Swiss reject bid to halve road traffic by 2010

National referendum sees four-to-one vote against proposal to return to 1970 car use level

Swiss voters yesterday overwhelmingly rejected a move to require a halving of traffic levels by 2010. The referendum result was welcomed by the government, which feared economic disruption had it been supported, as well as complications for bilateral EU agreements (ENDS Daily 2 February).

Almost four-fifths (78.5%) of the 1.9m who voted dismissed a demand for a decade-long transition back to 1970 traffic levels. Promoted since 1996 by NGO Environment and Transport, the "trafic-actif" initiative also called for more car sharing, a new SFr3 (euros 1.9) tax on petrol, car-free urban areas and public transport improvements. It was criticised for lacking concrete proposals to cut the number of kilometres travelled. The government projects that traffic levels will increase by 20-40% over the next twenty years.

Trade union and other opponents of the initiative criticised its potential consequences for individual liberty, and described it as "extreme". For the first time in a Swiss transport referendum, there was little division between the French and German-speaking cantons in voting. The latter are traditionally considered more environmentally conscientious.

Under Switzerland's direct democracy system, any citizen collecting more than 100,000 signatures can trigger a national referendum on any political question, which is then backed or rejected by simple majority. Two further traffic-reducing referenda are planned for later this year. One proposes to make four Sundays per year completely car-free, while a second demands lowering urban speed limits to 30km/h.

Follow Up:
An NGO page on the 12 March referendum,

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