, going to and coming home from school is much safer. And the movement is growing. From his travels, Eckerson concluded, “It is easy to see that making the arrival environment outside safer for students to walk and bike is a popular idea. Watch the film here:
The women’s ride
This year’s edition of the annual family ride took place in The Bronx, which has long lagged on city efforts to make cycling safer.
About 200 people participated — and the film carries that unmistakable Eckerson messaging: People want to ride, even when it’s unsafe. So make it safer and even more will ride.
Watch the film here:
Jersey eats our lunch
We foolishly didn’t post Streetsfilm’s video from Jersey City and Hoboken with principal photography during the Vision Zero Cities conference this fall, but it’s a mistake we regret. If anyone one film this year captures exactly how cities can make positive change, it’s this one.
Hoboken and Jersey City are simply way ahead on improving the streetscape for all road users. So it’s no surprise that both cities have dropped road fatalities to zero. Eckerson’s film shows how to really get stuff done for the most vulnerable.
Watch it here:
Paris vs. NYC
If you need an international reminder of just how badly New York City trails in mode shift, check out Eckerson’s exhaustive film about all the changes that have been made over the last few years in the City of Light.
Some of your favorite livable streets activists also appear in the film, but best of all are the shots of Paris’s wide bike lanes and few cars. Trigger warning: It’s hard to watch this film without thinking, “Why can’t we have nice things?”
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