Knoflacher emphasises pedestrian zones’ economic effects

A renowned traffic planner has stressed that shop owners are generally appreciating the introduction of pedestrian zones.

Hermann Knoflacher, who masterminded the reconstruction of the busy Kärntner Straße and other streets in the heart of Vienna into an area for pedestrians in the 1960s – told magazine profil: “The debate prior to the creation of a pedestrian zone is always the same. Normally, businesspeople who would have loved to drown me ahead of the introduction come to me afterwards to check the potential for an extension of the zone – because they are achieving higher turnovers.”

Knoflacher claimed that humans failed to cope with automotive innovations in terms of culture and civilisation. He said: “A drunkard gets locked away if he goes on a night-time rampage. But a driver makes more noise – and no one is bothered. If we kill people with a car, we call it traffic accident.”

The traffic researcher pointed out that 1.2 million people were dying on roads all around the world a year. He referred to studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) showing that twice as many were killed at a young age by the effects of vehicles’ exhaust fumed.

Reflecting on the conflicts ahead of the introduction of a pedestrian area at Kärntner Straße, one of the most popular shopping streets of the Austrian capital, Knoflacher told profil: “People really thought that the centre of Vienna would go down. (…) But there were brave planning and courageous city politicians.”

Speaking about the various initiatives by the Viennese People’s Party (ÖVP) for drivers and parking spots in the city, Knoflacher claimed that the conservative faction headed by Manfred Juraczka “must be in a terribly bad state considering the way it is acting.”

The current city coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Greens is concentrating on measures for more public transport and cycling. The inner part of Mariahilfer Straße, which connects Innere Stadt district with Westbahnhof station, could be the next street to be turned into a pedestrian area.

Government officials are currently holding talks with traffic experts, local residents and store owners to debate the various options. Reports have it that a shared space concept is most likely to be introduced.

Knoflacher revealed that he once suggested to turn Mariahilfer Straße into a pedestrian zone with a tramway connection before city officials decided to stop cooperating with him concerning the future structure of the street.

More than 4.5 million cars were registered for usage in Austria at the end of last year. There are 530 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in Austria. Luxembourg is ahead in the European Union (EU) in this regard with 660 while Romania takes last place (210). Half of all distances Austrians cover by car are shorter than five kilometres (km).