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Posts tagged "Switzerland"

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Zurich: Where People Are Welcome and Cars Are Not

When it comes to smart transportation options and city planning, Zurich can credibly claim to be the global champ. This Swiss city has enacted a number of policies and practices that have produced streets where people come first. Getting around and simply experiencing the city is a pleasure.

How did they do it? In a 1996 city decree referred to as "a historic compromise," Zurich decided to cap the number of parking spaces. From then on, when new parking spaces were built anywhere in Zurich, an equivalent number of spaces had to be eliminated elsewhere within the city limits. Many of the new spaces that have been built since then come in the form of underground garages, which allow for more car-free areas, plazas, and shared-space streets.

Zurich also has an intricate system of more than 4,500 sensors that monitor the number of cars entering the city. When that number exceeds the level Zurich's streets can comfortably accommodate, all cars are halted on highways and main roads into the city until congestion is relieved. Thus, there is never significant traffic back-up in the city itself.

It's tough to top the city's transit options. Zurich has a network of comfortable commuter trains and buses, plus the magnificent gem of the city: its 15-line tram system. Trams run everywhere frequently and are easy to hop on and off. The coordination of the lines is a wonder to behold. And it's the preferred way to travel in the city center -- business men in suits traveling to the richest banks in the world ride next to moms and skateboarders.

That's only the beginning of some of the great things going on in Zurich. Bike mode share is now 6 percent and climbing. People flock to the amazing parks and rivers that have been cleaned up. Car-free and car-lite streets are filled with restaurants and people at all times of day. If you can never get to Zurich yourself, I hope you'll be able to experience a bit of what it's like via this Streetfilm.

Note: All stats in the video are from the Mobility and Transport Microcencus of 2010 by the Federal Government of Switzerland. The survey on travel behavior has been conducted every five years since 1974.

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Cyclists Vs. Rails in Zurich

As I 've continued to scour through the 10+ hours of footage I shot last month in Groningen, Amsterdam and Zurich, I've been trying to find ways to get Streetfilms fans some video and posts about what I experienced.

One thing that super impressed me was during my three days in Zurich I saw no cyclists crash while navigating the omnipresent surface rails for the 15 tram lines that run all over Zurich. I was told by some there are certainly problems and crashes happen, but I saw some real pro rail riding behavior.  I ended up capturing just a little bit for your consumption in this shortie.

Alas, great news comes today from one of my Zurich interview subjects, Nelson Carrasco.  The city is experimenting with rail treatments that will make bicycling on streets with rails much safer.  Essentially, it seems they will be testing a material that is strong enough to support a bicycle but will yield to the weight when a tram runs over it.

The English-translation of the above post is essentially: "We are testing a new bike-friendly rail system, which is intended to prevent bicycle tires getting jammed in the tram rail." For all those who really want to read the entire article (and in English) I ran it through a translator and will post the text at the bottom after the jump.

Of course anytime I've travel to other rail-heavy cities, I'm mesmerized by how cyclists navigate rails, in particular because if the thought of crashing is terrifying for me as a very experienced cyclist, I can't imagine what it is like for a new-bee or someone transporting a child.  Many years ago in Seattle I shot this impromptu footage of sharrows used to direct cyclists how to approach rails.

San Francisco, Portland, Salt Lake City and plenty of other U.S. cities might want to take notice!

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