I have been remiss. I let a Swiss holiday pass without so much as a word. My apologies. In my defense, until a few days ago, I wasn’t even aware that Turbosieste National Day existed. For those of you who don’s speak French, it means “National Powernap Day”. What a holiday!
Powernapping in private is also a common and acceptable (and common) means of celebrating. On March 14, 2012 from 2:00 – 2:15 p.m. everyone in Switzerland was asked to stop what they were doing for a 15 minute nap!
Driving can be dangerous and is even more so on the steep and windy roads that cut through Switzerland’s mountains. Driver fatigue is the cause of 10-20% of the accidents here. To prevent driver fatigue and avoid accidents, the Swiss launched a public service campaign. It encourages pulling off to the side of the road to nap when tired.
I’m not sure that people would feel safe sleeping roadside or at a rest area in the US. Michael Jordan‘s father was famously murdered while napping at a rest area in the US. However, Switzerland is quite safe and there isn’t much danger of being robbed or killed roadside. It is the number one country for the powernap (yet another reason to come visit).
Click here for a short video about the Turbosieste on YouTube.
Geneva is surrounded by mountains, sits on a lake and two rivers run through it with only a handful of bridges. We heard a rumor that to encourage people not to drive in the city, the lights over the bridges and at key intersections are very short and timed awkwardly (they are, but who knows the reason).
Note the rivers, the bridges, the lake, the old city… You can see why we love not having to drive every day.
You can see some of the choke points on the night view above. Note the black areas that are rivers and lakes. One of the first things we did when we arrived in Geneva was purchase public transport (TPG) passes. We have used them every day since. TPG transport has been safe, clean, on time and convenient. Excluding free things and perhaps the occasional great deal on wine, I think it is the best value in Geneva.
Bad iPhone pic of a sticker (I’d never seen a sticker on one before) I saw on todays train saying it was so much better before (in French). Today, many lovers of TPG were not feeling the love. Today was the first big day of TPG’s new, drastically different schedule and routes. Common complaints included:
Busses and trams were not on time (something that never happens in Switzerland) so riders had to wait for long periods. A friend missed her doctor’s appointment because her bus was so late and had to wait a half an hour in the freezing rain for the next bus.
Delays caused by too many vehicles arriving at the same time
Trams and busses came one right after the other, not at regular intervals. The first would be packed to the brim and the second would be empty.
The number of busses and trams that cross the river that divides the city is a quarter or less of what it used to be. This necessitates transfers, increasing travel times. A trip that used to take 20 minutes took me 40 today.
Many transfers (more transfers are required to get around under this new schedule), require walks between stops which is not ideal on cold, rainy days like today.
I waited over 20 minutes in the main train station to get a new transit map. I had to take a number because they were only available behind the counter! I really needed a map because the new transit map is not posted at the stops.
There were critical articles in today’s papers and I fully expect to read more of them tomorrow. One Genevan said, “[p]ersonally, I feel they broke a perfectly good system.”
I love TPG (which has a great iPhone app). Hopefully, these new routes help TPG serve a wider geographic area and more people so there is an upside to these changes.
The edge of the road there looks kind of like this. Here, they are tire poppers. They are made of individual pieces of stone (granite?) that are a few feet long. No matter how narrow the road, do not touch them with your tires!
I’ve been bad. I should have known that as soon as I posted about driving over here, something would happen. I went 9 km an hour over the speed limit and got a ticket mailed from the French government. In my defense, I was going 119. I thought the limit was 120 km/hr; it was 110. Oops. We have noticed that in France the speed limit inexplicably drops with little warning. Lesson learned.
On the bright side, we didn’t get a ticket in Switzerland.* Here, tickets are based on a percentage of your income. Depending on your speed, this can get expensive. Notable whoppers include:
$110,000 with the speed unknown to a Porche (2008 in Zurich).
By the way, were you wondering how I got a ticket in the mail. On the highways here, there are radar detectors and cameras. The police mail you the ticket in the mail. I am told that if you fight it and/or ask for the photo, the fine increases.
*I get to pay my fine in Euros, not Swiss Francs. I had to go to the newstand, buy this nice little stamp, put it on the ticket and mail it in. I mailed it from a French post office because it would have cost me 40 CHF ($45) to mail it from Switzerland!
We now have our permanent car (isn’t she a beauty) here. When I am driving in Switzerland, I’m not worried about getting in an accident or even parking in a teeny tiny space. I’m worried about following all of the rules. Here are some:
Seat belts are compulsory for all occupants (expected).
Wearing his seatbelt
Children under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat without an appropriate child restraint (also expected).
Pedestrians always have the right-of-way in pedestrian crosswalks. I can deal with this. Unfortunately, the drivers with French plates who consistently try to run me over have difficulty doing so.
Hazard lights may only be used to warn of danger. This is a bit different from driving in the US, where I use them when stopped in front of someone’s house.
No honking is allowed after dark. How else am I supposed to show my road rage? This merits a definitely different.
Noise from car or occupants that could disturb people is prohibited. Does this mean I can’t blast my bass?
The minimum driving age is 18. FYI, the drinking age for wine and beer is 16.
Mobile phones may only be used with a hands-free system (similar to the US).
Headlights must be used in tunnels. Logical, but this is not really an issue in Michigan. On Sunday, I think we went through at least 8 tunnels on our way to Geneva. By the way, not only do you have to use your headlights in tunnels, the speed limit drops and they use radar to fine you if you are following too closely. You’ll get a nice little note from the Swiss government in the mail about a week later.
Headlights should be on and dipped during daylight hours, especially on major routes. We can do this.
Each car must carry a red warning triangle (reflective vests are not obligatory). Thank goodness our rental came with it, because I’m not sure where to buy a red warning triangle. Hmmm… I’d better check to make sure our new car has one.
Snow chains are required in some winter conditions. Who doesn’t love this? Okay, he doesn’t love this. To quote him, “what happened to all season tires?” Mom said, “maybe they don’t have them over here.” He said, “Michelin? Pirelli?” We have ours and have paid to store our normal tires for the winter. You can breathe easy, we are in compliance.
It is illegal to drive if the windshield is partly or completely obscured by frost; it is illegal to let the car idle to aid clearing the windshield. Curses, that was my go to move. I am ashamed to say that I would sit in the front seat drinking coffee and let my car warming up do the work for me. I try to be pretty green, but that was one instance where I didn’t worry about my greenhouse gas emissions.
Helmets are compulsory for driver and passenger on all scooters, motorbikes, quad bikes and trikes. The motorcycles and scooters are so aggressive here and we have already seen several accidents. I can see why they have this rule.
Speed limits are enforced with cameras. If you do not obey this one, you will receive an appropriately Swiss (expensive) speeding ticket in the mail. The amount is determined by taking a percentage of your income?!? Expect more on this in future posts.
Radar detectors are illegal. Okay. The dreaded ticket in the mail becomes much more likely without one of these. Oh yeah,the speed limit is only really posted when it is an exception to the above rules (posted at the border).
When driving in a city, town or village, the right of way at an intersection is automatically given to the vehicle on the right – priorité à droite – unless otherwise indicated by stop or yield/give way signs. This applies even in the case of a small side road entering a major main road. The vehicle traveling on the main road must give way to the vehicle entering on the right. I have just been waiving everyone on ahead and hope that when I am not doing this properly, people appreciate my being nice. We are working on it.
At a traffic circle, the vehicle already on the circle has the right of way over vehicles joining from the right. No problems so far here, but as a nation, the US has great difficulty with the traffic circle.
On hill roads, the car travelling uphill has priority over the one coming down. You should see the narrowness of some of these roads. This makes perfect sense.
If a car is not registered in the driver’s name, the driver should carry a letter from the registered owner authorising the use. Very, very different.