Uber poised for Swiss expansion

Long plagued by legal issues and driver shortages, ride sharing service Uber is set to expand into more of Switzerland’s French-speaking towns.

Uber poised for Swiss expansion
Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Long plagued by legal issues and driver shortages, ride sharing service Uber is set to expand into more of Switzerland’s French-speaking towns. 

The ride sharing service announced on Wednesday it would expand into the predominantly French-speaking towns of Fribourg, Sion and Yverdon. 

A spokesman for the American service told Swiss media outlet Watson the expansion was fuelled by demand. 

In Sion and Fribourg, while rides can be booked via the app, they will be carried out by taxis in order to comply with local regulations. 

“Our launch will enable taxi drivers to increase the use of their vehicles, win new customers and thus generate more sales thanks to our technology,” said Jean-Pascal Aribot, Director of Uber Switzerland. 

Uber currently operates freely in the German-speaking cities of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Winterthur and Zurich. 

Legal issues and driver shortages

Uber’s expansion in Switzerland has been slower than in some neighbouring countries.  

Drivers have complained that Switzerland’s high cost of living makes it more difficult to make ends meet, while the company has also been plagued by frequent legal issues. 

The service is currently banned in Geneva due to concerns about payments for drivers, although the ban has been suspended regarding an appeal. 

Geneva classifies Uber as an employer, meaning that drivers should be entitled to benefits including paid holidays, sick leave and pensions. 

The company disputes this and says its drivers are independent contractors. 

In February, voters in Zurich approved a plan to place more restrictions on Uber in the canton. 

The new restrictions include that drivers need to register with cantonal authorities and place obvious signs on their vehicles to distinguish them from regular cars.

The vote, which took place only in the canton of Zurich as part of the February 9 round of referendums, sought to bring regulation for Uber and other ride-sharing services in line with taxis and other limousine services. 

A total of 51.6 percent of voters approved the initiative, while 42.4 percent were opposed. 

The initiative also ‘cantonalised’ taxi regulation, meaning that the municipalities of Zurich will no longer set conditions for taxi companies. Unlike previously, taxis are now allowed to use ranks anywhere in the canton. 

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Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law.