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EXPLAINED: The rules cyclists in Switzerland need to know

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: The rules cyclists in Switzerland need to know
What are the rules of cycling in Switzerland? Photo by Pixabay:

Whether you’re commuting to work, training for your next Bike-A-Thon, or simply like to explore the Swiss countryside on the weekend – as a cyclist, you take part in traffic and must be aware of Switzerland’s rules of the road.


Safety first: Do I need to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle in Switzerland?

Surprisingly, the answer is no. While helmets are in fact mandatory for e-bike owners, they are not considered a must – though still recommended - for bicycle riders.

Can I listen to music while on my bicycle?

With the cool weather slowly heating up, many a cyclist will be tempted to dust off their bicycle, plug in a pair of headphones and head for the road – but not so fast.

In Switzerland, you are not allowed to be distracted by any type of audio playback device while on the road, no matter the type of vehicle you’re using. It is crucial that all road users can fully devote their attention to their surroundings at all times.

Can I skip the queue by cycling on the pavement?

Negative, again. Adults on bicycles are not allowed to use pavement shortcuts and must ride on the road, or designated cycle paths and lanes instead. If the traffic is backed up, cyclists are, however, allowed to pass the queue on the right provided there is enough space.

Likewise, though this behaviour is frequently observed, you may never slalom between between vehicles on your bicycle to get ahead.

While on the topic of special awareness…

When cruising Switzerland’s picturesque roads it is vital you always maintain sufficient distance from all other road users, be it bicycles, cars or trucks. The law, however, does not specify how much distance is enough.

Pro Velo Schweiz, the national umbrella organisation of 40 local and regional associations in all parts of Switzerland, sought to remedy this last year when it suggested introducing a minimum overtaking distance of 1.50 metres. The motion was rejected by the National Council in the spring of 2022.


And staying in your lane…

Much like you’re not allowed to use the pavement (and hiking trail or footpaths) while on your bicycle, you’re also forbidden from using bus lanes to avoid traffic – but there may be exceptions to this rule.

Some bus lanes in Switzerland are also marked with a bicycle sign in which case you are allowed to use the bus lane with your bicycle.

Do my feet have to stay on the pedals while riding my bicycle?

No, they do not. If you wish to feel the wind beneath your feet and are fully in control of your bicycle, you can forgo resting your feet on the pedals. However, you may not let go of the handlebar at any time.

Can I attach a child bicycle trailer and a child seat to my bicycle?

Yes, in Switzerland you’re free to attach both to your bicycle at the same time if you have two children (or not).

The same goes for your fur babies. If you wish to transport your dog by bicycle note that animals are considered cargo in Switzerland and must be secured accordingly.

So, while an open basket may not prove ideal as your pet could escape and run into traffic, any safe alternative is permitted.

You are also allowed to walk your dog while on your bicycle as long as you exercise caution.


At what age can children hit the road on a bicycle?

The law does not dictate an age limit in this case, though children have to be able to pedal themselves and must then be supervised by a person who is at least 16 years old.

Children may ride on the pavement

Since January 2021, children up to the age of 12 can cycle on the pavement if there is no cycle path or bicycle lane to prevent them from having an accident – even if this disturbs pedestrians.

Remember that even though your child is allowed to ride on the pavement, you as the accompanying parent are not and must ride on the road beside them.

Do bicycles need a vignette?

No, the bicycle vignette (and thus the compulsory insurance) was abolished in 2012. Any damage caused by cyclists has to be covered by your liability insurance or alternatively, you will have to pay for the damages yourself.

Do I need to have a working bell on my bicycle?

No, you no longer need a bell, working or not.

Lastly, you may park your bicycle on the pavement.

If there are no marked bicycle parking spaces in sight, you may park your bicycle on the pavement as long as you ensure that there is at least 1.5 metres of space for pedestrians to pass by.

Also make sure you secure your bicycle well against theft.

Note, some of these rules do not apply to e-bikes.


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