“It’s not such an ordinary object,” Patrick Rérat, professor of geography and town planning at the University of Lausanne (Unil), tells us in a smiling voice. In a month’s time, the Cycling and Active Mobility Observatory will be launched, which he will co-lead with his colleague Bengt Kayser, also project leader, doctor and director of the Institute of Sports Sciences.
The little queen is on the rise
Incorporated into the Constitution in September 2018, the bicycle continues to make its way. This is demonstrated by the adoption of 50 km of cycle lanes in Zurich, approved by 70% of the population, or the agreement given to the elimination of 4,000 parking spaces in favor of soft mobility in downtown Geneva, a sign that cantons are redefining their “cycling strategies”. There are now all kinds of them: electric, cargo or self-service. The bikes that are used with calf strength each have their audience. “Switzerland is a country that lags behind northern Europe but we can tell that things are happening.” A perceptible adjustment on the part of the Confederation, according to Patrick Rérat: “The standards in terms of infrastructure and facilities have been revised upwards, which will allow the practice to develop.”
An issue that affects both health and town planning
Two wheels, a frame, a handlebar and a crankset, and yet. “It questions our relationship to displacement, our way of imagining our environment, it is an extraordinary gateway”, describes Patrick Rérat. The Ouvema, acronym for the observatory, will aim to bring together researchers from the University of Lausanne around a common structure promoting meetings and collaborations between different fields of research.
Read also: Wearing a helmet derails the debate
Examples of institutions exist in Europe, such as the Active Travel Academy in London or the Urban Cycling Institute in Amsterdam, whose means are, however, “superior”, by their seniority, to the Lausanne project. “We hope to arouse the interest of our colleagues working, for example, on social psychology, tourism or public policies,” said the future co-director. An organization that will not be in competition with the design offices: “We remain in basic research and action research, in addition to university education.” This gathering in an observatory will also allow greater visibility of the institution.
Also read: Severe e-bike accidents on the rise
“Sometimes a little without their knowledge”
Four axes will constitute the future observatory. In addition to analyzing the practice of cycling or the profile of users, it will also aim to study public policies for promotion and urbanization. “The originality of our project is that we include the field of health. Doctors are very interested in active mobility because it is a way of introducing or reintroducing physical activity into people’s daily lives, sometimes somewhat without their knowledge, “explains Patrick Rérat. One way to question sedentary lifestyle.
The bicycle will not be the only one to occupy the researchers of the observatory. Among the other active forms of mobility studied, walking and scootering will have their place. “These modes of travel have common challenges. We can think of the energy transition, the fight against congestion or even security. ” And the electric scooter? “There is a big debate around this question. We can consider this means of transport as passive, but it apparently helps to promote sheathing, ”smiles Patrick Rérat.