A typical sign post with signs for cars, bicyclists, hikers, and walkers, at a village intersection, eastern Switzerland.
A typical sign post with signs for cars, bicyclists, hikers, and walkers, at a village intersection, eastern Switzerland.

The UX of Hiking and Biking in Switzerland

How user-friendly and data-rich iconography motivates bicyclists, hikers, and nature lovers to spend much time outdoors

Eva Schicker
6 min readAug 19, 2023

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Switzerland is a small country. It’s roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.* But thanks to Switzerland’s topography of alpine mountains and valleys dotted with rivers and lakes, a rich outdoor culture of hiking, biking, horseback riding, and walking has become the favorite pastime of many citizens and tourists.

But how do they know where to go and safely arrive at their destination in a timely matter?

That is where the ingenious Swiss system of a most user-friendly iconography of various forms of mobility comes in. These icons animate pretty much every citizen and visitor to go outdoors and get active. A closer look at the intricate design system reveal a wealth of data.

Every time I visit Switzerland, I’m always amazed at how easy it is to understand their traffic sign system, even if one does not speak the local language. And on the topic of languages, there are four national Swiss languages, French, German, Italian, and Romansch, as well a many local dialects which are even more difficult to understand.

For an outdoor person, there are trails, paths, itineraries, and routes galore. The signs for embarking on a walking adventure do not disappoint.

Example 1: Signs for all types of mobility

This sign post tells more than mere directions. It shows where there is a car park, where to access bicycle paths, what route to take for hiking, the distances to the nearest villages, and the street names.
This sign post tells more than mere directions. It shows where there is a car park, where to access bicycle paths, what route to take for hiking, the distances to the nearest villages, and the street names.

When I visited a tiny village in the eastern part of Switzerland, the main sign showed a wealth of information for all kinds of travelers. Besides the ubiquitous signs for car-driving citizens, there’s a wealth of data for bicyclists, hikers, and walkers.

There is a car parking sign, very important for when you want to leave your vehicle in a safe parking zone. Then there is the bicycling lane sign, the hiking path direction, the distances to the nearby villages, and a plethora of other signs.

Example 2: A haven for bicyclists, as the…

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Eva Schicker

Hello. I write about UX, UI, AI, animation, tech, art & design through the eyes of a designer. UX lead Lelantos Press, NYC UX GA grad. Top writer 5x.