Monday, March 23, 2009

Velos and public transport in Switzerland -- a perfect synergy

Last summer I worked in Zürich, Switzerland. Of course, I took the train to get there (from Vienna to Zürich there are three direct connections each day, it takes about 9 hours) and of course I took my bike with me :-). Unfortunately, I couldn't use the night train, cause one is not allowed to bring a bike there. I also couldn't bring my bike on the first train in the morning, cause that was already booked out for bicycles more than one month before my travel. Luckily on the last train there was still some space available for my bike. The bicycle transport is quite cheap -- only 12€ for one way. On the way back I shipped it via rail cargo which was a bit more expensive -- 30 CHF (~20€).

In Austria, the new highspeed trains (the so-called ÖBB railjets) don't carry bikes at all. Actually that's against a guideline by the EU, but they don't care. Read more about it in an Austrian newspaper or on (both in German). Moreover, in most other trains it's also either forbidden or complicated to transport bikes.

In Vienna, you're allowed to bring your bike in the subway at certain hours (not in the rush hour) for the cost of a half-fare ticket. Bicycles are completely forbidden in trams and buses though.

In Switzerland, public transport is great. I absolutely love it and I could talk about it for hours ;-). But I will focus on the bike-related stuff for the moment: bicycle transport in buses, trams and trains (mostly also on boats and funiculars) is allowed, cheap and easy. On the SBB website (Swiss national railway company) they also promote the transportation of bikes as hand-luggage in special bags ("Velotragetasche" in German), which in particular is free of charge and always possible.

When I lived in Switzerland, I thought about buying one of those bags, but in the end I didn't cause they are quite expensive (100-150 CHF) and because I'm probably not allowed to use it in Austria. If you're interested, you can download a review in the Velojournal here (in German, 2005).

But there are also other easy ways to transport bikes, e.g. the "Veloselbstverlad" in trains (for loading and unloading at the luggage vans no conductor is needed). Besides you can rent bikes for free in all major cities (but only for one day) and almost everywhere with Rent a Bike. Have a look at the map regarding self-service loading and bike rental.

Public transport and biking go quite well together in Switzerland and I think it deserves to be a role model.


Anonymous said...

Agreed! It's one of the main reasons I love living here!

spiderleggreen said...

We have racks on the front of our buses that carry 2 bikes. Our Light Rail trains have places where you can hook your bike so it hangs vertically. I have a pic of one early in my blog. Our public transportation system ist schlect, especially compared to the Swiss and Austians. We may have money for a highspeed rail between here and Chicago coming soon, due to the stimulus package. I don't think it would be as highspeed as Europe or Asia, but I hope they don't screw it up by arguing too much about the route.

Berni said...

I guess they have to allow these velo bags in austrian trains. Otherwise they would have to decline acceptance to everybody who is going to the airport with a big suitcase.
But it is not really the most comfortable way to decompose your bicycle for every small trip.

The argument of the Austrian railway company (ÖBB) à la "There is not enough need for more bicycle space" is insane. Everybody knows, if the surrounding conditions are good, the service will be very appreciated. As soon as a system is more attractive more users will join in.

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