Cycling in Austria

15 Sep

(well almost)
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Last month I was lucky enough to be able to tear myself away from life under grey clouds and visit sunny Austria and of course I had to get some pictures of cycling and cycling infrastructure while I was there. Unfortunately with the schedule we had and having to fly in, we weren’t able to do any cycling while we were there but we were still able to appreciate the cycling as spectators.

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We stayed in a small a village called Pressbaum which is about 30 minutes away from Vienna by train and from there traveled in and out of Vienna by train. The first thing we noticed when walking through the village centre was a hire bike stand set up next to the town hall. The price for using the bicycles was 1 Euro for an hour or 10 Euros for 24 hours and you could pay for and unlock the bike through the internet, text or phone, indicating that they were intended for the use of residents primarily (who would have a usable phone etc…). Accompanying the bike hire information was a map of the nearby cycle route which extended all the way to the boundary of Vienna.

Unfortunately I forgot to get a photo of the cycle route as it wasn’t exactly awe inspiring but a quick internet search found this photo on Wikipedia:
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https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressbaum#/media/File:Pressbaum_Abzw._Pfalzau.JPG

The paved strip that can be seen on the left here is the cycle lane with periodic painted cycles that have been worn off over time. While the lane offers very little protection it works because despite this being the high street there are very few cars. Even though this road links directly to Vienna and all of the towns along the valley the majority of people use either the train or the raised motorway (below), thereby eliminating the majority of the through traffic. This, as well as the low traffic speeds and population density result in a very quiet and pleasant high street, which can seem utterly alien from a British standpoint.
IMG_7247However, the lack of traffic included cyclists as well and we saw a total of five cyclists during our time in Pressbaum, consisting of two sports cyclists on mountain bikes and three people on hybrids with shopping crates attached to racks.

Vienna on the other hand had a bit more to show on the cycling scene.The first place we visited was Mariahilfer Strasse which is widely known as biggest shopping street in Vienna. It Runs from the Volkstheather (Folks theater) all the way to Westbahnhof (the main west train station in Vienna) and is pedestrianised for roughly half of its length with crowds of people, cafe seating and cycling a regular part of the scene.
IMG_7239Motor vehicles were routed on and off and across in sections using a series of road closures and signs, meaning that only cyclists and pedestrians could travel the full length of the street uninterrupted.

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These signs mark the start of a pedestrianised section of the high street, with the small bicycle signs (ausgen.) creating an exception to the no entry and blue pedestrian sign. Further along, the pedestrian space comes to an end and the signs inform the users that it is a shared space with a 20 kph speed limit (12 mph):IMG_7240

As there is plenty of space and very few motor vehicles travel along the street, a very relaxed atmosphere is created which spawns many different social interactions. Like this group of friends that met each other traveling by foot, bicycle and skateboard (skateboards and scooters are popular among all ages in Vienna):

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Also seen quite often along the route and around the city were the brightly coloured bicycles from the Citybike hire stands:
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Which all had hub gears and disc brakes:IMG_7238

In other areas around Vienna, particularly the museum quarter, the standard cycle infrastructure was painted lanes on the pavement, however these were generally of a decent width and on already wide pavements.

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and had priority across side roads and turning traffic in the usual continental style (marked out with elephant’s feet markings).

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Cyclists also had dedicated crossing across junctions alongside pedestrian crossings and with dedicated lights (amber meant you could cross if it was clear).

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That is not to say that other modes weren’t catered for, many of the main roads consisted of 2/3 car lanes (often one-way), 2 tram lanes,  2 bicycle lanes and 2-5 pedestrian sections.

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Vienna also had quiet a few special pedestrian crossings with couples on the crossing signals in various gender pairings.
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While we did see a lot of bicycle infrastructure during our trip, such this cycle garage at the main station (of which most was quite decent by UK standards)…
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.. we saw few cyclists considering the size of Vienna. While Vienna still easily outclasses Britain in number and variety of cyclists, from what I saw they are still lagging far behind the established cycling nations such as the Netherlands and Denmark (with only between 3 and 6% mode share) . The majority of the cycling infrastructure we spotted was still just tinkering around the edges of motor traffic and there are still plenty of areas where cyclist would be forced back onto the road.
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However, those that do cycle appear to enjoy it and cargo bikes can be spotted here and there, which I take as an indicator of a shift towards cycling.
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Also cycling tourism appears to be a booming business with heavily laden bikes to be spotted all around Vienna.
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Which is no doubt aided by the bicycle friendly rail system many of which have dedicated carriages with seatbelts, or guards vans in the case of longer journeys.
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All in all it proved to be an eye opening trip and I feel that there is much we can learn from how Austria supports cyclists. However Vienna also represents a warning that without significant change to infrastructure massive changes to modal shift will not happen and 10 years down the line you will still only have a single digit mode share.

Lastly, if you are interested in seeing what else we got up to during our trip, keep an eye out for upcoming videos on our channel: Laura and I. Thanks for reading and happy cycling.

B

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One Response to “Cycling in Austria”

  1. Duncan March 31, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    Good to see some first hand experiences of cycling in Austria.

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