Whether you’re on your daily commute to work, on a family outing at the weekend, or taking your racing bike out for a spin, as a cyclist, you’re a road user and as such are required to follow the rules of the road. But road signs, rights of way, and speed limits are not the whole story: There are many other regulations that apply to cyclists in Switzerland too.
Cyril Senn, a legal expert at AXA-ARAG specializing in traffic law, answers the most frequently asked questions about traffic rules for cyclists.
No, bicycles must use the road or, where available, bike lanes and paths. If motorized traffic is at a standstill, cyclists are allowed to pass to the right of the queue provided there’s room to do so. However, you’re not allowed to whizz through the queue of vehicles weaving in and out slalom-style.
No. The same rules apply to cyclists as to all other road users: Your attention must not be distracted by listening to audio devices or the like. If you’re listening to loud music on your earphones, it seems doubtful whether you can still pay full attention to what’s going on in the traffic around you.
There’s no actual age restriction, but children are not allowed to ride a bicycle until they can pedal. Children under the age of six are permitted to ride a bicycle on a main road under the supervision of someone aged at least 16.
No, riding on the sidewalk is not permitted.
No, cyclists do not have to wear a helmet in Switzerland. Helmets are only compulsory starting from “large” e-bikes. However, we advise you to always wear a helmet, as it can massively reduce the risk of serious head injuries.
A simple question that could take a whole dissertation to answer! Basically, bicycles are not allowed to ride on paths that are unsuitable for cycling. According to the Road Traffic Act, this includes, for example, footpaths and hiking trails. However, rapid progress in mountain bike technology means that – given the right skills – “bicycles” are now capable of thundering down even the steepest and rockiest hiking trails. The cantons have the option of designating special routes for bicycles or mountain bikes.
The basic rule is that you always need to maintain sufficient distance from all road users. The law does not specify an exact figure. However, when opening a car door, you must always make sure that traffic approaching from behind is not endangered.
As long as you are in control of the bike, taking your feet off the pedals is not explicitly prohibited. However, you must not take your hands off the handlebars.
Yes. You can tow two children in a trailer and have a secure child seat on your bike as well. The same applies to a tandem. So with a trailer and a child seat mom and dad could cycle around on a tandem with their three children.
Turning right on red
Cyclists and moped riders are now allowed to turn right at a red light, provided this is indicated accordingly.
Children up to 12 years of age are allowed to ride on the sidewalk
If there’s no cycle path or cycle lane, children up to 12 years of age are allowed to cycle on the sidewalk. The Federal Council realizes that this may disturb pedestrians on sidewalks, but the new regulation helps prevent accidents between children and cars and therefore benefits road safety.
Yes, two children can be transported in a trailer and one on a child seat. There is no speed limit, but you generally have to adjust your speed to your “load”.
Animals are regarded as cargo and must be secured accordingly. Provided you use a special basket or cage that won’t allow your pet to escape in the city traffic, the answer is “yes”. The priority is road safety at all times.
Unless exceptions are indicated, bus lanes may only be used by buses operating as public service vehicles. If the bus lane also shows a bicycle symbol cyclists are allowed to use it too.
No, the bicycle sticker was abolished in 2012.
No – there is a general requirement to maintain sufficient distance.
Bicycles can be parked on the sidewalk, provided there is at least 1.5 meters of space left for pedestrians.
Basically, you must ride on the right and overtake on the left. This means that even on cycle paths you must overtake on the left provided there is enough space.
Pedestrian crossings may only be used by pedestrians. Cyclists must push their bikes.
No, nowadays a bell is no longer required.
Yes, adults are allowed to lead a dog on a leash provided they exercise due caution.
Yes, the pedestrian zone is strictly reserved for pedestrians.
Two people are allowed to ride side by side,
- in a closed formation of more than ten bicycles
- in dense bicycle traffic
- on cycle paths and on designated cycle routes on secondary roads
- and in traffic-calmed areas.
No, there are also carriers and “cargo bikes”. The load must generally be secured in such a way that it does not pose a danger to other road users. For example, if you are transporting tools such as hammers and screwdrivers and they fall on the road when you go over a pothole, the load was not secured in accordance with the regulations.
In principle, the right-hand rule applies, i.e. cyclists must also ride on the right-hand side of the road when going around a traffic circle.