Zurich braces for 3 days of disruption as Velodemo celebrates 50th anniversary
On June 3, a large group of cycling protestors are expected to block the streets of Zurich for drivers and trams to mark the 50th anniversary of the city's first Velodemo. The event will be held after a 48-hour continuous demonstration, with some activists planning to ride non-stop through the streets to protest in favour of better cycling infrastructure.
Velodemo celebrates 50th anniversary in Zurich
On June 3, World Cycling Day, hundreds of cyclists are expected to take to the streets of the Swiss city as part of the Velodemo. Run in part by the activist group “Critical Mass”, the event is designed to protest the lack of safe and effective cycle lanes and the number of car-dominated neighbourhoods in Zurich. Activists highlight this fact by cycling en mass through the streets, causing delays for the cars and trams stuck behind them.
First started in June 1973, the event - which usually takes place on the last Friday of every month - rose to prominence during the COVID pandemic and as the climate crisis became a more clear and present danger. Edna Bohnert, from the "Velo Mänsche Züri" group, said that their goals have not changed since 1973 and that despite promising more cycle lanes, Zurich is not moving fast enough - for example, it is still impossible to cross the city without riding among cars at some point.
Zurich still unsafe for cyclists
“I want to use the Velodemo to show as many people as possible what city-friendly mobility could look like,” noted Bohnert. Roland Wiederkehr, former head of WWF Switzerland and the organiser of the first Velodemo, told 20 Minuten that the event reflected “50 lost years because only now people are talking about how to expand the bike paths."
He argued that drivers still reign supreme in Zurich, with most infrastructure projects still centred around motor vehicles. “The number of road fatalities has steadily decreased to this day - it is only increasing for bicycles and e-bikes. I will probably never live to see the day when there are finally safe cycle paths in Zurich,” he concluded.
Disruption in Zurich to peak at 5pm on June 3
From 5pm on June 1, activists will begin cycling around the city in what is expected to be a 48-hour-long protest. Along the route - not revealed to the media - disruption to motor traffic and public transport is possible depending on how many cyclists participate. Activists explained that the main riders will be given two-hour shifts to help them get to the end, although private individuals can join them at Werdmühleplatz, which protesters will ride through every hour.
Then, at 5pm on June 3, the main two-hour demonstration will get into full swing. Local police told 20 MInuten that this is when the majority of the disruption is set to take place. While activists assured the public that they will not deliberately block roads and tram lines, the sheer number of people cycling will almost certainly cause heavy traffic and delays.
Speaking to the newspaper, a spokesperson for the Zurich city police, Marc Surber, said that they are aware of the Velodemo, although he noted that activists had only applied for the two-hour protest on June 3, so the 48-hour pre-protest came as a bit of a surprise. He concluded that while the emergency services will intervene when necessary, "Basically, however, cycling together in a larger group is allowed, as long as the traffic rules are respected."
Thumb image credit: Shutterstock.com / Photoimpuls