Monday, November 26, 2012

"I don't believe in charity" - In memory of Roland Dreyfus

Ici chacun sait ce qu'il veut, ce qu'il fait, quand il passe ;
Ami, si tu tombes, un ami sort de l'ombre à ta place. *

Yesterday at the end of a long day I received an email announcing the untimely  and totally unexpected demise of my dear friend and colleague, Rolland Dreyfus, founder and principal inspiration and motor behind the Accès Universel program since its creation in 2006. In case you do not know his work you can follow the program he created with his energy, commitment and vision from its beginning  via their website at  (where you will also find the announcement of his death). What to do? I am not on the board of the association (I am only  an advisor) so I am not in a position to get directly involved in the decisions to continue  or not either the work of the Association or the website. So rather than sit around moping and feeling absolutely powerless I took the risk of trying something immediately as a modest testimonial to support his work and vision.

What I propose is this simple: Set up an open Facebook page as a sort of interim holding station, as a space where those who wish can immediately get together to exchange ideas and information on the topics that he cared so deeply about, while awaiting the formal decisions of the Board.

So after a couple of hours of work, the draft Facebook page is now in place, still rough but already  ready for your visit  at Our goal is to see if we can, together with friends and colleagues around the world, develop this modest Facebook platform into an efficient international peer forum in support of the concept  most dear to the heart of Rolland Dreyfus, namely that of Universal Access.

Permit me to make two quick points about this concept here in this  introductory note, just in case it is not clear.

These are two words that are easily said, but to turn this ambitious concept into reality requires that we take two major steps, both of them purely conceptual, at least in a first instance.

The first is  to develop a better understanding of the potential of equity-based mobility systems, that is to provide mobility arrangements which are equitable for all, including the poorest, least able, most isolated members of society -- and in turn  making  this as the principal goal of all transportation policies, investments and reforms.

Now why would anyone want to do this?  Which brings us to the second big conceptual jump and understanding.

Is it only a matter of generosity or, as some might say, "charity" which is the motive for these kinds of reforms and thorough recalibration of the transport system in all its many interdependent parts?

No, in fact when you dig into the details of these equity-based transportation reforms you are gong to find something that may surprise. That is if you serve well and fairly  the weakest and most needy members of society EVERYONE ends up being better served.  Or if not, say, the very top economic percentiles of the population,  just about all of the rest.  And once we have introduced the changes and reforms we can leave the "very top" to figure it out for themselves, which they will most certainly do.

This may come as a surprise, but one of the goals of Accès Universel from its beginning has been to work with cities, agencies, groups and citizens around the world to show that it is in fact true and to share examples of how in fact it can be put to work.

To conclude from now, let me share with you a quick  translation of something that Victor Hugo, much admired and often cited by Roland Dreyfus in support of his work, made on this subject  a century and a half ago: "I do not believe in charity. NO, I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it is humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. ... No, solidarity is the best religion."

We hope that you will keep your eye on this peer discussion site and let us know how to make it more useful for all. Thank you.

Eric Britton.  Lyon, France

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* Lyon is the historic capital of the French resistance movement during World War II, so one does hear from time to time the "Chant des Partisans" from which you have two lines above. Which I translate roughly to:

Here, each one of us knows what he must do, when the time comes;
Friend, if you fall, another steps from the shadows into your place.

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