Another Bike City for Vienna

The Viennese government has presented plans for a new Bike City housing project.

The housing construction initiative for Liesing district resembles buildings in Leopoldstadt district and Vienna-Floridsdorf. Residents of the Bike City in Vienna-Leopoldstadt are allowed to own cars while people living on such an estate in Floridsdorf had to sign a declaration declaring they would abstain from purchasing vehicles.

Inhabitants of the Leopoldstadt housing project and those set to move in at the planned Liesing Bike City are not kept from owning cars but encouraged to use bicycles. Residents of the housing estate planned for Liesing will also be equipped with free annual passes for Wiener Linien’s public transport services. Furthermore, they will be offered participation in a car sharing project.

The Viennese government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Greens claimed yesterday (Weds) that the extraordinary aspects of the new building project were not linked with additional costs since the Bike City would include fewer underground parking spaces. The parties are convinced that the new Bike City will turn out to be a full success as they expect the vast majority of residents to strive for eco-friendly lifestyles.

The decision to build another Bike City housing complex is part of the city coalition’s agenda. Especially the Greens are trying to create as many pro-cycling initiatives as possible after promising their voters to combat rising fine dust rates and carbon emissions. The party, which is headed by Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou, also persuaded the SPÖ to lower the price for an annual Wiener Linien pass from 449 to 365 Euros. The price reform will start in May. It comes after the Viennese Greens promised during the city hall election campaign in 2010 to lower the price to 100 Euros if they become part of the next city government.

It is the first SPÖ-Greens coalition on provincial or federal level in Austria. The Greens started cooperating with the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) in Upper Austria already in 2003 but have so far never been part of a federal government coalition. Their partnership with the Viennese SPÖ department comes after decades of an absolute majority in seats for the SPÖ. The only post-war legislature in which the Viennese SPÖ had to form a coalition occurred between 1996 and 2001 when the party teamed up with the ÖVP.

Mayor Michael Häupl was forced to look for new alliances after his faction’s share in votes dropped from 49.1 per cent in 2005 to 44.34 per cent five years later. Now the SPÖ and the Greens are focusing on campaigns for successful integration of foreigners and initiatives for more public transport and cycling to avoid a further strengthening of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) in the next ballot. The right-wing movement bagged 25.77 per cent in the latest Viennese vote, up sharply from 14.8 per cent in 2005.

FPÖ Vienna whip Johann Gudenus has accused the city coalition of allowing immigrants to build up parallel societies to avoid their substantial integration. The SPÖ reacted by making clear that every resident must speak German and “stick to the rules” to ensure a peaceful coexistence. Gudenus reacted by accusing the Social Democrats of being copycats since their new immigration agenda is alleged to feature striking resemblances to the FPÖ’s ideals.

News that Vienna will have another Bike City in a few years’ time comes days after the Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) presented a survey revealing that 50 per cent of the distances Austrians cover by car are shorter than five kilometres (km). The organisation also found that there are 537 vehicles per 1,000 residents in the country. Burgenland has the highest density of privately owned vehicles (616) while Vienna takes last place among the country’s nine provinces as there are only 394 cars per 1,000 citizens in the capital.

Public transport had a share of 35 per cent in Vienna in 2009, up from only 29 per cent in 1993. Cyclists’ share doubled to six per cent at the same time. There is at least one annual Wiener Linien ticket holder in a third of the city’s households, according to the VCÖ. Experts assume that the number of sold tickets will climb due to the upcoming price reduction while ÖVP and FPÖ warn from an increase of the city’s debts and immense pressure on its public transport provider as a consequence.