geneva – a pragmatic city with european warmth

I had a chance to visit Geneva, Switzerland for a few days to attend LIFT08 conference. I only had a few hours of sightseeing, but it came across to me as very pragmatic in a way that people have optimized the design of the city for living over time. Here are a few things I noticed from its public space. I didn’t have the luxury of the local’s commentary on my observation, so I would welcome any other thoughts.

The trash collection bin was all metallic and left in the middle of the road, which I found unusual. Cornavin is the area where the central train station is, so this may be an exception.

geneva trash bin

The newspaper dispenser accompanied by a recycling bin.

geneva newspaper distri

An oversized road sign for the school area. This supports our experience in crossing streets. It seemed that pedestrians had the right of way wherever there was a mark for crossing without a traffic light. My colleague and I were honked at because we were waiting for the car to pass us. Having such an overt sign for the school area makes sense if this rule is in any way legalized – in giving the car driver the responsibility for protecting the pedestrians at crossings. This habit was not easy to adopt as it is counter-intuitive in any other countries I have been to. I wondered how residents here coped with this when they went abroad. As a german friend of mine nicely puts it: “I don’t know how many Germans and Swiss people have died because they thought they had right of way in other countries.”

geneva school road sign

Another rare sight was the trash bin combined with the traffic light post, a benefit of being the neutral country.

geneva traffic sign

The typical park signs – dogs and plants.

geneva park sign - dog/flower

I liked the intuitive flushing buttons at the toilet in a restaurant somewhere in the old part of the town – removing the questionable moment of wondering which one to press for number 1 or 2.

geneva flush

A sign that seems to go well with the city.

geneva yes to all

3 thoughts on “geneva – a pragmatic city with european warmth

  1. Gael

    I would say the metallic bins are there just for the rubish removal day.
    About the pedestrians’ priority over cars it is law since about 1998 or so, it was said to be much more respected by Swiss Germans in the beginning.
    The “YES TO ALL” is an art installation by Sylvie Fleury, I think there are other light installations in and around the Plainpalais park.

  2. Younghee Jung

    thank you so much for the expert information!
    interesting legislation, now wondering what triggered it.
    been in brasilia briefly and found it very strange that pedestrian crossing lights are really rare AND cars have priority. certainly i wont complain about switzerland’s approach!

  3. Boris Anthony

    Pedestrian right of way is in effect in more than a few places, generally low density medium sized cities where right-of-way legilsation needs making, and automobile traffic is not high enough for it to be considered more important than pedestrians by that community. I think of Cambridge, Massachusets as an example. I literally stopped traffic by stopping on the sidewalk to look across the street! :D

    Can you explain your take on the street light with garbage can? It’s just another practical place to hang a trashcan from (Something Tokyo needs more of!!)

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