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Sardines in Zurich's public transport

Yesterday was my first appearance as a sardine in Zurich's public transport vehicles, as part of a campaign by the Swiss group for sustainable mobility, umverkehR, which I support:

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We handed out flyers and answered questions, and the general reaction was very positive. The fact that we got covered in Switzerland's most popular newspaper, 20 Minuten will add greatly to the reconnaisance factor, so that in the months to come, us sardines will be immediately recognised, hopefully provoking thought and chat over the roots of the campaign.

Most of us know the sardine as a dead fish perched into a can with many others in a way to minimise space. Human-sized, walking sardines are a great way to increase awareness of the issue of over-crowded public transport. It was fun to see even the Really Serious Newspaper Readers unable to suppress a smile.

Talking to friends about the campaign, I've often been met with expressions of how absurd such a campaign is in Switzerland, possibly the country with the best public transport system world-wide. I agree, but that doesn't mean that we should not keep working on further improving it. If you've ever been stuck in a commuter train during rush-hour, standing around in stifling heat and jealously eyed those that managed to grab a seat before you, you'll probably agree that even in Switzerland, we could be doing it better.

These days, with the financial crisis weighing heavy on everyone's budgets, and with environmental concerns on the rise, we are witnessing a never-before level of readiness of the public to make sustainable choices. Confronting those people with stuffed trains doesn't reconfirm those decision. Instead, it will make those people crave their air-conditioned cars and possibly switch back to polluting the air with exhaust and noise, because it surely is more comfortable to sit in your own cool car than it is to be perched in public transport like a sardine.

Thus, umverkehR's message goes mainly to the politicians: prioritise public transport in your future mobility plans, keep the prices affordable, and help get people off the road in the interest of our environment.

You can see more pictures in the gallery and a short film on Youtube. We have a separate sardine blog, a Facebook account and there's even a chance for you to win travel coupons: all you have to do is submit an original photo of anything to do with over-crowded public transport by e-mail or MMS to sardine ät umverkehr.ch by October 2009. You can browse all submissions on Flickr.

I hope that we can spread the idea as far as New Zealand and the countries between. There are always chances in any crisis.

NP: Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream