VCÖ sees high potential for more cycling

More than one million Austrians would cycle to work if infrastructure improvements were made, a traffic research organisation has claimed.The Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) announced today (Weds) around 250,000 people were already using their bicycles to get to the office. The group added that up to 1.3 million would do so if decision-makers would spend more on cycling paths, especially in the countryside. Austria has a population of 8.5 million.Some provincial parliaments and Town Halls have recently started to subsidise the acquisition of electric bicycles (E-Bikes). The VCÖ welcomes this decision. It claimed such programmes could double the number of sold E-Bikes this year. Around 20,000 such bicycles went over the counter in 2010 (2009: 12,000).The number of sales of bicycles of all types ranges around half a million, while more than 2,000 are reported stolen each month.The number of people cycling to work could climb as petrol prices keep shooting up. However, polls have also shown that a large number of motorists are not willing to switch to bikes or public transport no matter how far prices for fuel soar. Some complain that poor public transport services – especially in the countryside – would force them to use their cars to get to work.Thirty-two cyclists lost their lives in accidents in Austria last year, a decrease of 60 per cent compared to fatalities registered in 2002. Overall, 552 people died on the country’s roads in 2010.Meanwhile, Austrian energy sector watchdogs have warned that a possible surge in E-Bike sales must not boost the nuclear power industry. They explained that the expected call for fair prices for E-Bikes could tempt some firms to cooperate with international electricity providers which generate power using nuclear technology.Earlier this week, low-cost energy sector company MyElectric announced it decided to stop cooperating with nuclear power providers. The Austrian firm – an affiliate of Salzburg AG and Tyrol’s TIWAG – said electricity it sells to Austrian firms and households will be free of nuclear power-generated sources by 2013 at the latest.MyElectric has been under fire for buying the cheaper nuclear energy on international markets to keep its prices low – especially since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.There are no operating nuclear power plants in Austria, but around six per cent of energy used by households and companies is generated by using the disputed technology. This share could decline if competitors follow the example of MyElectric.