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Getting Around Switzerland with the Use of Micromobility

The public transport system of Switzerland includes various modes, such as trains, buses, boats, lake steamers, funiculars, and cable cars. Each mode of transportation is integrated with one another, providing a convenient system for individuals to travel around Switzerland. However, micromobility is gaining traction among individuals who live there. According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, micromobility is defined as “a range of small, lightweight devices operating at speeds typically below 25 km/h (15 mph) and is ideal for trips up to 10 km.” It involves the use of scooters, bicycles, skateboards, cargo bikes, and rickshaws that can run at a speed of 25 km/h to 45 km/h. These vehicles are utilized for short distances. Micromobility excludes cars and mopeds that make use of internal combustion engines and run at speeds greater than 45 km/h. 

How Can an Individual Legally Use Electric Scooters? 

In Switzerland, there are implemented laws for an individual to be able to use electric scooters. These laws are listed below: 

  • “A motor power not exceeding 500 watts”
  • “A maximum speed of 20 km/h”
  • “Front and rear headlights” 
  • “A front and rear brake (including at least one brake acting by friction)”
  • “A bell” 

Buying an electric scooter comes with a registration certificate that allows the buyer to obtain a plate number and vignette. The vignette has insurance and is renewed every year. Insurance is needed since it covers the cost of damage in certain instances. These are the only requirements to be able to make use of an electric scooter in Switzerland. Helmets and exams are not necessary. Once ready, electric scooters can be driven on cycling paths and on the road. It is prohibited to use them on pedestrian streets to prevent endangering the lives of pedestrians. 

If one does not wish to purchase a personal electric scooter, a rent-and-share scheme for electric bikes and electric scooters has been introduced. These are made available to decongest traffic within main cities and decrease CO2 emissions commonly associated with the use of private cars that are fossil-fueled. Access to such can increase the mobility of citizens and serve as an environment-friendly alternative to mainstream means of transportation. It is also considered safer than public transportation during this COVID-19 pandemic because individuals don’t have to worry about being with large groups of people and possibly exposing themselves to COVID-19. 

The Electric Scooter Market

The COVID-19 pandemic has been advantageous to the electric scooter and electric bicycle markets. In the year 2020, there was a 22% increase in the sales of vehicles related to micromobility in Europe. Similarly, there was a 47% increase in the purchase of electric bicycles in the past few years of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Factors that have promoted the increased use of electric vehicles include government support, increased awareness of the use of environmentally friendly practices, and the increase in the price of gasoline. Apart from private use, courier services and businesses have also been increasingly investing in electric vehicles. One of the main stakeholders in the supply of electric vehicles internationally comes from Switzerland, particularly the company “my Stromer AG”. 

Are Electric Bikes and Electric Scooters Really More Environmentally-Friendly?

One of the advantages of using electric bikes and electric scooters is that they claim to be more environmentally-friendly than the use of private cars. However, there have been discussions on whether they truly are the more environmentally-friendly option. Factors that need to be considered in evaluating electric bikes and electric scooters are the manufacturing process, the lifespan of the vehicle, and recyclability when it reaches the end of its lifespan. Furthermore, the four main phases of the electric scooter’s lifecycle are manufacturing, energy production, use of the vehicle, and maintaining the vehicle and how to dispose of it when it can no longer be used. 

In terms of manufacturing, the use of ecologically produced electricity is required to consider such vehicles environmentally friendly. On the other hand, the use of fossil fuels produces a lot of greenhouse gases, making such electric vehicles not any different from what they are trying to replace. Moreover, during the use of electric scooters, they do not produce CO2 emissions as compared to fossil-fueled private vehicles. One disadvantage of using electric scooters is that most only have a short lifespan of one year. The disposal of electric scooters is one of the aspects of their life cycle that needs more attention. Unless they can be disposed of properly, they cannot be considered truly sustainable. 

With this, electric scooters are considered more environmentally friendly due to the absence of CO2 emissions while in use, and even more so if decarbonized energy is utilized. In comparison to this, electric scooters cannot be thought of as more environmentally friendly due to the inability to recycle the lithium-ion batteries that power them and the use of rare metals and oil-based grids in the process of their production. 

How You Use Electric Scooters and Electric Bikes is Also a Factor

In Switzerland, it has been observed that shared e-bikes and e-scooters are used as alternatives to trams, bikes, and walking. Initially, it was believed that these shared electric vehicles were used instead of fossil-fueled private cars. As such, what the shared electric vehicles have been replacing are actually more environmentally friendly options for transportation. According to Daniel Reck of the Institute for Transport Planning and Systems, “operating e-scooters and e-bikes seems climate-friendly at first glance because they do not use internal combustion engines. But in terms of their carbon footprint, the means of transport they typically replace is ultimately what matters”. On the other hand, it was discovered that e-scooters and e-bikes for private use are utilized differently. It was determined that they replace private cars, and because of this, CO2 emissions are lessened. 

A Lesson for Transport Planners

Given this, transport planners should consider promoting the use of private micromobility and using shared micro mobility services together with public transport. This ensures that traveling around Switzerland is more seamless. Infrastructure within the country should also be evaluated in order to promote the safety of individuals who use micromobility vehicles. There should be protected bicycle lanes, cycle highways, primary streets, and slow streets. Being able to provide primary streets and slow streets allows individuals with different vehicle speed limits to be segregated accordingly. 

Getting around Switzerland should not be a problem for expats. With its robust public transportation system, individuals have many options to choose from based on their location, preference, and budget. The use of micromobility is also something to look forward to, as it provides a convenient and safe way to reach areas that are within a short distance. 

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