How crossing a road in the Swiss capital of Bern is about to change

The Swiss capital of Bern is set to introduce a pilot project that will change the way its inhabitants cross roads in future.

How crossing a road in the Swiss capital of Bern is about to change
Photo: Creative Commons

The Swiss capital of Bern is set to introduce a pilot project which will place a ‘countdown clock’ on pedestrian crossing signals, citing road safety and Bern’s famous ‘slow walkers’ as motivations for the scheme. 

The project, which is set to cost between 20,000 and 30,000 francs, is also targeted at Bern’s nationally renowned ‘slow walkers’, as reported by Swiss newspaper Watson

The initiative mirrors the system in the Netherlands and across the north of Germany, as well as in parts of Asia and the United States. 

When the countdown timers were introduced in Hamburg, red light violations decreased by a third. 

While local authorities are optimistic about the scheme, it directly contradicts with a decision made by the Federal Council in 2015 that the countdown clocks should not be implemented. 

The Federal Council said that traffic volumes and public transport schedules should be prioritised in determining the timing of a pedestrian crossing signal. 

Bern urban planner Karl Vogel, who is behind the initiative, said the goal was to see if the project improved safety in the city. When the countdown timers are implemented, pedestrians are less likely to run across roads and take other risks that put themselves in danger.

Vogel told Swiss media “thanks to the countdown, people can see how long they have to wait before they can jump on their train. We hope that the new traffic lights will reduce the number of pedestrians rushing across the street when it's red.”

Vogel said he was not concerned about the position of the Federal Council, saying it was up to cities to prove that new traffic initiatives could work. 

“”It is up to the cities, not the federal government, to test and evaluate such projects,” he said. 

“We want to show that the system is a good thing. If not, we'll just dismantle it.”

When asked if the countdown timers were to be extended to cater to Bern’s famously slow walkers, Vogel said that no such provisions had been made. 

“I don’t think that the Bernese walk especially slowly over pedestrian crossings.”. 

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Bern consistently ranks as one of Switzerland's most beautiful cities.
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The Swiss ‘capital’ of Bern is home to a number of domestic and international organisations, as well as companies, making it a sought after location for workers. 

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