For Bikes Only – Riding the Swiss Alps
By Justine Tyerman
Imagine you and your bike alone amid the most breath-taking mountain scenery in the world. No cars, no trucks, no fumes, just the whir of your tyres on the road… and the whoops of joy from your cycling mates as they summit another alpine pass and savour the adrenalin rush of the steep descent with no fear of any nasty surprises around the corner.
From May to September this year, Switzerland is offering cyclists exclusive access to a variety of spectacular mountain passes, sans vehicular traffic.
Mark Wettstein, Director of Switzerland Tourism in Australia and New Zealand says due to increasing concerns over health, safety and fitness, environmental factors and, of course, the attraction of the Tour de France, cycling tours and holidays in Switzerland have been steadily on the rise over the last decade or so.
“Various popular cycling regions have therefore decided to give cyclists the best possible Swiss alpine experience, granting them exclusive access to and through some of our most scenic alpine passes,” says Wettstein.
And with characteristic Swiss efficiency, Switzerland Tourism has launched a dedicated platform, Ride the Alps, which provides a full run-down of the selected mountain passes around the country that will be closed off to motorists from May to September, allowing access only to cyclists.
Vehicle Free Roads
Thirteen set dates have been established over the five-month period, when cyclists can take advantage of vehicle-free roads. Some of the traditionally-popular alpine cycling routes include the Gotthard region, the Valais, and the Vaud Alps. But now, cyclists can fully explore other alpine regions around the country, without having to worry about traffic.
As one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world, Switzerland has its cycling infrastructure down to a fine art. Everything is streamlined to allow pure hassle-free access and enjoyment. Featuring a series of bike hotels, bike-storing facilities on their public transportation system, and a comprehensive network of cycling routes, Switzerland’s rising popularity among cyclists is inevitable.
The country’s astonishing beauty, panoramic rail journeys, unique accommodation options and a host of competitions and events complement the cycling experience.
Close to two million visitors to Switzerland cycle during their holidays. Of this, about 45 percent prefer city biking, almost 30 percent go for e-bikes and road bicycles, while the remainder are mountain-bikers.
The road closures are set to continue on an annual basis after its launch this year when up to 26,000 cyclists are forecast to ‘ride the alps’ each summer.
Contributing Editor Justine Tyerman is an award-winning travel writer, journalist and sub-editor from Gisborne, New Zealand, with 20 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work. Check out her work at www.just-write.co.nz and Tyerman’s Travels Facebook.