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Switzerland - Cycling

Switzerland has a network of cycle routes, and cycling is a well-used mode of transport. The country is a popular destination for cycle tours, and you will have plenty of opportunities for recreational use of your bicycle in more rural areas, ranging from relatively flat and easygoing lakeside cyclepaths to challenging high-altitude terrain. If you wish to go further afield, trains and most other public transport services will allow you to transport your bike, although you must buy a ticket or have an annual bike pass to use SBB rail services. Bikes contained in bicycle bags (Velotragetasche) will be accepted free of charge as hand luggage.

While you will be spoilt for choice with scenic cycle routes in the Alps and the Swiss countryside, you can also commute by bike within the Swiss cities. Note that some of these have hilly terrain, Zurich and Lausanne in particular. Some people have adapted to this challenge by using electric bikes. This aside, Swiss cities tend to be bicycle-friendly although finding safe bike parking can be difficult. Some cities have special bike racks where you can hang your bike with the front wheel suspended. You may also come across secure bike parking areas close to main stations. A number of expats in Switzerland have sadly fallen victim to bike theft, even with well-secured bikes stored indoors. If your bicycle is expensive or an essential means of transport it may be worth insuring it.

In Zurich from May to October bike hire is free from certain locations including the main train station. Take along a CHF 20 deposit and ID. There are also many bicycle rental shops throughout Switzerland, where you can also often buy a bike or have one serviced or repaired. A new bike and e-bike rental intiative has been launched by SBB, PostBus and Rent a Bike, where you will be able to bike share, initially from a number of larger SBB stations. This self-service scheme will allow bike rental at any time. E-bikes will be pre-charged at their stands ready for use.

If you would like to bring your own bicycle to Switzerland this can be done in the same way as your other personal effects, provided the bike was bought more than 6 months prior to your move. Newer bikes imported into Switzerland will attract Swiss sales tax.

Up until 2011 it was mandatory to buy bicycle liability insurance in the form of a Velo Vignette sticker, which had to be displayed on the bike. This will no longer be the case from 2012.

You should avoid cycling on the pavement (sidewalk) and use the bicycle bell to alert pedestrians, especially on cycle lanes that are shared with pedestrians. You are also required to stop at traffic lights. After dark the law requires you to use front and rear bike lights. If tempted to cycle through a Swiss park, first check that you are using a designated cycle route. At time of writing you do not have to wear a cycling helmet by law, but this is likely to be the case in the future. For safety reasons, children under six are not permitted to cycle in public places.

Bikemap.net is an excellent online cycle route planner covering Swiss cities, towns, and rural areas alike. The routes are shown on a map and also indicate terrain levels.

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