Tom Bowden is a bike commuter from Richmond VA, a “suit” – a corporate lawyer with an MBA, and a conservative – You betcha! He is also a board member of BikeWalk Virginia, a pro cycling and pedestrian group in Virginia that raises money to promote cycling, walking and active lifestyles. Tom’s lawyerly blogging can be found at:
Apparently, when you want to make a movie or a commercial or shoot an episode of a crime show and you need a generic street for a scene in Anytown USA, there is really only one place to go – Spring Street, Los Angeles.
Located in the heart of downtown old Los Angeles, this street is the Gig Young of American cinematography…
…the Margaret Dumont of movie friendly architecture…
…the Lionel Barrymore of…
Oh well you get the point. Just as they could be anyone in any movie, Spring Street could be any street in any city at any time in America. Until those pesky cyclists came along and painted it green that is.
As explained by Paul Audley, President of Film LA in a recent NPR piece (Yes, conservatives sometimes listen to NPR):
The problem with Spring Street is that the placement of this highly electric green stripe has taken out its ability to be filmed as Any Street, USA, and has also restricted our ability to place film companies actually on the street.
The horror! The horror…
Now you might ask (as host Rachel Martin did), can’t they just make it disappear? Don’t they use green screens to place actors against elaborate backdrops? Not so easy it turns out because those inconsiderate bike-friendly traffic engineers chose the wrong shade of green. And even if it did work, then you’d just have a street with a big invisibility stripe running down the side, and that wouldn’t look right either.
So Spring Street is no longer the anachronism it used to be, to paraphrase Yogi Berra.
Now you wouldn’t think this would be newsworthy, because after all, Hollywood is in the business of dressing things up to look like another time and another place.
Why, just recently here in Richmond, Steven Spielberg built a foam-core facade on the General Assembly Building and made it look like the White House in 1864 to film a movie about Lincoln. They spread dirt and wood chips and who knows what else all over the streets to simulate the way they looked before cyclists got them paved in the late 1800s.
That wasn’t so tough. So what’s the big deal with a little green bike lane? Apparently Spring Street is the most used location in LA, and filming is down 15 percent. That’s what.
Covering that up or digitizing it out costs money and money is what makes Hollywood run. Well, that and sincerity. But as they say, if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
But the tycoons of Tinseltown are worried that this is just the beginning. They’re talking about a bike lane on Main Street too, the second most filmed street in LA. And the pressure is on to block the use of green paint. It seems that the very foundations of the LA economy are under attack by Mayor Villaraigosa and his crazed street-painting minions with their buckets of bubbling beryl ready to blanket the bland bitumen for the benefit of bicyclists.
I can almost see the movie poster now.
Of course, they could just keep on filming. After all, don’t the Hollywood Elite fancy themselves as trendsetters and shapers of opinion?
Why can’t they just leave the bike lane in the picture, as if every right-thinking American Main Street has one and always did? That might send a nice message.
New York City has lots of bike lanes, and lots of scenes set in New York are actually shot on Spring Street. What’s the problem? Pretty soon green bike lanes could be as fashionable as soy lattes and rainbow flip flops; as all-American as Superman…
…and Beaver Cleaver.
Bike lanes would be the equivalent of corner drug stores with soda fountains where starlets go to get discovered. Cities and towns would be putting in more and better bike lanes just to attract film crews and the money they bring. Pretty soon bike lanes would be big business. I think maybe we’re on to something here.