Texas Vandervliet : Remorquable, bike trailers to share
RTBF article of 30 May 2022 by Titouan Marichal
Since 2018, the non-profit organisation Remorquable has been offering a bicycle trailer loan service inspired by the Tournevie tool library. For one of its founders, Texas Vandervliet, pooling is often the most appropriate solution for bulky, expensive and little-used objects. It allows greater economic accessibility to durable and quality material. Combined with numerous participative socio-cultural activities around the bike trailers, Remorquable’s desire is to make cycling more attractive and thus encourage the emergence of new imaginations.
Texas Vandervliet is a young Brussels citizen who has been involved in ecological and social issues for several years now. “My awareness was raised through scouting. I learned about living together, responsibility and empathy.” His ecological activism began with the desire to act for animal welfare, by stopping eating meat. He then made a series of individual changes, such as becoming a daily cyclist. “At the end of scouting, with the approach of COP21 in Paris, I became more politically engaged, in some civil disobedience, direct action structures.”
Texas read a lot, exchanged with other environmental activists and ended up asking himself many questions about our model of society. A model that makes citizens feel guilty about their individual actions. “The ecological disaster is getting bigger and bigger and unstoppable. And, basically, society tends to say that it’s because you take showers a little too long or eat a little too much meat that everything is going wrong. This is extremely guilt-inducing. We point the finger at the citizens when the problems are systemic, the political class is obviously corrupt and the lobbies are too powerful because there is so much money at stake.”
brussels – bishkek, 12,000 kilometres by bike in seven months
Passionate about long bike trips and in the midst of questioning himself, Texas escaped in 2016 with a friend to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. For seven months, they travelled more than 12,000 kilometres and met the locals to observe other realities. “It’s also an opportunity to put your convictions aside. When you find yourself on a plateau at an altitude of 4,000 metres and a Kyrgyz family, who live from rearing Yaks, offers you meat, it is too violent, symbolically, to refuse.” This trip was transformative. Back in Belgium, Texas seeks to combine his thoughts and actions to design more desirable futures. In a logic of creating alternatives, he wants to propose different, more resilient systems, based on other paradigms.
birth of remorquable
And it was during another community cycling trip that he discovered bike trailers. “Our trailers carried repair equipment, first aid kits, food, etc. We didn’t have a bike car. We didn’t have a broom wagon. We were self-sufficient.” Texas found the concept revolutionary. He then looked for a good excuse to build a bike trailer with his own hands. “And then I saw a call for committed projects on the ULB campus. I was already involved in a lot of committed initiatives, like the Tournevie tool library. I thought that I would at least have this great idea that could be put into practice. So I brought together my desire to create bike trailers, knowing that I didn’t need them on a daily basis, and my commitment to Tournevie, which promotes the sharing of bulky, expensive and little-used objects.” Texas talks about it around him, to his friends studying environmental sciences and management at the ULB. Many are enthusiastic. “We put together a file and obtained this first grant which enabled us to create the first bike trailers ourselves.”
The ASBL Remorquable was then created in the summer of 2018. One thing led to another and Texas managed to get a few small subsidies left and right until Brussels Mobility approached him to take part in the Cairgo Bike project, financed by Urban Innovative Action, which aims to make cargo bikes an alternative to cars and vans to improve the quality of the air and life in Brussels. “From there, we got structural funds to hire people and move up a gear.”
As part of this major project initiated by Brussels Mobility, the Remorquable ASBL has set itself the challenge of creating some fifty bike trailers, which can be borrowed by members and scattered around Brussels. “The aim is to offer a realistic alternative for transporting loads. Our project is part of a desire for solidarity and ensures that it is accessible to everyone, thanks to adapted rates.” You can expect to pay between 25 and 60 euros for a yearly subscription, which gives access to the bike trailers for a limited period of time. Remorquable works like a library, it is a loan service and not a rental service where you pay for each use. “We are aimed more at individuals, small associations and even small independents.”
reappropriation of public space
In parallel to the loan of bike trailers, the ASBL develops numerous participative socio-cultural activities to reappropriate public space. The aim is to create moments of encounter and exchange and to prove that many initiatives can be held thanks to bicycle trailers. “For example, we have a workshop trailer that allows us to go into the public space to teach people how to repair their bikes. We also have a trailer with an integrated sound system that allows us to set the mood or a toy library trailer, etc.”
Currently, Remorquable has 150 registered members, 60 of whom are active. “The main task now is to make ourselves widely known. That’s why we are launching a fundraising campaign that will also help us to carry out certain projects independently, such as a karaoke trailer or a pizza oven. But we would also like to support new dynamics of reappropriation of public space.” This is why part of the money collected will support materially and financially groups wanting to implement such initiatives.
necessary, but not sufficient
Texas is happy to contribute to making the transportation of bulky items by bike more accessible and democratic and to see a real craze around this project. “It’s very satisfying and comforting to be able to propose something concrete because the feedback is always positive. Afterwards, personally, I always ask myself the following question: Is it enough?” Because, while Texas sees Remorquable ASBL as a necessity, a piece of response to ecological and social disasters, it does not claim to be a sustainable solution. “As long as we don’t talk seriously about energy degrowth that rhymes with economic degrowth, we’re in a dead end. We can put in as many cycle paths as we want, but that won’t change the situation. Because when a solution is presented as a source of energy savings, well, the surplus is used elsewhere. We need a more systemic vision, to imagine and design a world beyond the car, that is to say, beyond our addiction to fossil fuels.”