“The bicycle in the city will never completely replace the car”

Mobility in the city has changed over the past fifteen years: the bicycle was built there, its electric version shortens distances. However, this is moving more to the detriment of public transport than cars, says designer Jean-Louis Frechin.

Designer Jean-Louis Frechin has also been an ardent fan of bicycling since childhood. To the point of curating a rich and knowledgeable exhibition on the subject at the Cité du design in Saint-Etienne. City bike inventory capability.

When did urban cycling gain momentum in France?
The transformation of Paris into a bicycle-friendly city has had a significant impact on other metropolises of the country. So, even if it already existed in Lyon or La Rochelle, the arrival of Velib in the capital in July 2007 really changed the situation. It has made the object visible thanks to its urban design and alternative mode of transportation. Parisians have rediscovered the pleasure of walking, but also a practical solution for parking or compensation for the last metro or night taxi.

In addition, at the same time, young people who refused to pay for the Vélib took the initiative to remove their old grandfathers’ bicycles, often with racing handlebars, turning an obsolete item into a beautiful accessory. Driven by these two trends, the image of urban cycling has changed. And then, more recently, the other push was Covid in 2020. Fearing pollution on public transport, the city’s residents have equipped themselves en masse.

Did the electric bike contribute to this boom?
Its emergence since 2010 is revolutionary in many ways. First, it resulted in the loss of sexuality. Its design took this into account and became unisex: there is no longer a horizontal bar on the frame that requires you to lift your leg, space has been allocated for carrying things…

“The electric bicycle has succeeded in connecting Paris with the suburbs. It also represents new opportunities for mobility in more rural areas.”

The result: twice as many women as men travel by electric. They found the bicycle to be healthy and allowed them to control their schedules more securely than the physical pain of public transport (which caused immorality and frequent delays) and electric travel. .

An electric bike is also the cancellation of distance…
This is another revolutionary aspect of its appearance. People are no longer afraid of climbing or long journeys, they cover twice as many kilometers with electric bikes. E-bike [vélo à assistance électrique] He managed to connect Paris with the suburbs. It also represents new opportunities for mobility in the more rural areas that are abandoning it in favor of the car: the development of the bicycle in the city coincides with its abandonment in the countryside.

“Humble people who are subject to many restrictions, such as cold or long distances, continue to prefer the car, and it makes sense.”

Doesn’t the bicycle fashion touch all fringes of the population?
When the bicycle arrived, around 1870, it was the bourgeois who introduced it. The workers went on foot, they mastered it much later, after the Second World War. Today, the bicycle’s return to favor is also a bourgeois phenomenon. grandpa [bourgeois bohème], to use the current term. Subject to many limitations, such as cold or long distances, modest people continue to prefer the car, and this makes sense. For many reasons – social, cultural, meteorological… Democratization will struggle to become mainstream.

Has cycling become a fad?
It is a real social marker: it looks like its owner, which confirms its identity there. The cargo bike is the Kangoo of the time! Used by both parents to carry a small family, practical for shopping. On the other hand, Porsche has launched a new bike. Interesting as a symbol, the bicycle becomes a luxury accessory and an object of desire.

Can all these new models, connected, convenient, eventually compete with the car?
The bicycle will never completely replace the car: the two will coexist and try to complement each other. However, the number of cyclists could still increase significantly to balance with car drivers. The present age is not the end of the automobile, but the end of the automobile as the only means of transportation.

So the city bike only has qualities?
The only non-virtue of cycling is that its development is at the expense of public transport. Today, it is all users who prefer to pedal. However, public transport is an extremely structural element for suburban cities blood flow of a region”. Weakening them – for example by reducing the number of buses – is problematic.

After all, wouldn’t the real enemy of the bicycle be the scooter?
They share the same traffic area but are not complementary. From an environmental point of view, these scooters are pathetic and are responsible for most of the accidents from a safety point of view. They are a bit like the nightmare of all other vehicles! A growing enemy for the bicycle is the pedestrian. And it’s a real shame: we need to find unity… The main challenge is for the transport coalition to succeed.


there is
“Bicycle(s), cycling”, until January 1, 2023, Cité du design in Saint-Étienne (42).

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