Melinda Stocker, Zurich
How would you describe cycling in Zurich?
Zurich has definitely evolved into a bike-friendly city over the years, although having said that there are still places which I try to avoid, as I don’t necessarily want to endanger my life or that of my violin! Bike paths often end on roads with tram tracks, then there's lots of inattentive pedestrians crossing your way or stressed out car drivers that sometimes act aggressively towards cyclists. On a positive note it’s relatively simple to combine public transport with cycling to work.
How do you use your Brompton bike?
I live in Winterthur a city 25 km north of Zurich and commute here regularly to play in orchestras or teach violin. With my Brompton I can get off the Stadelhofen railway station, which is centrally located and whiz off to the Tonhalle (Zurich orchestra hall) in just a few minutes. Fortunately my working hours as a musician allow me to avoid peak traffic, as I usually start later in the day and finish very late in the evening, which makes the bike experience here a bit more pleasant.
I am lucky to own two Bromptons: one is a 6-speed model (H6L) with a green frame and white extremities, the other is a 2-speed model (S2L) in a desert sand colour, which is slightly lighter partially due to the fact that it is a titanium model. I mostly use the 2-speed model as I get around town quicker and find myself often changing trains or walking up and down the stairs. Both of them are stored on top of my fridge in my apartment. They also serve as decorative elements like that.
I don't have a car and thus my Bromptons are my first choice for commuting, often in combination with trains, buses or trams. They are a perfect fit for this combined transport: I don’t need to pay an additional train ticket for my bike, plus I never have to worry about a parking spot as I simply take it to my workplace.
Baggage wise I occasionally use a black canvas bag on the front carrier block, but most of the time I carry my light violin case and a small backpack on my back to keep everything snug.
How did you get into cycling?
My passion for cycling started at a very young age when I was allowed to sit at the back of my dad’s bike. He would often take me to Kindergarten on his bike. I can still remember begging my dad to do a figure of 8 - that was probably the highlight of the morning for me!
But then we emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. Bicycling there was not really an option for me, as the city is very wide spread, hilly and traffic plagued. When I moved to Germany at the age of 18, however, I started bicycling again with a borrowed, rudimentary old folding bike with just one hinge. It was a bit cumbersome, but it got me hooked on folding bikes. My next one was a cheap Tchibo folding bike (super market bike), still heavy and voluminous, but a definite step up from my first one.
Discovering Bromptons was a true revelation for me: a well functioning folding mechanism on a bike that is as quick and agile as a normal city bike! I bought my first Brompton in Wintherthur at Hansjörg Mohr's bike shop. A few years later I grew fond of the idea of riding a lighter Brompton model. Thomas Ernst from the bike shop Velo Zürich happened to have a titanium 2-speed model left in stock which I couldn’t resist.
What advice would you give to anyone considering cycling in Zurich?
"Surf" the combined transport and preferably get yourself a folding bike for that purpose! Make use of the excellent public transportation system based on commuter trains and tramways.
Trams are easy to get on and off and convenient to ride in with a Brompton, in bad weather, for example. On the down side, once on your bike, you have to pay careful attention to the tracks and to fast approaching trams.
When you’re not commuting, where are your favourite places to visit by bike?
On a sunny day I like to get to the lake shore and relax, watching boats, swans and seagulls. I have yet to explore many more areas within Switzerland by bike, so far I use it mostly to commute.
If you could go on one cycling adventure, where would you go and why?
My wish has always been to cycle across South America, since this has always been a continent which intrigued me the most. I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to realise this dream of mine.