Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mobility mobiles and Boris bikes

Don’t have a car or a bike in Switzerland? No problem, you can still get around. Although I’ve outlined the problems I’ve had with Swiss trains, they really are quite efficient and can get you to all corners of Switzerland in no time. But sometimes it’s easier to go by car or bike.
Mobility mobiles docked at a station

So when we moved, we did our research and stumbled on the concept of car sharing. Mobility CarSharing is all over Switzerland; the website says they have over 2,500 cars available at over 1,250 stations throughout the country. You can even hire cars in Austria and Germany. We’ve found carsharing to be easy to use, plus it’s environmentally friendly and cost effective; we undoubtedly save thousands of CHFs in petrol, insurance, parking and registration. I’ve registered as a member, which costs around CHF200 with a SBB Half Fare card (more on that in an upcoming post). Then you just pay for your use by the kilometre and the hour. So for 2.5 hours and 14kms it took to move from our place in Sticksville to our new place in Nyon cost less than CHF20. Beats hiring a car through a rental company or getting a taxi!

Driving them is another matter. Like a rental company, you can hire different categories of vehicles from Micro (a cute little two-seater Smart car) up to Transport (a Mercedes Vito van), great for IKEA trips. And that’s the thing. Each car is different and not like the car you’re used to driving. Back home, I have a manual drivers’ licence but drive an automatic. So while I can drive a manual, it had been awhile since I’d done so, and getting used to different cars can sometimes produce interesting results. The first car I hired was a Renault Megane. I discovered – at the traffic lights in central Nyon with four other cars behind me – that it has a high clutch point and is really easy to stall, repeatedly. I’ve also hired a Mazda that I must have come very close to burning out the clutch on.

Then there’s driving in Switzerland. First, being from Australia means I drive on the left side of the road, and the right-hand side of the car. Having to do the opposite of both has produced some tense moments, especially when approaching slip lanes and left-hand turns across oncoming traffic. Emperor D and I have on a few occasions exchanged panicky words when we think an accident is imminent. Thankfully we haven’t had any dramas yet.

Secondly, there’s the speed limit. I often don’t know what it is, as it’s frequently not signposted. This is strange for me, where speed-limit-obsessed Australian traffic laws mean virtually every street, road and highway is sign-posted every 500 metres. Driving on Switzerland’s highways for the first time a few weeks ago, I pulled onto the highway and sped up to 100km/hr, the speed limit on Australian suburban freeways. Cars whizzed past me at least 40-50km/hr faster. I sped up to nearly 130km/hr, but cars were still passing me with ease – they were doing at least 150km/hr or more. And I’m surprised. This is Switzerland, not a German autobahn! I would have thought that the conservative, rules-obsessed Swiss would have had a strict speed limit, of maybe no more than 120km/hr. And apparently, that’s actually correct; according to Wikipedia, Switzerland’s speed limit is 120km/hr. That’s a lot of Swiss breaking the rules.
Boris bikes at docking station in Hyde Park
Image: ZanMan, WikiMedia Commons

If you can’t drive, there’s always bikes. It seems that most people in Switzerland own one, and a few of my colleagues get to work on a bike. But maybe Geneva needs to take a leaf out of London’s book. I recently spent a week in London. A lot of people there rides bikes to work too, but some with a difference; they have public bikes for hire, nicknamed Boris bikes. It seemed that one out of three bikes on the road was a Boris bike. Boris bikes, by the way, were nicknamed after London’s Lord Mayor, Boris Johnson, a bit of a London personality, and are a public bicycle sharing system where the bikes get docked at stations all over the city. I hired one on a sunny Sunday morning and took it through Hyde Park. It was one of the best things I did in London; they’re loads of fun.
Velopass bike sharing station in Morges

It’s something they should do in Geneva, and I can’t see an excuse for them not to do it. There are good bicycle paths in the city and there is even an example close to home, with a few towns in the neighbouring canton of Vaud having a bike sharing system, though on a much smaller scale. The city of Lausanne, and surrounding towns of Morges and Rolle, have the scheme. If they’re cheap to use and run, environmentally friendly, and get people out of cars and off public transport – as well as getting them doing something healthy – then why can’t Switzerland’s second biggest city, Geneva, do it too? Genevoise unite and get on yer bikes!

Update: turns out there is a bike hire system in Geneva, but it's not quite on the same scale as London, and it's suggested that the one in Morges and Lausanne is a trial to see how it runs. I hope it gets to Geneva in it's full capacity soon - Geneva is made for cycling!

1 comment:

  1. Check out for the bike sharing. It's not as in other cities, since here you have to fill in a paper and give 20chf as deposit, which pretty much rules out the possibility of riding a shared bike to work.

    But at least you have the chance to get a free bike for 4 hours, and take a nice tour of Geneva on 2 wheels (I think it is only from May to October though)