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Jeremy Denief and "Pedaling Change": A Documentary About Six Months of Bicycle Commuting

credit: Sam Crowe

During Bike to Work Week, area residents are encouraged to bicycle to work or school, even try using public transportation. One Springfield man is taking that further – 23 more weeks to be exact – all on his fixed gear bicycle. And he’s filming a documentary about his experience. In his final report for KSMU, Samuel Crowe has this story on a man who’s fixing his sights on a car-free future.

The documentary is called “Pedaling Change,” produced, directed and starring Jeremy Denief. He started filming May 1st, and now commutes at least 15 miles a day on his “fixie.”

“I don’t really have a lot of ‘biking experience’ or cycling experience. But I started thinking about riding more. The initial thought [for the documentary] came about from doing some budget stuff, and I was like ‘Man, where am I spending the most money?’ And it’s all going to my car. And I was like, ‘Hey, what if I rode my bike more often?’ It just sort of snowballed from there. Now I’m actually going to do this. I’m going to sell my car, just ride my bike, and figure that out as I go.”

Denief works as a videographer with Convoy of Hope in Springfield, so it makes sense that he’ll document his six months on the bike with his GoPro camera. Denief says he’s aiming for a 60 minute film, when it’s all said and done, and not all of it will be shots of him cycling around town. The League of American Bicyclists recognizes Springfield as a “Bronze Level Bicycling Friendly Community.” But Denief says he wants his documentary to highlight the cons of bicycling in Springfield as well.

“My intention is to actually interview some city planners, some people who are actually involved in the Greenway trails, and people who are already looking at these issues, and people who are wanting to add more bike lanes. [People who are] wanting to see progress in Springfield for cyclists. I think there are people there, because there are things happening. I want to seek them out and talk to them and show that there are people doing things, we could do more, how can we keep this progress going,” Denief said.

Denief says an exploration of Springfield’s bus system will make its way into the film, acknowledging that some days the weather might not cooperate, or he’ll be too tired to pedal.

The health benefits of bicycling are well documented, and Denief says was a factor in his decision to give up his car. So a little more than a week after he began filming, he got a health risk assessment from a doctor at Mercy Hospital. And he says he’ll get another health risk assessment at the end of his six months to see firsthand the changes his body underwent with six months on the saddle.

“I’m kind of out of shape, and I’ve had doctors tell me that. I’m not some huge overweight dude, but I’ve got some weight to lose, and high blood pressure. The health aspect is going to be an interesting dynamic to this, but with the fixed gear, you’re always biking. I want to just go ahead and commit to that, and the physicality of that appeals to me. So I don’t know if that’s crazy, and for some people I think it is, they hear that and they’re like ‘You can’t do this on a fixed gear, come on.’ But, I’m going to try.”

Severe weather, drivers who are texting, potholes, arriving to work looking and smelling fresh… All challenges for anyone who commutes by bicycle. But for those without a car, they’re issues that must be overcome – and Denief says it’s a mental challenge for him.

“Even this morning, I was so sore and tired, I just didn’t want to go, I was like ‘I don’t wanna go to work, and maybe I should sell my car, because it’s still in the garage.’ And it’s just that sort of mental thing. I need to do this, this is what I’m doing,” Denief said.

He says visits to his parents’ house in Ozark on the weekends will be a challenge for him, but it’ll sure make for some good video.

"Pedaling Change" on Twitter

For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.