Green light for Vienna’s cyclists

The Viennese Greens plan significant cycling rule reforms.

Several Viennese newspapers report today (Thurs) that the party of Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou wants to lift the obligatory cycling path usage law. The restriction means that all cyclists have to use cycling strips wherever available. Abandoning the ruling could create a conflict between the city coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Greens and the state since the cycling path regulation is a federal law.

The left-wing party, which has cooperated with Mayor Michael Häupl’s SPÖ in the city hall since 2010, also intends to categorise a handful of streets in different districts as areas where cycling is prioritised. The Greens plan to reform traffic laws there to help the cyclists to various privileges towards drivers such as being allowed to cross the road at red lights at some crossings. Special traffic lights indicating the extraordinary right of way rules for people riding bikes could be set up shortly, according to the press.

Christoph Chorherr, who masterminds the Greens’ cycling projects, said that giving the green light to red-light cycling had no priority to his faction. The former federal Green Party leader explained that the Viennese faction of his party would rather concentrate on improving the city centre’s cycling network.

Chorherr added that another key part of his agenda was allowing cycling into the opposite direction in one-way roads. He said such changes could occur as part of the city government’s planned increase of 30 kilometre-per-hour (kph) areas. “We want to increase the share of cycling in public transport from five to 10 per cent, but not to others’ detriment,” Chorherr told the Kurier.

The Viennese Green Party wants to expand several already existing cycling paths. Twenty-four individual pro-cycling projects will be carried out throughout 2012, according to the party. The Greens said that these initiatives would help raise the Viennese cycling network’s extent by 20 kilometres (km) to nearly 1,220 km.

An increasing number of residents of Vienna are cycling in any weather due to rising car fuel prices and a better cycling infrastructure. However, the number of vehicles has risen over the years too, if not as immensely as the capital’s populace. The people of Vienna owned 663,900 cars three years ago, up from 543,000 in 1990. The relative number of cars remained unchanged between 2009 and 2012 while the number of residents climbed to 1.7 million.

One litre of diesel fuel cost around 1.45 Euros in Austria at the beginning of this week, up from 0.72 Euros 10 years ago. Detailed inflation research shows that not only the price for fuel has shot up since 2002. Costs for maintenance, repair and insurance rose dramatically over the years as well.

Around 50 per cent of Viennese households own at least one bicycle. Around 480,000 bikes were sold in Austria last year. The number of electric bike (e-bike) sales improved from 20,000 in 2010 to 30,000 in 2011. Experts are at odds over whether the general agreement among politicians to reduce the subsidisation of e-bike purchases will have any impact.