Current (and very sad, disturbing) revelations notwithstanding, in the 1970s Bill Cosby was a man on top of the world. After years of standup comedy and numerous top-selling comedy albums, his groundbreaking role on the television series I Spy (Cosby was the first African-American to have a starring role in a network TV series), followed by his first sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show ('69 - '70 - also a first, as the first African-American to have his own eponymous show), a 2-year stint on the Children's Television Workshop series The Electric Company, then his animated show Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Cosby was probably one of the most recognizable people in America, and beloved by people of all ages.
|Cosby presents the film from the workbench of a bike shop.|
His manner is quite a bit more subdued than the Cosby seen
in countless Jello Pudding commercials spanning three decades.
Bicycles Are Beautiful was well-timed for the American bike boom, which reached its peak in 1974, and saw record numbers of adults hitting the streets on two wheels. However, while the film does recognize and validate adult cycling, it still primarily focuses on children in much the same way most other bike safety films have throughout the decades. Social messages aside, it's likely that the first thing viewers will notice is Cosby's unusual way of pronouncing "Bicycle" -- it sounds very much like "bi-SIGH-cle."
|"And you don't have to stand in any lines to fuel up a bike. 'Cause the only fuel your bike burns is what your body provides. So you're not polluting the air, either.|
|No, this is not a presentation of suggested cycling apparel. Instead, it is a demonstration of what can happen when a cyclist gets "doored." This poor guy is prepared to go over the bars in the name of rider education.|
|Perhaps anticipating the short attention span of the kids who were the likely target of the film, there is a brief interlude with "Some Really Interesting Stuff About Bicycles & Bicycling."|
Then it's back to the safety test:
|Another part of the "safety test" involves identifying possible hazards on this young man's bike ride.|
I imagine that most Retrogrouch Blog readers should easily be able to score 90 - 100% on the test. (If you watch the film, track your score and leave a comment). Yes, I got 100.
After a final (and very dry) message from the head of the National Safety Council, it's back to Bill in the bike shop, ready to go for a ride on one of those fancy 10-speeds with "caliper brakes and Italian derailleurs."
|"It's time for a safe little spin around the block. . . Maybe we'll meet down the road somewhere, on a bike of course. And just remember, bicycles are beautiful."|
Overall, Bicycles Are Beautiful has an upbeat, groovy message about bicycling that reflects the two-wheeled reawakening of the time. Compared to some of the stern or even scolding bike safety films of the '50s and '60s that I've discussed here, this film was a step forward in that it at least acknowledged the viability of bicycles for commuting and transport, and not just as toys for kids. Though hailed by some writers for debunking certain misconceptions about where cyclists should ride, or their very rights to the road, my take on the film is that it is certainly more progressive than earlier examples, but its factual information is mostly par for the course. Nevertheless, in watching Bicycles Are Beautiful, one can't help but feel a fun sense of nostalgia.
I've tried for some time now to locate a good clean copy of Bicycles Are Beautiful, but the only one I've been able to find anywhere is a relatively mediocre transfer (with distracting counter digits imposed in the foreground) in two parts on YouTube.
Here's part one:
And part two:
And if that's not quite enough groovy '70s Cosby nostalgia for you, take about half-a-minute to check out the opening theme from the original Bill Cosby Show - probably the most funk-tastic TV theme song of all time. Hikky-Burr, by Quincy Jones, with vocals by Cosby.