Swiss Satur–errr, Thursday: Driving

After a glorious month in the United States of America, we arrived back in Switzerland yesterday, where we ate everything, saw tons of relatives and friends, and drove, drove, and drove.

I don’t own a car, and because we live right in the center of Basel, Switzerland (we’re two blocks from the Rhein!), we don’t need one. So, mostly, we use public transportation and walk.

In most of the United States, public transportation isn’t a viable option. It’s too big and too spread out. So, when I was on the east coast, I rented a car (at exorbitant rates), and in Dallas, I used Uber, and in Utah, my sister lent me a car. And, except for my 20 hours in Dallas, I drove every day.

You know what? It was less stressful than driving in Switzerland. Even when I was in heavy traffic in Las Vegas (the freeway was shut down and everyone diverted off), it wasn’t as stressful as Swiss driving.

This seems stupid. The Swiss are rule followers, and because they use speed cameras to issue speeding tickets, people generally drive very calmly. If you are aggressive in getting ahead, you’ll get zapped by a speed camera, so people don’t (generally) do it.

But why is it so stressful driving here? Because of walking and public transportation.

We flew into Zurich, which is an hour away. We had a ridiculous number of bags stuffed with American goodies (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, mostly), and so rather than take the train back to Basel, I rented a car to get us home. The drive on the freeway was easy–as I said, Swiss drivers are rule followers. The stressful part came when I exited the freeway.

Walkers everywhere.

Bicycles everywhere.

Trams and buses everywhere.

Pedestrians don’t stop and look twice before crossing the street. In most of the places I was in the US, it’s rare to see a pedestrian crossing the street. In Basel, it’s rare not to have a bunch of people walking around wherever you’re trying to drive. Swiss law requires you to yield to people in crosswalks. I think this is probably the case in the US, but here, they mean it. Even though I remind my children to look both ways to ensure it’s safe, many locals just assume drivers will follow the law and stop. They just step right into traffic.

It makes driving terrifying and stressful. The streets are also narrow and old here. I spent most of the time in Utah, where streets are wide and generally pedestrian-free. Plus, there are parking lots everywhere. In Basel, on-street parking is very common, making the narrow streets even smaller.

I am not a huge driving fan–even in the US, and I’m happy to be back to walking and public transportation. But, I also now have a clear understanding of why I hate driving in Switzerland so much. It’s the people.

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

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10 thoughts on “Swiss Satur–errr, Thursday: Driving

  1. LOL its true, especially with bikes everywhere.. however, it depends which town it is.. in Zurich you have to literally run for life when you are crossing the street and no one ever hardly stops to let you through 😀 .. Basel is a small old town with lots of cars so no wonder it’s so frustrating to drive (never mind the streets closed due to work etc. each year).. hugs to you, I feel your pain lol

    1. So many streets closed. I have to go the long way to get home now because of street closures!

      I haven’t felt that way in Zurich, but when I’m there I’m mainly in the main area that is filled with tourists. (Pre-Covid) so maybe drivers are more cautious there?

      1. I’m practicing that mantra for our future robot masters when the Singularity arrives! 🙂

  2. Haha…it seems that I am not the only one who is fond of using public transport and walking. I really hope New Zealand could have such a setting allowing pedestrians walking at will…

  3. Yet here in the USA, the claim is that public transit doesn’t need help because people don’t use it as much as cars. I do have a driver’s license but I gave up owning a car because of the dent it made to my budget so I rely on public transit and walking to get around. The attitude here in the USA is that you are either a driver of a car or you use a bike/scooter or you use Uber/Lyft. I have never found any use of a car service a reasonable cost to my budget on a daily service. I had to take a car service to work 2 mornings a week but the cost plus tip was equal to 2 hours of pay. I could have considered bike riding if I could ever find an adult-size tricycle since I never learned how to ride/balance on a regular two-wheel bike because my legs don’t reach the ground. It is only lately that bike makers are realizing that short people need smaller-height bike wheels to ride properly, but they are still very expensive. There should be a compromise between all users of the road, vehicles and pedestrians.
    But here in the USA, pedestrians are ignored by all vehicles that drive-through lights signs and any caution lights. the opposite of what happens in Europe.

    1. I applaud your use of public transit. It’s a shame regarding your problems with 2-wheeled bicycles, though. If you get a so-called “girls bike” — that is, one with the crossbar curving down low — you should be able to find one that would allow your feet to touch the ground when stopping (since you, normally, would not remain seated then, anyway), at every price point. Good luck to you!

  4. I work in DC but live in Md. I hate driving in DC because the bike lanes take over especially in the gentrified areas. It would be nice if cars could stop at certain point park and have good public transportation to other area of the city. But planners like effing up plans thinking that drivers, walkers and bikers are considerate and will get along. NO! DC is like what you describe in your area in Switzerland.

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