Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The definitive history of Viennese cycling infrastructure

This is NOT the definitive history of Viennese cycling infrastructure and I do not know the full story but here are two great films and my understanding of the context.

Back in 1969 the city was full of cars!  The City realised this was not going to be a future-proof solution. What Vienna needed was an underground network and so they built one.  Vienna now has the best Public Transport in the world (my world at least).

The focus on public transport, the dismantling of cycle infrastructure and the cultural aspirations of motor car ownership meant bikes were bullied off the road.

Then came the 70s and the problems of car use and oil dependence reignited the mobility discussion.  By then there was 0.01 % modal share for bikes and those that rode used illegal routes and survival tactics.

Since then the City has had some good initiatives to accommodate cycling with some very good bits of cycle path and some very nice cycling environments.  However these initiatives are like the current network, half hearted, disconnected and do not really join up or have any consistency or quality.

Cycling is back in fashion across the developed world as more and more realise the mobility potential cycling brings to urban spaces.  Vienna has marketed cycling well and modal share is at about 5%.  There have been some pathetic attempts to improve the cycling infrastructure and to connect up the network which fail as soon as there is any resistance due to a lost parking space.

Cyclists that have coped with and perfected cycling in the Vienna cycling environment are resistant to more poor quality cycling infrastructure which often disadvantages them compared to riding on the road.

Pedestrians and cyclists fight for space on the once illegal survival routes but now official cycle/foot paths. 

Austrian traffic planners are influenced by German Cycle planning which is very orientated to deigning roads for cars and footpaths for pedestrians and no understanding of human factors or their Dutch neighbour's solutions.

Austrian political cock blocking and the 23 Vienna district micro politics creates an environment that is very resistant to change.

Again the City is at a turning point as it considers mobility for the future. It realises that the city is truly saturated with cars there is nothing it can do to accommodate more, so it hopes to half the number of cars in 15 years.  That leaves public transport, cycling and walking as the only realistic mobility options.

Public transport costs billions but Vienna is very good at it and the politics for public transport are very well established and unquestionable.  Cycling is nothing but problems and conflict but it is very cheap, promotes health, inclusive.... bla bla bla...

If you were Mayor what would you do?  Invest in public transport help your friends and profit from established relationships and structures or tackle the cycling mess and make a real difference with a coherent connected quality network despite resistance from all groups (even cyclists!)?

So it looks like we will get the U5.  Vienna has underground lines from U1 to U6 but the U5 never got built.  When it does we will have to find a new joke to play on tourists who ask "how do I get to ....". "You take the U5".

If Vienna really wants to half the car use and improve mobility it will have to invest heavily in public transport and cycling infrastructure and combine them to provide multi modal solutions.  I believe cycling levels will increase (across Europe) but it seems that they will have to be increased as a result of individual sacrifice and determination rather than political leadership and technical expertise.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Build it and they will park their bike on it.

They have a few put more bike racks at the Vienna Middle Station and normal behavior has changed! 

Originally they totally forgot or ignored bike parking and there were many problems with badly parked bikes.  This creative freestyle bike parking was normal behavior.

Now it is normal behavior to lock your bike to the excellent Vienna Bike racks.  Here is a very bad video to illustrate the current situation.

The capacity of bike parking is already nearly full so if the city want to encourage more people to cycle and to park their bike responsibly they will have to double the parking capacity again, otherwise they will end up with lots of behavior arguments etc...

Saturday, 7 June 2014


There is plenty to get frustrated about in Vienna but the summer is here and there are many cyclists enjoying the sunshine. So here is a positive blog post for a change.

Lenaugasse is a road came across by accident and it is wonderfully well designed residential access road.  No through traffic and design that encourages a sense of place rather than a sense of get through here as quick as possible.  It is officially a Wohnstrasse but they did more than put up a sign to make this space work.

It shows that they can get residential access roads right in the middle of Vienna if they try.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The corner Czapkagasse and Gärtnergasse

The layout at the corner Czapkagasse and Gärtnergasse and in particular the slight lines are really really bad. Bikes can not see the cars coming down Czapkagasse and the cars can not see the bikes coming from Landstrasse to Marxegasse.  This gets particularly bad when parked high sided vans are on the corner.

In this video you see a cars swinging round the corner and then a second that stops to look properly but only looked right and so I had to emergency stop.  It was after they started to turn left that I got eye contact.

I cycle this route most working days and have so many conflicts here with cars.  I have also seen a cyclists sat on the curb with their beading head in their hands.  This clearly needs a proper solution.

The main problem is that cars have to give way but the only indication is a triangle sign off to the side above parked cars.One third of drivers seam totally un-aware of this give way sign. Some kind of simple who has right of way system would  help enormasly...http://crowize-vienna.blogspot.co.at/2012/07/sharks-teeth.html and this would indicate to the cars they have to give way.  The triangle sign is totally useless and so are sharks teeth unless the implementation is consistent...

The line the cars have to drive if they turn left is also a problem. The diagonal parked cars make the road very narrow and also force turning cars to queeze in close to the parked cars on the left. The diagonally parked cars need to be removed to make the turn left more open.  However the turn radius needs to remain tight to reduce speed.  Bringing out the curb in to the road would help pedestrians too.

These turning cars have really really bad slight lines.  They can not see bikes coming until they are already turning and then it is too late. Bike parking racks on the corner would stop vans parking there and improve the sight lines a lot.  A raised junction like the one at Marxegasse and Gärtnergasse would help to reduce speed of cars.

This route is again used as a rat run and it is a main route for cyclists.  This conflict of function multiples the design problem conflicts.

In my opinion there is a general problem that bikes are used in 30kmph  zones as traffic calming devices.  This might work for most drivers who drive carefully in these unclear road mazes.  However it does not create a good cycling environment if your role as a cyclists is to slow the aggressive drivers and you have to put your body in the way of their badly driven speeding cars.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Dooring debate continures.

The standard modern best practice in Vienna is to paint narrow cycle lanes along side of parked cars forcing bikes into the door zone and induing very stressful and unpleasant conflict with overtaking cars.  The debate about this kind of infrastructure continues in Vienna but in my mind there is no debate and this kind of infrastructure is nothing but total crap.

If they are painted wide enough with buffer zones either side they require more space than other proper solutions.  If they are not wide enough they induce danger and conflict.They get parked in and provide a stressful experience to all cyclists and frustrate car drivers.

Maybe Peter Bals has a solution:

The  Radwegbauprogramm 2014 consists mainly of this total crap so we can expect more doorings more conflict and increasing frustration and anger on the roads of Vienna for years to come.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The reality of cycling in Vienna

3 days after her picture was taken riding this cargo bike this happens:

She went to work today, on her bike. At Waaggasse, a rather small one-way street (bikes have the option to go both ways) a car gets behind her and hits the horn a couple of times, then overtakes with next to no space between her and the car. Also, we are in a 30km/h - zone here and she is not a slow rider. 

The car has to stop at the next crossing, She asks the driver what the fuck is up with him.He accelerates and hits her bike on purpose. She starts yelling at him, he hits her again, with the car, and speeds off. 

She is in shock, but is alright. 

And now off to the best part: 3 hours later, after finally having calmed down, she goes to the police and tells them, what happened. Their response: "You are lucky that you don't have to pay a fee now, because you too have committed Fahrerflucht because you didn't come to us within 20 minutes. Also it was an accident and nothing else and will not be processed in any way." 

A month ago my wife was hit by a car that overtook her as they dashed for the flashing green light.  The car speed off and she recovered after a wobble and shock.  She did not even bother reporting this to the Police who are clearly not interested in the safety of vulnerable road users.  They are too busy at the moment controlling the size of bike reflectors and issuing fines.

This is the reality of cycling in Vienna and frankly it disgusts me.  Campaigners and the City needs to stop all the "Safety in Numbers" bullshit and understand that "Safety is Numbers".

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

What is the point why do I bother?

After 2 years trying to understand and explain how the Dutch have been so successful with main stream cycling I still hear the same old excuses again and again and again and again....

The Cycling Agency have switched focus from last years marketing initiative to this years cyclist behavior initiatives. ( An idiotic blame the users response to their focus on marketing which unsurprisingly has not worked as well as they hoped... )

The politicians and planners continue to produce "cycling infrastructure" (or useless paint as it is more accurately known) that will only increase the polarizing conflict which the Cycling Agency continues to ignore.

Vienna is spending millions and millions on the rebuilding of motor way connections and considering spending billions on building a new U-Bahn line, while ignoring the value for money benefit of good cycling infrastructure.

The Rad Lobbies are still struggling to decide if useless paint is a good idea or not.

The pathetic political cock blocking continues in the MaHü  even after the referendum resulted in a close win for the new people friendly street with bikes.

As Chris Cummings summaries here: http://fm4.orf.at/stories/1736436/

"After the marketing frenzy of the last years’ Vienna Year of the Bicycle (Radjahr) participation rates rose from 6.3% to 6.4% in comparison with the previous year. That is hardly a revolution and the number of journeys made by cars rose instead of falling."

So what is the point why do I bother?

I am now again able to answer that question after one of the better marketing initiatives: "The Rad parRade".  I and ~9000 others rode around the car free ring and it was wonderful.  I went with a mate and his family and we even got our picture in a populist tabloid paper.  I am the chap chatting to the wonderful Margit who invests a great deal of time and energy getting people together and patiently trying to improve cycling conditions.

Seeing kids riding independently and remembering how that freedom feels has reminded my why I bother.

The point is we are doing this for the future generations who just need the opportunity and they will be able to enjoy mobility.  Our idiotic overuse of cars and road design has destroyed cycling as an option for most of the population.  Build the infrastructure and make cycling safe, pleasant, fast, direct and easy and people will choose that option and we can all reap the many benefits of their modal shift.

We have to keep trying to tell the main stream cycling success story because it is a damn good one.