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CYCLING

Registration, higher fines and confiscation: Swiss proposal to treat cyclists like motorists draws ire

A proposal by tabled in the Swiss National Council which seeks to target disobedient cyclists by handing out the same punishments as those for motorists has drawn criticism from pro-cycling groups and members of mainstream Swiss political parties.

Registration, higher fines and confiscation: Swiss proposal to treat cyclists like motorists draws ire
Photo: ODD ANDERSEN / AFP

The proposal – tabled by SVP (Swiss Peoples Party) representative Gregor Rutz – includes increasing fines for cycling infringements to the same level as for motorists. 

Under the proposal, police are to be provided with the power to confiscate bicycles from guilty cyclists, requiring them to complete training courses in order to receive their bikes back. 

There is also a plan for bikes to carry compulsory identification stickers in a manner reminiscent of motor vehicle registration. 

‘Encouraged to break the rules’

National Council representative Gregor Rutz told the NZZ Am Sonntag that cyclists frequently flaunt the law in a manner which is dangerous for pedestrians, motorists and other cyclists. 

“Cyclists regularly ignore red lights, one-way streets and enter areas forbidden to traffic” Rutz said. 

Rutz, a member of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, said that the current rules – compiled with a lack of enforcement – acted as an incentive for cyclists to act irresponsibly. 

“Cyclists are almost being encouraged to break the rules”, Rutz said. 

Rutz – along with nine further members of the Swiss People’s Party – has put together a package of measures to target disobedient cyclists, who are known colloquially as ‘Velorowdys’ (rowdy bikers) in Switzerland. 

Rutz hopes that the measures will be put in place at the federal, canton and local levels in order to tackle the perceived problem across the country. 

Motorists more often to blame

Another member of the National Council, Matthias Aebischer of the Social Democrats, has criticized the proposal – saying that motorists are more often to blame than cyclists and that the focus should be on giving cyclists greater protection. 

Aebischer, who is also the President of cycling interest group Pro Velo, says that in more than half of all collisions, the cyclists are not to blame. 

Aebischer did however say that there was an obligation upon cyclists to improve their conduct for the benefit of all road users. 

“The way some cyclists behave is just not good enough”, Aebischer said. 

Aebischer argued that training and education – both for cyclists and motorists – was the best way to improve cyclist behaviour and make the roads safer for all. 

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DRIVING

Reader question: Can I take the Swiss driving test in English?

There are quite a few things to learn and remember when taking an exam for a driver’s licence, and it's even more daunting in a foreign language. These are the rules in Switzerland.

Reader question: Can I take the Swiss driving test in English?

Whether you’re learning to drive in Switzerland or already have a licence from your home country but have to exchange it for a Swiss one (as you must do after 12 months of residency), you will have to take a test — certainly in the former case and likely in the latter one.

The rule is that if your licence was issued by a EU or EFTA country (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), you’ll be able to get a Swiss licence without having to take a driving test.

READ MORE: How to change over to a Swiss driver’s licence

This also generally applies to countries with which Switzerland has concluded an agreement to mutually recognise each others’ licences: Andorra, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Morocco,  Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, and the United States.

Nationals of all other countries — that is, whose foreign driver’s licences can’t be automatically exchanged for a Swiss one — will have to take a test.

What you should know:

The Swiss driving test includes a written exam and a practical road test. There is no such thing as a national test, with each canton administering tests and issuing licences (which, of course, are then valid across the country).

Applications for the theory and the practical exams are made at your local Road Traffic Office (Strassenverkehrsamt in German, Office Cantonal des Automobiles et de la Navigation in French, and Servizio della circolazione e della navigazione in Italian). 

Addresses and contact information for each cantonal office can be found here.

Can you take the test in English?

In most cantons, theory exams are given in one of the national languages (German, French and Italian). Only a few — Bern, Glarus, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Neuchâtel, Schwyz, Vaud and Zurich — offer the theory test in English.

If you don’t live in one of these nine cantons and you are not fluent enough in German/French/Italian to take the test, a translator may be present, but only one who is certified by your local Road Traffic Office. Contact the department to ask where and how to find a suitable interpreter.

As for the practical driving test, you can request an English-speaking examiner, but there is no guarantee that you’ll get one.

EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

At the very least, you should learn basic driving terms — such as right and left turns, lane change, parking instructions, etc. — in the local language.

These will be taught to you if you take your driving lessons in German, French, or Italian (rather than English), which may prove more difficult to begin with, but will prove useful when the time comes to pass your exams.

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