Repairing, recycling, and renting bicycles at La Bicyclette Bleue © La Bicyclette Bleue

Peddling sustainable mobility into Geneva’s future 
In the heart of Geneva, the future of sustainable transportation is being pedaled into reality by the passion and commitment of the volunteers
1 Mar 2024

In the heart of Geneva, the future of sustainable transportation is being pedaled into reality by the passion and commitment of the volunteers of La Bicyclette Bleue, an active travel association with a vision deeply rooted in a greener tomorrow. At the forefront of the organization’s mission lies an unwavering commitment to sustainability, the social-economic advantages of ‘active travel’ and innovative thinking about Geneva’s transportation landscape.

Their business model is simple: repairing, recycling, and renting bicycles for periods ranging from a few months up to a year. They don’t have any single type of clientele. They range from local commuters to parents looking to provide their children with summer cycling adventures. As well as the actual leasing element, La Bicyclette Bleue seeks to empower individuals by imparting essential bicycle repair and maintenance skills, holding workshops and training sessions covering everything from brakes to punctures and daily upkeep.

The association is currently composed of nine dedicated volunteers. It was born out of the collective enthusiasm of a group of University of Geneva students who clinched the top prize in a sustainability competition hosted by their institution in 2018. Colin Peillex, one of the association’s founding members, reflects on their journey; “winning the prize together helped amplify our shared passion for bicycling and its transformative potential for our city. Since the beginning, our core mission has remained the same: recycling, inspiring cycling choices, and supporting our community members and we look forward to continuing to see what we can achieve in the future.”

La Bicyclette Bleue is able to sustain itself through the gallant contributions and commitment of its volunteers and the revenue generated from bike rentals, with every penny reinvested into the association for operational expenses and tools. However, the organization harbors aspirations of appointing its first salaried employee in the near future to propel them to the next level. Colin Peillex explains, “We’ve reached a juncture where an employed part-time team member is essential to expand our services and further our mission in Geneva. Appointing someone would be a huge milestone for us and a pivotal component of our future as an organization.”

The team at La Bicyclette Bleue © La Bicyclette Bleue

Despite their ambitions, La Bicyclette Bleue remains rooted in the spirit of voluntarism. Colin emphasizes the importance of diversifying their volunteer pool, saying, “Most of our volunteers today share a similar educational background, predominantly in urban planning and mobility. Broadening our skill set is crucial. We welcome individuals who share our values and passion but can also bring fresh skills to the table, such as communications, finance, or project management, to enable us to achieve more.”

Beyond their day-to-day activities, what truly sets La Bicyclette Bleue apart is their commitment to community engagement. In addition to offering repair and maintenance workshops to the public, they focus on supporting individuals from all walks of life. “As part of a city program, we collaborate with unemployed and sometimes marginalized individuals, offering internships to help them acquire new skills or inviting them to work with us for an afternoon. We also organize informal events for youth from integration centers, introducing them to our work and teaching them bike repair skills while enabling them to earn some money along the way.”

For Colin and La Bicyclette Bleue, the mission is clear: encourage people to rethink how and why they travel around Geneva. At the moment, cars dominate the city’s landscape, relegating active travel options to a secondary role. The organization is dedicated to changing this mindset and promoting cycling as a viable alternative. 

As Colin concludes, “every effort we make to shift perceptions and encourage people to choose sustainable travel in Geneva is a step towards a brighter, greener future.” 

* Jamie Barclay is a Freelance Writer and Communications Consultant.
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