I was cycling today in Switzerland, and I found myself on the path along Route Douaniére heading toward the Basel EuroAirport. I figured I'd cycle up to the airport, find a way to cross into France, and then head straight back across to my home in Germany.

The map below shows where I rode. I found that as I approached the airport, options seemed more and more limited, and a barbed-wire-topped fence lined the road on both sides. At the airport itself, I rode up the deliveries-only road and one or two other places, but all I found anywhere was fencing and various aviation-oriented manufacturing firms.

I'm not surprised it's not possible to cross between Switzerland and France in a car around the EuroAirport (though I'm also not sure why it's like this). But I was surprised I couldn't find a place to cycle or walk across. There are a fair number of border crossings around here that are open to pedestrians and cyclists but not autos. But apparently not at the EuroAirport.

Did I miss it, or is there really no way to get to France even by foot or by bike once one starts up the Route Douaniére to the EuroAirport from Basel?

Cycling near the Basel Euroairport

  • Aren't the borders between all three countries closed right now due to COVID? – JonathanReez Dec 26 '20 at 20:37
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    @JonathanReez Sort of, not really? Back in March they were genuinely closed: Cars crossing at border points were stopped and asked to justify their entry, and unmanned border crossings were fenced off. There's nothing like that now. I don't know the exact regulations at the current time, as they seem to change frequently, but for Germany it boils down to not gathering with more than one other family at a time, and in general not being around people. On my bike I was alone, cycling in the open air, not around any other people. – Kyralessa Dec 26 '20 at 20:45
  • Not been there in ages and definitely never tried to find a way through but looking at Google Maps it looks like you can turn right between the S3 and S4 park areas, turn left at the end, and there seems to be something like a border crossing there. Following the route you took towards “Zone Nord” also seems to include at least one connection to the French road network... in front of the Gendarmerie, but the fact you turned around makes me think that route isn’t actually open? – jcaron Dec 26 '20 at 22:42
  • So it seems indeed that the Autopole is reachable from both the French and Swiss sectors (you also see signage to it from both sides), and I fail to see any separation between the two on the satellite maps, but I may have of course missed it (no street view close to the critical section, sadly). However, Apple Maps’ 3D view shows a completely different layout in that area compared to Google Maps and Apple Maps satellite views. I think the latter is more recent but not sure. – jcaron Dec 26 '20 at 23:10
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    @JonathanReez there are some restrictions but Schengen borders are not closed in general – fqq Dec 27 '20 at 14:00

I'm not surprised it's not possible to cross between Switzerland and France in a car around the Euroairport (though I'm also not sure why it's like this)

Route douanière is technically on the French territory, but you are in Switzerland with respect to immigration (which is less of a problem after Swiss accession to Schengen) and customs (which is very important, particularly for the companies dealing with physical goods in Swiss sector of the airport). This is why there are fences and barriers surrounding the road.

The road is first and foremost the treaty-required customs-free Swiss service road for the Swiss sector of the airport. The idea is you should only use the road for the airport (or airport-related businesses operating in Swiss customs territory) and that's why France agreed to "cede" the territory.

Technically they could probably open crossings along it (I didn't read the bilateral agreement in detail), but there are few incentives.

From Google streetview it doesn't appear to be any obvious places where you can cross. Other than customs reasons, airports and many airport-related businesses also have other requirements for aviation security reasons, so a crossing point is probably unlikely.

For the legal provisions:

Treaty between Switzerland and France on the construction and operation of Basel-Mulhouse Airport (1949)

Art. 7 Route douanière

  1. L'aéroport sera relié directement à la frontière franco-suisse par une route affectée à son trafic. L'aéroport et la route seront séparés par une clôture du reste du territoire douanier français. Sous réserve des dispositions qui seront éventuellement arrêtées d'un commun accord en vue de son utilisation pour le trafic général, cette route fera partie du secteur affecté aux services suisses conformément aux articles 2 et 8.

Art. 7 Route douanière

  1. The airport shall be connected directly to the French-Swiss border by a road dedicated to its traffic. The airport and the road shall be separated by a fence from the rest of the French customs territory. Subject to any possible provisions mutually agreed for its use for general traffic, this road shall form part of the sector assigned to Swiss services in accordance with Articles 2 and 8.

As far as I could find, no agreement on its use for general traffic was made so it remains a dedicated service road. It doesn't in principle prohibit pedestrian crossings for the fences though, now Switzerland is in Schengen.

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    It's particularly weird to me because you can easily enter the airport on the Swiss side, walk across the center line, and exit the airport on the French side. Or vice versa. At least in this day and age, there's no customs enforcement, passport control, anything like that. It's also open to anyone, not just travelers; it's in the main section, not the gate section. So it's strange that outside one can't walk across. I guess I could have taken my bike inside the airport and walked it across, but I was afraid that would be frowned upon. – Kyralessa Dec 26 '20 at 17:56
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    @Kyralessa Customs enforcement definitely exists through the airport, although routine checks have become rarer for individuals (it is similar to other crossings as well). The fences are legally required by the bilateral requirement to separate it from the French customs territory. The same agreement determines where the Swiss control starts and ends, and specifies that without additional agreement, Rt. D. is a Swiss service road dedicated to the airport traffic, not general traffic. But yeah, it probably wouldn't be built like this today. – xngtng Dec 26 '20 at 18:33
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    Such fenced road also exists for French customs territory on Swiss territory for Geneva-Cointrin, although GVA is not as "open" as Basel. – xngtng Dec 26 '20 at 18:44
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    I made the mistake once, before I understood the bifurcated nature of the airport and the limited-access Swiss road, of exiting on the Swiss side to take a taxi. I was delighted that he spoke German so I didn't have to hack out some sentences in French. But instead of driving straight across France to our house in Germany, he drove all the way down to Basel, then all the way back up. That was one expensive taxi ride. 😱 – Kyralessa Dec 27 '20 at 11:51
  • As my bike is actually a folding recumbent trike, what I should've done is folded it up, wheeled it across the airport like a piece of luggage, and then unfolded it on the other side to continue on my way. Of course, with Covid-19, going inside the airport is not a great idea right now. – Kyralessa Feb 23 at 9:05

I don't live in Basel anymore, so I cannot completely vouch for this. But there used to be a small pedestrian/bicycle path branching off to the left from Flughafenstrasse (coming from the Basel side; 47°34'29.2"N 7°33'44.0"E), right at the border. Following this path for about 100 meters you can then turn right and you're in France. As far as I know there was nothing sketchy about this path, but this was at least six years ago so things might have changed, or perhaps my memory fails me.

Basel-France crossing

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    On Google Maps it looks like this is still there. But it's way down at the entrance to the limited-access road rather than up near the airport. My question was more about how to get to France if I've already ridden all the way up to the airport on the Swiss road. If I ride back down to the southern end of the road, I have any number of options. – Kyralessa Dec 27 '20 at 20:41

How close must you be to the airport? I haven’t been there, but on aerial photos, there appear to be several unblocked places to cross on the southwest side of the airport. My images were too large to upload, but there was (1) a sidewalk disappearing under trees at the border, with Rue St.-Exupéry ending at the same place; (2) further southwest, Im Burgfelderhof crosses the border and joins Rue de Romains which follows the border; (3) nearby, it looks like you can go through or around the Burgfelderhof tram stop to cross Rue de Romains and get on N266.

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    Of course, I don’t know the legal implications, especially now with all the pandemic restrictions. – WGroleau Dec 26 '20 at 18:16
  • That's where I started heading north toward the airport. And it's where I eventually returned to, since I couldn't find a way through at the airport (other than taking my bike through the airport itself). The point, though, is that once one is on Route Douaniére, there's no way off it except to go to the airport (or one of the assorted businesses, cargo carriers, etc. on the way) or to go back down to Switzerland again. (There might also be an exit to the highway, but for me on my bike that doesn't help.) I was looking for something northeast-ish of the airport. – Kyralessa Dec 26 '20 at 20:41
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    I believe the places you describe are crossing points on the actual Swiss-French border. Once you get on the road to the airport, you have no option but going to the airport or turn back. – jcaron Dec 26 '20 at 21:55

It seems to be possible to cross over to the French side via the S3/F6 parking lot (as identified by @jcaron). As per Google Maps there are "no entry" signs on the road there, but presumably its okay for bicycles to cross over. Here's how it looks like on Google Maps:

enter image description here

And Apple Maps shows a similar picture:

enter image description here

So just turn right before you enter the airport, cross over via the parking lot and after that you're on the French side. Alternatively, take the side road headed towards the gas station (Autopole) and cross over there.

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    After having a second look on Google Maps I now actually believe the French (F6) and Swiss (S3) parts of that parking lot are actually separated by a closed fence. It seems they may have several fences with movable sections so they can change the split between the two parts, but there’s a continuous closed fence visible :-( The EuroAirport website says the two sections are separate and there’s no border crossing for cars (and the one for pedestrians is inside the terminal), but I can’t figure out what the 5 lanes next to Autopole are if not a border crossing... – jcaron Dec 27 '20 at 1:14
  • @jcaron yes, I think you could at least cross via the gas station. – JonathanReez Dec 27 '20 at 3:05
  • It does look very promising for pedestrians. Note that the gas stations however are separate for Swiss and French sectors. There appears to be a border crossing near the Autopole, I think it could be for the garage or other airport businesses (but I'm not sure...) – xngtng Dec 27 '20 at 6:31
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    I won't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure it's not possible to pass at the Autopole without some kind of special airport ID or permission. I tried that (from the French side) some years ago. I rode all around there on the French side and couldn't find a way to Switzerland. If you look here you can see an overview, and it looks like there are cars passing, but I'm guessing they all have special permission. I remember speaking to a French attendant (by talkbox) who said I unfortunately wasn't allowed to pass. – Kyralessa Dec 27 '20 at 8:46

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