Cycling activists planning to block Zurich motorway during World Car Free Day
Several pro-cycling activist groups have submitted an application to blockade a motorway in Canton Zurich on World Car Free Day. The event, which has the approval of the president of the Zurich Municipal Council, Matthias Probst, will block the Sihlhochstrasse motorway in central Zurich on September 22.
Cycling protests continue in Zurich
Every year on World Car Free Day, the Green Party of Zurich, Velo Mänsche Züri, and Pro Velo organise a “bicycle demonstration,” blocking drivers from using roads in and around the Swiss city. This year, the protesters plan to cycle and block the Sihlhochstrasse motorway between central Zurich and Brunau between 7 and 8pm on September 22.
This is not the first time cyclists have brought disruption to Zurich’s streets, with the activist group "Critical Mass" continuing to block major roads in the city on the last Friday of every month. According to Stefan Bruderere from Velo Mänsche Zürich, the blockades are designed to protest the "car-centric planning of the 1960s or 1970s" and push for more public transport and cycling projects in the city.
An application to allow the protest was submitted to the Municipal Council by president and councillor Matthias Probst. In a statement given to the Tages-Anzeiger, he argued that Sihhochstrasse - a motorway built over a large part of the city's suburbs - is a “scandal,” noting that “today it would be unthinkable to build such an absurdity."
Activists hope to reignite debate over demolishing Zurich highway
The Sihlhochstrasse motorway is an elevated bridge that was completed in the 1970s as part of the Y project - a plan to connect three major highways just outside Zurich Main Station. However, after resistance from locals and city officials, the rest of the route was finally shelved at the start of 2022.
Probst declared that with the rest of the Y project now scrapped, “Sihlhochstrasse has finally become superfluous." He argued that the road brings an unnecessary number of cars into the city and spoils the recreational areas around the River Sihl. According to the Tages-Anzeiger, the protest hopes to ignite the debate over whether to demolish the motorway entirely.
Swiss roads agency concerned about safety of cycling protests
When asked by the newspaper whether the president of the Municipal Council - typically seen as an apolitical role - should file demonstration requests, Probst claimed that "such a bike tour is definitely in the interest of the general public, who have repeatedly voted against too many cars."
In response, the Federal Roads Agency (ASTRA) was lukewarm to the idea, noting in a statement that it was concerned about the safety of road users and demonstrators during the protest. The application is now being reviewed by security department head Karin Rykart, who is yet to announce her decision.