Car-Free Towns

Many “old towns” are (almost completely) car free.  Many towns, use a system of passes and barriers to ensure that the streets remain traffic free while allowing residents parking, taxis access and permitting deliveries.

Many streets in city centers are reserved for local business people, residents, city buses, or pedestrians. To enforce this the entry to the street is always marked as such, in the local language and with standard signs, and is often blocked by a couple of 8″ diameter steel posts rising up from the road. Those with permits have a swipe card which lowers the posts momentarily so they can drive through. If you try to sneak through right after someone goes in you might hear a sort of crunching sound as the posts come up under your car. This will be embarrassing and expensive.

Some of the car-free towns we have visited include:

To encourage walking, biking and the use of public transport, many European cities make it hard (and/or costly) to park.

  • limit the amount of parking spaces
  • implement or increase parking fees
  • Fees paid for parking are sometimes used to encourage non-car transportation.

Eliminating parking spaces in Copenhagen has made room for high-quality pedestrian districts and bike paths, while street space once used by cars has likewise been repurposed in Paris for bike sharing and tramways.

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Les Incompetents Vol. 12 – Don’t Forget Your Train Pass

He left for work and forgot his wallet (with his public transport pass inside).  Wouldn’t you know it, that was the day the TPG (Geneva Public Transport) decided to check passengers for their passes.  In Geneva, you don’t have to show a ticket to get on a tram or bus.  Periodically, TPG officers will board busses and trams to check tickets.  They issue steep fines to riders without tickets.  Riders without any form of identification (to properly issue the fine) are taken into custody!

He had enough identification on him to allow them to check and see he had a TPG pass.  He received a fine that he will not have to pay if he brings his pass to the TPG office.  Of course, this being Switzerland, you still have to pay a small fee.

On a side note, I heard a hilarious story about one of the TPG checks.  It seems to be some sort of urban legend here.  Who knows whether or not it is true?  A woman took the only available seat on the tram next to an immigrant.  She began complaining loudly about immigrants, how they should go back home, and how generally horrible they were.   TPG officials boarded that tram and began checking tickets.  Immediately before the officials came to check their tickets, the man about whom she had been complaining grabbed her small paper ticket out of her hand, popped it in his mouth, quickly chewed and swallowed it.  When the officials came, she was without a ticket.  Proclaiming her innocence and claiming the man next to her ate her ticket was not enough to prevent her from being issued a fine.  Everyone who witnessed the incident remained silent, having been so offended by her behavior and remarks.

Big Changes To Geneva’s Public Transport

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

We Minded The Gap And The Rest Of How We Got Around London

The fastest way to get from Heathrow* into the city is by train (15 minutes to Paddington Station).

Of course, we then took the Underground (London’s name for its subway system) to the hotel.  Unfortunately, I got a bit lost and had to hop into a one of these to actually find the hotel.

Had to take a picture of this taxi because it had one of the guys from Top Gear on it.

London’s Underground is famous and a bit of a tourist attraction in its own right.  London limits where cars can go, so it is also the fastest way to get around the city.

This is the gap.  We minded it.

Mind The Gap

One evening, we took a boat ride down the Thames.  It was a great way to see the city and on the London Transport Boat, which was surprisingly cheap.

Just about the only public transport we missed riding was one of these red double-decker busses.

*I like Swiss Airlines (especially when it is cheaper than EasyJet) because they always give you free chocolate.

You’re welcome