Hi-BicLab. History Lab for Sustainable Urban Mobilities: Lisbon's cycling policies
M. Luísa Sousa (IP) (CIUHCT)
David Vale (Co-IP) (FAUL)
Bernardo Pereira (UA)
Cristina Luís (CIUHCT)
Hugo Silveira Pereira (CIUHCT)
Jaume Valentines-Álvarez (CIUHCT))
João Machado (CIUHCT)
Patrícia Melo (ISEG/UL)
National funds through the FCT– Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., «EXPL/FER-HFC/0847/2021»
Host research unit
Despite Portugal being the largest bicycle producer in the European Union (Eurostat data for 2019), Lisbon’s cycling modal share is still rather low (below 1% in 2017) when compared to the European average (8%) (Fé20). By applying transition measures to encourage cycling – such as implementing cycling infrastructure and bicycle-sharing systems (Fé20) – Lisbon’s Municipality has engaged with pro-cycling agendas during the last decade. In fact, it will host the European Cycling Federation’s Velo-City Conference in September, 2021.
Transport studies have shown that the “hilliness” of the city doesn’t explain its low cycling modal share: 54% of the streets are almost flat, while 75% are “good enough for cycling” (below 5% grade) (Fé19; Fé20). Besides Lisbon’s perceived hilliness, other factors that might currently hinder the cycling modal share increase are starting to be identified, such as types of pavement, sense of unsafe bicycling or car drivers’ behaviour (Fé19). Identifying these barriers aims at supporting the design of policies to increase cycling levels in cities such as Lisbon with “low cycling maturity” (i.e., cities with low cycling modal share and little cycling infrastructure) (Fé19).
These alleged low “matured” cities are usually considered to have no historical experience with cycling (Fé19). But is this really so? History evidences that cycling mobilities were part of the past in cities like Lisbon. Furthermore, it also shows that the factors that have limited its use are historically rooted processes.
Hi-BicLab will investigate both Lisbon’s historical experience with cycling and the factors which hindered or promoted its use, and argues that history matters in contributing to more sustainable and fair urban mobilities (Ba07).
Hi-BicLab draws on the experience of internationally-renowned history labs, especially the history labs of regional transport infrastructural planning in the Netherlands (To16) and the UK (Di16). These labs have made historical knowledge “usable” and accessible to policymakers that work on transport policies. This model has not been applied yet to urban mobility systems of cities with low cycling maturity. This is the objective behind Hi-BicLab: placing Lisbon’s historical case in a European and global perspective, developing interdisciplinary research and making it legible to stakeholders through the promotion of a history lab on the cities’ socio-cultural-technical urban mobility system.
Hi-BicLab has an interdisciplinary team with prior and on-going research on the history and the present of Lisbon’s urban mobility and socio-territorial inequalities, and will promote cross-fertilisations between academic disciplines such as history of technology and mobility, geography, transport economics, public policies, societal engagement, architecture and urban planning. Furthermore, it partners with policymakers, activists, and citizens. It counts on two leading historians as consultants who have prior research and called for further investigations into mobilising a “usable past” to foster future sustainable urban mobilities (Di10; Oz16), and with whom we have closely worked with.
Methodologically Hi-BicLab will:
1) make historical knowledge already existent accessible and legible to non-academic audiences;
2) identify overarching questions through interdisciplinary work (connecting history to present day relevant questions in transport geography and economics);
3) identify what the stakeholders know and want to know about the past;
4) create databases with historical sources, and choose key visual and textual documents;
5) promote the creation of a history lab, following previous experiences of history labs and societal engagement practices.
During Hi-BicLab a book on the history of Lisbon’s cycling mobilities will be finished and published. Project members will publish two peer-reviewed journal articles, disseminate the project results in four academic conferences, a website and social media. The project will also promote a history lab through the organisation of one roundtable and four workshops with the abovementioned partners. Finally, we aim at making this project a pilot project to be applied in other cities with low cycling maturity in Portugal and elsewhere.