New Documentary Reveals the Dangers of “Alley Cat” Racing
“Line of Sight,” a documentary that premiered recently in New York City, gives a bicycler’s eye view of the dangerous and illegal sport called Alley Cat Racing. In a July 3 segment, the TV news magazine show Inside Edition reported that in Alley Cat racing, “hundreds of cyclists hit the streets peddling as fast as they can, swerving around cars, shooting through red lights, and dodging trucks.” Inside Edition’s video shows terrified pedestrians not knowing whether to move forwards or backwards as racing bicyclists came tearing through a red light. The cyclists [who are mostly — if not all — bike messengers] ride as fast as 60 miles an hour, breaking most traffic laws, as Inside Edition reports.
In addition to pedestrians, Inside Edition points out, Alley Cat racing is dangerous for the bicyclists themselves: “[The] Video captured one guy taking a nasty tumble, and another cyclist nearly got run over by a car.” And on February 24, 2008, a Chicago alley cat racer named Matt Manger-Lynch was killed by an SUV when he sped through a red light.
The first race to use the Alley Cat name was in Toronto on October 30, 1989, according to Wikipedia. After Toronto bike messengers shared their stories at the first international bike messenger race in Berlin in 1993, the name and concept spread throughout Europe, North America, and Asia.
As Wikipedia reports:
Events featuring Alleycat racing culture have seen significant expansion since 2000. Individual races have come to embrace issues important to messengers or messenger communities, such as NYC’s 4/20:Hip to be Square, the Global Warming Alleycat held on the same day in Toronto, San Francisco, Mexico City, Berlin, and NYC and Baltimore’s GhettoBlaster.
Although these races almost always take place in cities with bike messengers, “Many smaller cities with no cycle messenger population are also home to alleycats run by the burgeoning urban cyclist subculture,” Wikipedia notes. According to an article by Philip Caulfield in the Daily News, an Alley Cat race usually has no set route. Instead, the organizers give riders a series of “checkpoints” to reach as fast as they can: “Bike messengers take insane risks in secret races taking place in cities around the globe.”
Former bike messenger Lucas Brunelle spent 10 years videotaping alley cat races in 30 cities to make the documentary “Line of Sight,” which premiered on July 1 at the New York Bicycle Film Festival, and will have its European premiere on Saturday, July 28 at the Bicycle Film Festival in Helsinki, Finland.
You can see the trailer for the film here:
Image by NY Bicycle Film Festival, used under Fair Use: Reporting.