By Nicholas Deshais
PHOTO: GLEN LANDBERG
There are a few ways to chronicle a city’s cycling scene. We can measure its miles of bike lanes, say, or count how many people commute by bike to work. Or we can talk to lots of cyclists and hear the whole story: when they started riding a bike, how it makes them feel to be on two wheels, their favorite season to ride. Two young men who met in college in Boise, Idaho, are doing just this — they’re collecting bike stories.
Part online documentary project, part journalistic adventure, their website, anewbike.com, launched less than a year ago, but it already features close to 40 stories of individual bikers. Each piece is told with high-quality photos and audio recordings. “It’s storytelling,” says Glenn Landberg, 24, the site’s photographer. “Audio is very intimate. Hit play and just scroll through these images... I don’t know if that’s journalism. Maybe it’s documentary work.”
They’ve heard from kids and older folks, hipsters and professionals. They’ve talked to a software engineer and a drug designer. They’ve listened to a woman born paralyzed from the waist down discuss her love of biking. Besides Boise, they’ve talked to fellow cyclists in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, and Spokane.
Landberg and Andrew Ford, 25, say they took inspiration for the project from radio programs like Radiolab and This American Life, and from the work of bikeportland.org and Sarah Kramer at The New York Times. Still, their site is completely original. “We don’t do a whole lot of aggregating or other bike news,” says Ford, who conducts the interviews and edits the recordings. “Hopefully, we’re creating a project that has some staying power, that can be around in ten years. Maybe be in a bike museum.”
For the past year, Ford and Landberg have primarily relied on finding cyclists on the street to interview. Now, they’re shifting their focus. They want to find bikers of note, like “Dave, who just did a wheelie across the state of Washington,” says Landberg. “Or we’ll be asking a lot of bikers the same question on a certain issue. Say they’re ripping out a bike lane... We’ll go to that area and ask, ‘What do you think about losing this bike lane?’”
The idea for the site first came up because the two wanted to be part of a cultural resurgence happening in Boise, Idaho, home of the state’s largest university as well as its capital. “Boise is a smaller town but they’re going through a big-time development of the arts,” Ford says. “We wanted to produce something and be part of that.”
As articles in Boise’s big daily newspaper and its alternative newsweekly testify, they’ve done something noteworthy. Now the two are relocating to San Francisco to make a go of it there. They hope to land some sponsors and make their gig full-time. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot more eyes on it, it gets popular,” Landberg says. “Companies can pay us money to do this. To make this our job would be awesome.”
But for the time being, they’re still hustling to collect stories and get the word out. “We’re not a brand yet,” Landberg says. “People don’t know us yet. Right now we’re sort of troubling them [when we ask to interview them] and they might remember the site.”
Ford has ideas to change that. “After we have Kanye West doing a wheelie on our blog, it’ll be easier to get people interested.”