Vienna: Cycling on the Rise

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).

Vienna is all about public transport – and hopefully more cycling

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?).

Some on-road cycle lanes – but the cyclist would rather stick to the path

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.

Mixing bikes and public transport means a lot of riding the tram tracks

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
30km/h zone and contra-flow cycling too
The Vienna Citybike bikeshare system
  • A central city area that is fairly restrictive for motor vehicles, whilst still allowing bikes
A popular pedestrian shopping street – nice for biking too
  • Good network signage telling you where you can cycle to
Off-street cycleways meet at a junction

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.

The “Ringstrasse” encircling the central city has enough width for all travel modes

Here’s a few more photos of interesting features seen in Vienna:

A cycle path goes behind a tram stop
Cycle pedi-cabs wait for business in the central pedestrian zone
Waiting to cross at the cycle signals
Every “cycle city” these days seems to have a big bike counter – Vienna is no exception
Some very busy roads in Vienna – at least there’s a kerbed cycleway here
Viennese bike police have a chat with someone
A two-way off-road cycleway – a bit skinny
A one-way cycleway behind car parking

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.

Gotta love that architecture…

What do you think about cycling in Vienna?

2 thoughts on “Vienna: Cycling on the Rise”

  1. Great article, LennyBoy! If that’s 7% of all trips it’s impressive – seems from your notes that it’s a few different small measures having that cumulative effect, without a complete infrastructure.

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