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November 2009
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Zermatt: The City With No Cars

The Matterhorn as seen from my hotel windowI’ve been traveling for the last two weeks, getting away from the hectic life of the city – work, magazine, running, school – to spend a few weeks in the alps preparing for the up and coming ski season. Zermatt is known for it’s view of the Matterhorn, an iconic mountain the Alps, it’s cheese fondue, it’s transparent tourist population and the fact that the town allows no cars.

No cars? Ok well it would make transporting food, goods and people impossible so Zermatt allows small electric shuttles – they look like mini buses. All the vehicles are made in the town. The goal is to minimize the air pollution and preserve the view of the Matterhorn by eliminating the combustion engine.

The first thing I noticed on my trip was the amount of electric vehicle congestion. The roads are very narrow iCongestion in Townn Zermatt and everyone walks, with their skis in tow, to and from the lifts. Our walk each day was almost a km and we frequently were halted as we had to wait for the vehicles to pass us and others coming from the opposite direction.

Zermatt is also in a construction boom, in every direction you look you can see a crane. This means even more vehicles are passing through the streets delivering construction materials. Plus they have now permitted large, diesel trucks to deliver concrete and other large machines (i.e. bobcats) to site. Some of the sites were so inaccessible that goods were delivered by helicopter. Overall is what congestion mania, in the sky with the cranes and helicopters, and in the streets with all the vehicles.

Overall Zermatt is pristine, preserving the air and it’s cultural heritage. Hopefully this construction will come to an end soon. I’v never been to Zermatt in the winter, when the slopes are fully covered, but even in my preseason visit I can see the majesty of the Swiss Alps.