A bicycle infrastructure odyssey in Switzerland: Bern & Basel (2/3)

Continuing our tour of Swiss bicycle infrastructure, we arrived in Bern, the original destination of our field trip. We knew beforehand about its existing infrastructure; however, we were even more pleased with what we saw on the ground in Bern — a prime example on how well-planned infrastructure can increase the number of bicycle users. Starting in 2014 with Vélo-Offensive — a comprehensive bicycle plan — Bern set out to raise the cycling modal share from 11% to 20% by 2030. Now, in 2018, the percentage of cyclists has already increased to 15%.

 
 Turning lanes for bicycle users in Bern — a must have.

Turning lanes for bicycle users in Bern — a must have.

 

This success is not only due to the infrastructure; however, the infrastructure plays a crucial part in explaining it. In 2016, Bern opened a route called Wankdorf, presenting the standard they want to establish for every main cycle lane. This route features a separated cycle track, as well as a green wave for cyclists riding 20 km/h. This effort also extends into the residential areas outside the city centre, with streets often having their own cycle lanes, and with an extensive network of 20 and 30 km/h streets. Considering what is already available in terms of infrastructure, and what the local government is planning in the upcoming years in the Velo-Offensive, Bern definitely is a city to keep an eye on.  

 
 

Leaving Bern for the airport located in Basel, we were looking forward to visiting this supposedly bicycle-friendly city. With high hopes, having just been pleasantly surprised by Bern, we arrived in Basel. Disappointment might be a bit harsh; however, we failed to understand why Basel holds such a reputation as a cycling city. Despite seeing some cargo bikes on the streets, as well as a few bicycle users, we found little infrastructure that would allow cyclists of all ages and abilities to ride daily. As in all the other Swiss cities visited, we found intersections where cyclists are placed in front of cars to increase their visibility and their safety.  

 
 Giving bicycle users a head start at intersections increases their safety.

Giving bicycle users a head start at intersections increases their safety.

 

When it comes to bicycle infrastructure inspiration, we would recommend the rest of Switzerland’s cities to take their eyes off Basel and shift their attention to Bern.