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Renegade cyclists: Swiss politicians call for higher fines

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Renegade cyclists: Swiss politicians call for higher fines
Photo: Depositphotos
11:34 CET+01:00
When it comes to life on the roads, there is no more controversial figure than that of the renegade cyclist who mounts the footpath, runs red lights and acts as if the rest of the world doesn't exist.

Now a group of around 70 Swiss politicians is backing a call for fines handed to cyclists to be raised so that they match the higher penalties meted out to drivers who break traffic rules.

The man behind the lower house motion, Hans-Peter Portmann with the Free Democratic Party, says bumping up the fines will shock bike riders into behaving better on the roads. He calls the current penalties for cyclists “laughable”.

At present, cyclists who ride in a pedestrian zone are slapped with a 30-franc fine whereas car drivers have to fork out 100 francs. For ignoring a red light, cyclists are up for a fine of 60 francs against 250 francs for their four-wheeled peers.

“They [bicycle riders] laugh themselves silly over whether they will have to take a hit with these laughable fines,” Portmann, told Swiss daily the Bernerzeitung, adding he had received insulting emails and letter he believed were “orchestrated by cycling lobbies”.

While there is no data on how often Swiss cyclists break the law, figures from the Swiss Competence Centre for Accident Prevention (BFU) provided to the Bernerzeitung show 854 bike riders were seriously injured on Swiss roads in 2016 and 24 died.

Often bike riders themselves are the cause of accidents. The BFU stats show cyclists cause an average 594 accidents a year. On average, 514 bike riders are seriously injured in an accident they themselves cause while 17 die after an accident where they are at fault.

Meanwhile, an average 62 people a year are injured in an accident caused by a cyclist and one person a year is killed in such an accident.

The new parliamentary initiative has strong support in the parliament. But head of Switzerland's Pro-Velo cycling lobby, Matthias Aebischer, says the motion is “pure harassment” and won't stop those cyclists who are determined to break the rules anyway.

“We need better infrastructure for bike riders,” says the Pro-Velo chief, who argues there is just not enough space in cities for cyclists.

Traffic psychologist Markus Hackenfort is also unsure about the value of the initiative. A study carried out at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences a couple of years ago show that bike riders often simply fail to perceive the danger in critical traffic situations – which means they also don't understand why they are being fined afterwards.

Hackenfort said fines only worked when they were applied consistently and this was very difficult in the case of cycling infractions because policing them was so difficult.

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