Meet Mrs Penny Farthing. Valiantly traversing the streets of Wellington on two wheels,
she signals, she is courteous, she correctly passes stopped traffic.
She’s the new face of the Friendly Cyclist, demonstrating cycling etiquette in a series of videos narrated by Stephen Fry and aimed at boosting bike safety.
Conceived of by filmmakers and cycling enthusiasts Mike and Hilleke Townsend from Little Fighter Films, the video series, which include the likes of “Dissecting Intersections – a dissertation”, offer a novel approach to the usually dry safety promotions.
“[We] were starting to get more involved with the local Cycling Advocacy group, Cycle
Aware Wellington, and had observed an increase in new cyclists on the road, some of whom looked a bit tentative. We thought we could put our skills to use – we produce videos for a living – to help give these cyclists a bit more confidence and the skills or knowledge they need to be safer on the roads.”
The pair says the inspiration for the quirky style came from old Public Service Announcement style films made by the government in the 1950s.
“Cycling skills instructor, Marilyn Northcotte, then pointed us in the direction of the ‘Monkey Tale’ films and we thought we’d make an updated version, with our own chimp.”
Enter Mrs Penny Farthing. With funding from Wellington City Council, Cycle
Aware Wellington, and Little Fighter Films, the videos clocked up more than 10,
000 YouTube views in the first few days.
It is hoped they will be useful to both cyclists and drivers.
“We hope people take away a few points . . . cyclists need to have the confidence
to take the safest position on the road, but many also need to communicate and
interact better with motorists.
“We hope drivers watching these realise that cyclists aren’t just there to slow you down. If anything, they’re reducing congestion and though they might be doing something you think is annoying or dangerous, it often is for a good reason. For example, taking the centre of the lane is actually safer and recommended by the Road Code in some cases.
“Also, we hope people enjoy them, and perhaps consider taking to the streets on their
You may be wondering just how they secured Mr Fry as narrator.
“When we started writing the scripts, we discussed what the ‘voice’ of the videos
should sound like. Stephen Fry’s name kept popping up. Not long after that we met up with a friend who has been working on The Hobbit. We plucked up the courage to ask her – more concerned she’d be annoyed with us for asking – never thinking he might say yes, but he did. He was available in two days, so we had to do a quick polish on the scripts and booked the last available audio recording studio in Wellington.”
Passing stopped traffic:
Courtesy is not just for commoners:
Check out the full series here.
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