‘Premium bike parking’ program at Swiss train stations draws controversy

A pilot project providing paid cycle parking at more convenient locations outside major train stations across Switzerland has caused controversy, with critics arguing that it drives up the cost of cycling and reduces overall bike parking opportunities.

‘Premium bike parking’ program at Swiss train stations draws controversy
Photo: Joël SAGET / AFP

The program – run concurrently by the Swiss transport authority (SBB) and start-up Smartmo – is being set up across stations in Lucerne, Zurich, Basel and Solothurn, letting riders rent an allocated cycle parking space via an app for an hourly rate.

Parking centres at train stations in Uster and Basel are set to follow. 

In Lucerne, where the initial rollout has already taken place, cyclists pay 65 cents to use the parking space, with each additional hour costing five cents more.

Cyclists may also use the app to reserve a parking space well ahead of time – paying 66 cents for the reservation and an additional six cents for each hour that follows. 

They can park for a maximum of 48 hours in a row, while a reservation may only be made for up to 12 hours. The stations also include lockers for helmets and charging facilities for electric bikes. 

As reported by Swiss online newspaper Watson, the program came about in part due to the increasing popularity of cycling – with appropriate parking places near major transport hubs being harder to find. 

Critics argue that the new parking stations – which require more space than traditional cycle parking – will aggravate rather than alleviate the problem. 

Lucerne politician and mobility activist Nico van der Heiden (Social Democrats) has argued the move does not benefit urban mobility as a whole, with one of Switzerland’s only cheap transport options becoming more expensive as a consequence of the parking centres. 

“This shows a ‘two-class’ mentality. Normal customers have to park far away while those who can afford it get to enjoy premium parking,” he said. 

“The new stands require a lot of space, it will definitely result in fewer bicycle parking (spaces).” 

The SBB has dismissed the criticisms, arguing that a significant amount of bicycle parking remains. 

A pro e-bike association has also praised the program, arguing that the additional security of the parking centres would add to the appeal of e-biking. 

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Claudia Bucher, from Pro Velo Switzerland, told Watson “the new parking system could appeal to a further target group. E-bike riders, for example, who want to know their bike is safe and would not otherwise leave it at the station.”

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How Swiss holiday habits have changed

Travel habits among Switzerland’s population have changed dramatically since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a new study has revealed.

How Swiss holiday habits have changed
Most people chose to stay in Switzerland in 2020. Photo by AFP

Tourism and mobility habits were disrupted in 2020 not only by the virus itself, but also due to various travel restrictions across the world, according to a new study by motoring organisation Touring Club Suisse (TCS). 

One of the findings is that people in Switzerland have favoured the car for getting around, to the detriment of public transport. The number of respondents who used public transport during the pandemic, dropped from 29 percent in 2019 to 18 percent in 2020.

There was also a shift in terms of holidays, TCS found.

About a third of those surveyed opted to stay at home during holidays, compared to just 16 percent in 2019. Of those who did leave their homes, 44 percent chose to stay in Switzerland, while that number was 25 percent in 2019. 

The perception is “the closer to home, the better”, TCS said, adding that cantons of Ticino, Valais and Graubünden have been the most popular destinations during the pandemic.

Of those who travelled abroad, 23 percent went to neighbouring countries — 12 percent less than a year earlier.

Only 7 percent ventured farther in Europe, compared to 26 percent in 2019. And only 0.6 percent left Europe, compared to 12 percent in 2019.

While on holiday, 46 percent of Swiss travellers used the car, against 36 percent in 2019.

Air travel has experienced a dramatic drop, as only 7 percent of Switzerland’s travellers opted for this mode of transport in 2020, compared to 32 percent a year before. 

“While in the past, concerns about the safety of overseas travel were mainly related to terrorism, now the problems of disease and pathogens are more important”, TCS said.

International travel has been problematic not only because of the epidemiological situation, but also due to restrictions currently in place in various countries, including, in many cases, the obligation to present a recent negative Covid test before entering a foreign country. 

And from February 8th, Switzerland has implemented new restrictions for people entering the country, including residents returning from abroad. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland's new travel and quarantine rules?

They include online registration and a negative Covid test prior to travel. 

Also, people arriving from countries at risk must self-quarantine for 10 days, though this period could be shortened if negative test result is presented to cantonal authorities on the seventh day

READ MORE: Quarantine: Switzerland updates coronavirus 'high risk' list