SlowUp 2002 - a car-free ride around the Murtensee

On 9th June 2002, the road around the Murtensee (a tiny lake just to the south-east of the Neuenbergersee) was closed to all motorised traffic from 10:00 through to 17:00, and people with bikes, trikes, rollerskates, inline skates, unicycles, rollerskis and just plain feet came along to take advantage of it. Lis, Anna and I went along too - it would be Anna's first real outing in her trailer.

Rather than brave the trains on the day, and probably have to do battle with everyone else with the same idea, we decided to find a bed-and-breakfast and stay Saturday and Sunday night, doing the train thing outside the probable rush hours. As a result, we had a pretty relaxed time of it.

My trike had a broken index cable in the rear hub, so the first stop was Fahrradies in Luterbach for essential repairs. We got there around 11:00, and while I learned how to change the next index cable myself, Lis and Anna explored the tiny town of Luterbach, spending some time in a nearby park. Due to technical difficulties, it was well past midday before the hub was back together and we could get on our way.

A family of swans under a bridge on the Aare near Grenchen Luterbach is two or three kilometres east of Solothurn, so our first waypoint was Solothurn. We'd decided to follow the Number 5 Veloland Schweiz bikeroute out of Solothurn as far as Büren, then turn onto a more direct cycle way, the TCS Number 4 route. Apart from a bit of confusion just before Lyss and again just outside Aarberg, the routes are very well marked, and we found our way to Kerzers without too much difficulty. The highlight of the trip was seeing a family of swans - mum (or dad) and a brood of about seven swanlets, near a bridge over the Aare, just southeast of Grenchen. The route follows the Aare river pretty closely, so the ride was easy and picturesque.

It started to rain mid-afternoon, so we were pretty soaked by Aarberg, and stopped at a cafe for a sandwich and a hot chocolate. When we opened up the trailer, we were a bit concerned to see that Anna's legs were wet, and that a pool of water had formed on one side of the trailer. A leaking trailer was going to be no fun for Anna! As it turned out, the "leakage" was because Anna had figured out how to open her water bottle...

The rain cleared a bit by late afternoon, and we arrived in Kerzers around 19:00, to be warmly welcomed by Marianne and her sons. After drying off a bit, we hit the sack and slept very well indeed, though Anna did end up in our bed :-) Since the distance from Luterbach to Kerzers via the route we took is about 50km, we'd averaged about 7kph, including all stops and one or two wrong turns. Not too bad...

The roundabout near Galmiz, Lis and Anna at left

The next morning (Sunday) we breakfasted at about 08:00, then repacked for the day and set off at about 10:00, heading for Murten. We had decided not to try for the opening ceremony, though I'd have liked to see the HPV exhibition and demos they had planned. Instead we rode through (well, past) Galmiz, joining the main "flow" near the north-east corner of the lake. The publicised plan was for everybody to ride clockwise around the lake - with traffic in both directions it would have been utter confusion. There were a few people trying to do it anti-clockwise, and they did cause consternation at times. But they were in a vanishingly small minority. There was a surprisingly large, but very self-effacing police/army presence, marshalling everyone along the right routes. Two policepersons assisting at a roundabout near Galmiz

Coming into Murten, the Expo02 arteplage was very obvious. There was a huge tent set up on the left renting out bikes and inline skates, and the great steel monolith out in the lake was most impressive. We decided to take a look in the afternoon if time permitted, and pressed on.

Somewhere between Kerzers and Murten, it's not clear exactly where, lies the border between German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland. After Murten, everything seemed to be in French.

Lis and the trailer, on the way to Avenches The feeling, as we rode along with so many people, the road absolutely clear of everything motorised, was really something else. I was surprised at how little actual conversation went on between people, but there was a definite feeling of camaraderie. The trike, according to Lis, got the usual looks and comments. I don't get to experience them first hand, but Lis says they are like a wake behind me :-) I had two orange flags up, to give the trike a more festive look, plus Anna's trailer had its yellow flag up.

The Expo02 bike people were renting out some recumbents, white Fluxes, and we saw several of those. In Avenches I saw a couple of trikes, and on the way back out of Murten later that afternoon I saw two two-wheeled recumbents (one of them a lowrider), but all in all the recumbent turnout was pretty small.

Anna and balloon at lunch in Avenches (Lis obscured) At Faoug the route continued south-west, leaving the lake and heading into the flatlands around Avenches. It was coming up to midday as we came into Avenches, which, although in the flatlands, is perched on top of an almost-hill. Apart from the occasional bump, the terrain around the lake is, as you might imagine, generally very flat. We decided to stop for lunch, just ahead of everyone else. A wise decision, as in the half hour after we sat down the town absolutely filled with people getting fed and watered.

The Roman amphitheatre at Avenches - note the great advances that have been made in portapotty miniaturisation since the days of the Romans! Avenches was beautifully turned out for the weekend, with gay flags fluttering over the streets and plenty of stalls. One stall was giving away helium filled balloons, so we got Anna one. She soon learned a lesson about helium-filled balloons, but we got another one to replace it :-) After lunch we went to look at Avenches' hallmark, the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. It's not too badly ruined, and is still used for various productions. Sadly the local council has put plastic seats over many of the old terraces - I can only hope this is a temporary measure during the Opera season, as it destroys the feel of the place.

Karl riding alongside a unicyclist Leaving Avenches we met the first, last and only unicyclist of the day, a chap riding a beautiful wooden unicycle he had built himself. With no gears and no hand support, it looked a painful way to travel so far, but he said he'd done the whole trip from Nant that way - and was planning to finish the trip at the same spot!

As we arrived in Avenches it had been threatening rain; however, apart from a few drops here and there the day held good, and for much of the afternoon it was quite sunny and warm. We rode on past Villars-le-Grand, then the route turned north-eastwards rejoining the lake shore shortly after Bellerive. We took a break in (I think) Bellerive, and Anna dunked her feet in a fountain to cool off.

A great steel monolith sitting in/on the lake at Murten By fourish we were back in Murten, and decided to have an early dinner and a quick look at the Murten parts of Expo02. We didn't end up going into any of the exhibits, as the queues were too long. We did test the trailer handle we'd brought with us. It's an aluminium extension that clips onto the trailer coupling and lets your push (or pull) the trailer like an oversized pram or wheelbarrow. It worked fine, though after so many hours in the trailer, Anna was having none of it and insisted on doing the pushing and pulling herself. The trailer looks much heavier than it is, so this drew a few amazed comments about our super-child :-)

Anna spent a half hour or so mucking about in a sandpit while we had a much-needed cold drink at a little tent bar, then we had a pretty ordinary dinner and headed back to Kerzers. There was much less traffic (of all varieties), and we passed (or were passed by) only small groups of travellers. The last two hundred metres to our bed-and-breakfast place is uphill, and we just made it inside with our gear as the heavens opened and the rain, which had threatened all afternoon, finally made good its promises.

The next morning we breakfasted at a leisurely 08:30, packed, said our goodbyes to Marianne and took a train back to Bern, and from there back to Zurich Airport. From the airport it's only a short ride to Bassersdorf, so we rode rather than change trains again. The train from Bern had a family carriage, so Anna had a great time clambering up and sliding down dinosaurs!

Anna asleep in her trailer Anna and Karl at Avenches. The T-Shirt is from HP-Velotechnik

We were impressed with Anna's patience in her trailer, especially as we insist on her being strapped in and wearing a helmet (at least when she's sitting up). The trick seems to be to stop when she gets restless and let her work off some energy, and to keep in touch with her during the ride. The trailer - a Leggero Classico, Swiss-made - is excellent, though we added padding underneath the seat and took extra padding so that Anna could stretch out to sleep. When not in use, the extra padding fits behind the seat, and pushes the seat a little forward - this makes space behind Anna's head for the rear of the helmet, which makes it much more comfortable. One other essential was the sun-cover/mosquito net. This replaces the front part of the normal trailer cover, and provides protection against the sun combined with a mosquito-net panel that lets lots of air in, keeps the passenger cool, keeps insects out, and lets conversation happen at a normal volume.

We can heartily recommend the bed-and-breakfast we stayed at - contact Marianne & Claudio Alfonsi-Pripfel, at Mühlerain 27, CH-3210 KERZERS, Switzerland, telephone +41-31-7557628, email We found them by using the Website and searching for "Kerzers". The room is spacious and light, plenty of room for three adults, more at a pinch. The bathroom is roomy (shower only) and evrything is kept very spick and span. The baby bed is a proper, safe bed, with appropriate bedclothes. The family is very welcoming and hospitable.

You can find out more about SlowUp at The 2002 SlowUp was the third or fourth one, so it is becoming a tradition. Even with rain predicted, there must have been tens of thousands out enjoying the day, and the feeling of being kings of the road for once.

A field near Kerzers, barley waving in the wind

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Page last updated 2 July 2002