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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What you need to know about cycling in Austria

Each country has its own rules and regulations when it comes to navigating the road and in Austria it’s no different - there are even special rules for cyclists.

What you need to know about cycling in Austria
A cyclist looks out across the Sonnberg in Austria Photo by Matthias Patzuda on Unsplash

Cyclists might take up less space than cars on roads but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from the rules of the road.

In fact, cycling on roads can be dangerous, which is why there are rules in place in Austria to protect cyclists and other road users.

Here’s what you need to know about cycling in Austria.

Traffic rules and regulations

In Austria, cyclists have to follow traffic regulations – just like any other road user.

This means stopping at red lights and giving way at junctions. However, there are a few specific rules that cyclists should be aware of.

Cyclists have right of way on all cycle lanes, cycle paths, combined pedestrian and cycle paths and street crossings for cyclists.

At zebra crossings though, pedestrians have right of way.

The Austria Road Traffic Act (Straßenverkehrsordnung – StVO) states that when using a bike crossing, cyclists should not travel faster than 10km per hour and should not cross a street in a way that is surprising to drivers.

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Also, trams and emergency services have right of way on street crossings for cyclists.

Cyclists can travel on one-way streets in both directions – but only if it’s a residential street (Wohnstraße) and the rule is displayed with a traffic sign.

Cycling drunk is a big no-no and the alcohol limit for cyclists is the same as drivers – 0.5 milligrams. You could even end up losing your driving licence if caught cycling over the limit. 

Children under the age of 12 must wear a helmet when riding a bike, including children on the back of a bicycle on a seat. 

Additionally, only people aged 16 and over can carry a child on the back of a bike, and only one child at a time.

Helmets are not mandatory for people over the age of 12, but they are highly recommended.

Rules for the bike

In 2001, the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technologies (BMK) issued the Bicycle Ordinance.

This was in response to a rise in traffic accidents caused by cyclists riding bikes with technical defects or in the dark without lights.

The introduction of the Bicycle Ordinance means that cyclists not only have to follow the rules of the road, but their bikes must be kitted out with the right safety gear too, as detailed below.

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All bikes must have two fully-functioning brakes (front and back), a bell or horn, a front headlight and a rear red light for cycling in the dark or in poor visibility.

Flashing headlights are forbidden, so make sure you use a regular light.

Bikes must also be equipped with a front white reflector, a rear red reflector, yellow reflectors on pedals and reflectors on wheels.

Anyone caught riding a bike without brakes could be prosecuted under Austrian law and cyclists have a duty to maintain their bikes in full (safe) working order.

Country cycling vs city cycling

As in most countries around the world, there are differences in Austria when it comes to cycling in cities or the countryside.

In Austrian cities, there are many designated cycle lanes on roads and bike parking facilities are easy to find. 

However, there are higher levels of traffic and other road users in general, which makes cycling a more dangerous mode of transport.

In the countryside, cycle lanes are less common, but there are plenty of cycle paths and access to off-road trails. This can make cycling a safer experience.

But whether cycling in a city like Vienna or a small town in Tyrol, the traffic rules and regulations still apply and have to be followed by all cyclists.

Finally, if you must use the pedestrian pathway anywhere, the polite approach is to get off the bike and push it.

READ MORE: What are kids allowed to do alone under Austrian law?

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is hitting the headlines as the Austrian Federal Government plans a reform of the scheme. Here's how it works now, why it is necessary and how it will change in the future.

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass (Mother-Child-Pass) was launched in Austria in 1974 to ensure the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their babies.

It grants pregnant women free access to essential examinations and consultations, and serves as a record of healthcare.

But big changes are on the cards for the pass as a digitization reform is planned for the coming years, while disputes continue about the cost of the scheme.

Here’s what you need to know about how the Mutter-Kind-Pass works, why it’s necessary and how it will change. 

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What is the Mutter-Kind-Pass?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is a small, yellow passport-style document to provide and track healthcare for pregnant women and young children in Austria.

It is issued to a woman when a pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor and contains records of medical examinations during pregnancy. As well as health check-ups for the child up to five years of age.

The Mutter-Kind-Pass exists to ensure pregnant women and children get the necessary medical care they need.

For example, women in Austria are entitled to five medical check-ups throughout their pregnancy including blood tests, internal examinations, ultrasound scans and consultations with a midwife.

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Who can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass and how much does it cost?

Any pregnant woman living in Austria can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass (and subsequent health examinations) for free.

However, all examinations must take place with a doctor that is registered with a health insurance company in Austria.

Women without health insurance need a confirmation of entitlement from the Austrian health insurance fund that is responsible for the area where they live.

This is a required step before any examinations can take place free of charge.

Why is the pass necessary?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass and its mandatory examinations are primarily used to detect any illnesses or possible complications early. 

The expected date of delivery is also entered into the Mutter-Kind-Pass, so the document is needed to receive maternity pay in Austria.

Additionally, proof of examinations are required to receive the full entitlement to childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld). This means the pass should be taken to every maternity-related appointment, as recommended by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse.

How is the Mutter-Kind-Pass being reformed?

On Wednesday 16th November, Minister for Women and Family Affairs Susanne Raab (ÖVP) and Minister of Health Johannes Rauch (Greens) announced a reform of the Mutter-Kind-Pass.

The most notable change will be a transition from the paper booklet to a digital app in 2024, as well as new services and a name change to the Eltern-Kind-Pass (Parent-Child-Pass).

Raab said: “In addition to the services in the area of ​​health care, we will introduce parent advice, which should be a compass for the new phase of life for new parents.”

The new services will include counselling, an extra consultation with a midwife, an additional ultrasound, hearing screenings for newborns, nutritional and health advice, and multilingual information in digital form.

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

In the future, parents-to-be and new parents will also be offered parenting advice when they have their first child, for example on the compatibility of employment and childcare, on the division of parental leave or on the effects of part-time work on pensions.

“The mother-child pass has been an essential part of maternal and child health in Austria for decades. Now we have managed together to further develop this important instrument in a contemporary form”, said Rauch.

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The implementation of the parent-child passport is a comprehensive, multi-year project and will begin with digitisation from next year.

The annual budget for the Mutter-Kind-Pass is currently €62 million and an additional €10 million from EU funds has been allocated to cover the cost of the reforms. 

However, there have been debates in recent months about the general cost of the pass. 

As a result there are ongoing negotiations between insurance companies and the Medical Association about the reimbursement of fees for providing healthcare and examinations.

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Der Standard reports that the Medical Association is threatening to discontinue the Mutter-Kind-Pass at the end of the year if an agreement on doctors fees cannot be reached. If that were to happen, expectant mothers would have to pay for examinations.

Currently, doctors receive €18.02 per examination and the Association is calling for an 80 percent increase.

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