The internationally acclaimed Bicycle Film Festival is returning to the Princess Twin Cinema for the second year from May 5 through May 7. The touring festival brings together film, music and art that celebrate cycling and cyclists. The uptown Waterloo movie theatre hosted the 20th anniversary edition of the festival last year and John Tutt, owner of the Princess Cinemas, says that he is excited to host the event again.
“We did it the first time during the reopening of the pandemic in August 2021 and we were able to shoehorn it into the end of August, but we want to make it an annual spring festival. We’re getting excited about the outdoors and getting back outside,” Tutt said.
Tutt is partnering with King Street Cycles, cycling advocacy group CycleWR and the Uptown Waterloo BIA to bring the festival to life. The three-day Bike Film Festival in Waterloo will include film screenings, an art exhibit at the Paint By Munzy gallery and live music with local alternative rock band Safe as Houses. The City of Waterloo and the Uptown Waterloo BIA will provide a bicycle valet service for festival attendees.
“I’ve been trying to get this festival here for a long time, but normally it only toured in the bigger centres like Singapore, Barcelona and New York,” Tutt added.
Tutt said that the festival’s founding director Brendt Barbur was hit by a bus while cycling in New York City and found inspiration while recovering.
“He decided that he wanted to celebrate the bicycle and he’s turned it into this international touring festival. He’s brought in art, music and media, and we’re trying to build that up here in Waterloo,” Tutt said.
Building up interest and infrastructure for cycling is also the mission of the local advocacy group CycleWR. David Trueman, a member of CycleWR’s steering committee, said that CycleWR wants to see more events that promote cycling for leisure and as a form of active transportation.
“We’re for anything that gets people excited about cycling. The timing of this time of year is great when people are starting to think about the good weather and that it’s time to dust off the bike,” Trueman said.
He pointed to the Downtown Cycling Grid in Kitchener, protected bike lanes in uptown Waterloo and other cycling infrastructure projects as a sign of momentum for cycling in the community. While the trails are separate now, Trueman said work is starting this summer to bring residents a connected and protected cycling system.
“The City of Kitchener is planning the work that will connect the Iron Horse Trail through Cherry Park all the way over to Joseph Street. Then eventually the trail will connect to the new transit hub. When that’s completed, it’s going to really make the downtown cycling grid that much more useful,” Trueman said.
Tutt often cycles to the theatres on Princess and King Streets. He said while the trails and bike racks benefit businesses in uptown Waterloo, there is still much work to encourage more people to cycle around the city.
“We never had bike racks near the Twin before, but they’ve been installed all over the place. For the festival, we want people to know they can bike down and use the valet service. It’s a way to promote the culture of cycling through this festival,” Tutt said.
Andy Cox, owner of King Street Cycles, said he was attracted to sponsoring the festival because of its cycling focus and the opportunity to collaborate with other uptown Waterloo businesses. He added that the festival is an opportunity to promote uptown businesses and cycling simultaneously—something that’s core to the store’s mission.
“We try not to sell bicycles as much as we sell cycling itself. We like to sell the cycling lifestyle more than just individual bicycles out the door. It was an opportunity for us to tick a lot of boxes,” Cox said.
In addition to the festival, King Street Cycle sponsors and contributes to other cycling events in the region. The store hosts community rides on Monday and Wednesday evenings and organized a cycling brewery tour before the pandemic.
“We’re always looking for new events to interact with the community and enjoy the atmosphere of uptown Waterloo,” Cox said.
The Bike Film Festival runs from May 5 through May 7 at the Princess Twin in uptown Waterloo. For more information about the festival, visit princesscinemas.com.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.