Swiss reluctant to leave their cars at home

Some Swiss cities want to consign scenes like this to the past Keystone Archive

Motorists in 57 cities and communes were asked to leave their cars at home on Monday to reduce pollution.

This content was published on September 22, 2003 - 13:08

But not all towns supported the event: Zurich is holding its car-free day a week later and Fribourg did not participate at all.

Supported by 250 companies, participating cities and communes were hoping to get people on their bikes or to use public transport.

Major Swiss cities including Bern, Basel, Lucerne and Geneva closed off streets to motorised traffic.

The “In Town Without My Car” campaign is part of European Mobility Week, which is sponsored by the European Commission.

The annual event - which always falls on September 22 - was observed by more than a thousand cities across Europe.

Reluctant Swiss

However, some Swiss cities said that they had neither the means nor the inclination to add their names to this year’s list of participants.

Zurich said the fact that this year’s event fell on a Monday was crucial to its decision not to take part.

“We could not have introduced [a car-free day] on a workday without raising the wrath of commuters,” Lorenz Steinmann of Zurich Multimobil told swissinfo.

Zurich will be holding its car-free day on Sunday September 28.

Jean-Charles Bossens, a senior official in the transport department in Fribourg, told swissinfo the city had neither the financial means nor the staff to ban traffic.

“In 2002 we closed off roads and offered free public transport. We just do not have the resources this year,” he said.


Irrespective of Monday's outcome, there is little likelihood of the car-free concept taking off in Switzerland.

In May, 60 per cent of voters rejected an initiative calling for four car-free Sundays a year. Opponents argued that this would hit the Swiss economy and have a disastrous effect on tourism.

The number of cities and communes marking September 22 has dropped since last year, from 70 to 57 this year.

But last year's event fell on a Sunday, making it easier for people to do without their cars for a day.

The Federal Energy Office welcomed the campaign, arguing that it will encourage a drop in emissions from cars.

It is keen to see Switzerland fulfil a requirement to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by ten per cent by 2010.

Only one Swiss city devoted a full week to mobility matters during September: Geneva held a European Mobility Week, culminating in car-free Monday.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

In brief

Fifty-seven Swiss cities and communes marked a car-free day on September 22.

"In town without my car" is sponsored by the European Commission.

More than 1,000 European cities took part in this year's events.

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