After the hustle-bustle of Velo-City in Nantes, I headed across the continent to the Danube and the Austrian capital of Vienna. With 1.8 million people, Vienna is a major European hub and also well known for its fabulous music and architecture. Probably it is not so well known for its cycling (although the Velo-City cycling conference was held here in 2013). But it is making steady inroads in that area in recent years, with the cycling modal split now up to ~7% (quite high internationally for a multi-million city).
Initially it wasn’t easy to discern what might be making the difference. My general impressions were of a mix of some good bits of cycling infrastructure and some fairly average ones, with not an obvious city-wide network. Some of my colleagues in Vienna felt that the Austrian cycle design standards were “meh, OK” (or the equivalent of this in German…) and certainly not up to Dutch equivalents (is anyone?).
Vienna also has the challenges of being a fairly rolling, hilly city with strong competition from a comprehensive public transport system, arguably the best I saw in Europe.
However, in reviewing my notes and photos, I found a number of elements common to may other cycling cities that I suspect are helping to make the difference, notably:
- Those 30km/h lower speed limits showing up again in most non-arterial streets, together with short-cuts for biking against the traffic
- A public bike share scheme to expand the biking audience
- A central city area that is fairly restrictive for motor vehicles, whilst still allowing bikes
- Good network signage telling you where you can cycle to
While many Viennese streets are quite narrow, making it a challenge to squeeze in cycleways, the big exception is the “Ringstrasse”, a giant corridor that encircles the old fortified city. Built 150 years ago to replace the city walls, there is plenty of room for motor traffic, public transport, and walking and cycling. With many famous public buildings also running along this route, it is a huge target for locals and visitors alike.
Here’s a few more photos of interesting features seen in Vienna:
Overall, there are a number of different elements at work in Vienna to try to grow their cycling numbers (for the mountain-biking fans, there are also some nice trails in the surrounding hills). Like Nantes, the quality of the infrastructure isn’t always to be desired, but that is somewhat made up by the fact that at least something is there at all and other factors mentioned above continue to encourage cycling. For a city known for its culture, it is clear that a “culture of cycling” is starting to take shape there too.
What do you think about cycling in Vienna?