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WEATHER

‘Cool streets’: How Vienna is preparing for climate change and heatwaves

Summers in Vienna are getting hotter, with the temperatures regularly rising above 30 or even 35 degrees. What can Vienna do to make the city more liveable?

A child plays with water in the Volksgarten (public park) in Vienna on August 1, 2017 as temperature rises to 34 degrees. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)
A child plays with water in the Volksgarten (public park) in Vienna on August 1, 2017 as temperature rises to 34 degrees. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Climate change has made the world’s cities hotter – and Vienna is no exception. 

The capital recorded its hottest year in 2017, with 33 days on which maximum daily temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius were measured.

And while between 1961 and 1990, Vienna experienced an average of 9.6 hot days a year, from 1981 to 2010 this increased to an average of 15.2 hot days per year. In 2019 there were already 12 hot days by June. It is forecast that  by 2050, Vienna could be up to 8 degrees warmer.

Many people in the city live in older apartments, with no air conditioning, or work in old buildings which are not adapted to the heat of the 21st Century.

One of the drinking water fountains installed for the summer across Vienna. (Photo by ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP)
Heat inequality

While more than 50 percent of Vienna is made up of green spaces, it is unequally distributed, with residents living in poorer, inner-city neighbourhoods benefiting from less access to green spaces than the more well-off or suburban Viennese. 

Many built-up areas in Vienna can become “heat islands” due to the lack of greenery and the concrete landscape intensifying summer heat by as much as five degrees, which can be seen on the city’s heat map

So what is the city doing to combat the ever-hotter summers? 

A woman walks past water sprayed from a pipe at the Schwarzenberg square. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Fog showers

Since 2019, the city has been installing fog showers, known as Brunnhildes around the city, which spray a fine mist into the air to cool down passers-by.

The Kurier reports a total of 260 Brunnhildes, mist showers (“summer splashes”) and water sprays were set up in Vienna this summer. Tap water from fountains can be obtained free of charge at 1,100 tapping points. On particularly hot days, a water curtain is switched on at Karlsplatz, with the name “Karlsplatsch”.

The water features in Vienna’s parks have also been expanded, and five new playgrounds in the Lichtentalerpark and in the Wanda-Lanzer-Park added to the 111 in the city with water play.  

15 minute city 

Vienna has also adopted the idea of the 15-minute city concept, according to Der Standard newspaper, which is also being experimented with in cities such as Oslo and Berlin.

It means the most important everyday routes can be reached within a 15-minute walk: supermarket, bakery, restaurant, doctor, pharmacy, flower shop, kindergarten, school, authorities, U-Bahn station as well as sports facilities and recreational areas. It creates a small village atmosphere within a big city. 

A tourist bathes her Labrador in the Neuer Markt fountain in Vienna. (Photo by BORIS HORVAT / AFP)

To help people cool down in their “village”, Vienna has also created a goal to create greenery all over the city, planting more trees and small gardens, with the aim of having some kind of green space every 250 metres, even if it is just a small patch of earth with some flowers and a tree planted in it. 

Car-free streets

Another initiative to make the city more liveable is removing cars from a number of the city’s streets and squares. 

However, although Vienna has been somewhat successful in implementing these measures, it is seen to be lagging behind cities such as Paris in getting people out of their cars in grand schemes, such as pedestrianising the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, or creating traffic free zones and cycle lanes throughout the city. 

Although the city experimented with car free streets (called Coolen Straßen) in 2019, and also tried out new bike lanes through the city last year, these have been quietly dropped, the Kurier newspaper reports. The bike lane was on occasion strewn with tacks by irritated drivers and the “cool streets” banning cars did not prove as popular as hoped. 

Woman walk past water sprayed from a pipe at Praterstern Square in Vienna (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

The new “Cool Streets plus (Coolen Straßen Plus”) scheme in Phorusgasse (4th), Pelzgasse (15th), Goldschlagstraße (14th) and Franklinstraße (21st) will mean these roads will be planted with trees, surfaced with lighter asphalt, and shade or water elements.

However, there will be no driving, stopping or parking ban in these new “cool streets”, although traffic calming will be in place.

Where have cars been banned in Vienna?

A number of streets in Vienna have now been made largely free of cars, including: Mariahilfe Strasse, Herrengasse, LangeGasse, Otto Otto-Bauer-Gasse, Rotenturmstrasse and Neubaugasse. And in new districts of Vienna such as the Nordbahnhof, Sonnwendviertel or Seestadt Aspern, people are being discouraged from using their cars through measures such as  limited parking and 30km hour zones.

However, writing in the Leben in Wien magazine in 2020, journalist Wojciech Czaja, said Vienna “with its strong motorist lobby and around 400,000 parking spaces” was still a “long way” from Paris’s ambitious scheme to get people out of their cars and onto public transport and bicycles. 

And traffic expert Angelika Rauch said, in an interview with Czaja in Der Standard in 2020, that she feared Vienna would fall behind Paris in its “liveability” ratings, due to the French city’s “radical plans” to rid the city of cars and make it easier for cyclists to travel around the city. 

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about recycling in Austria

Austria is keen on recycling, but the many different types of waste cans are sometimes confusing to newcomers and foreigners. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about recycling in Austria

Recycling is very much a part of Austrian culture. You will also find different bins for different waste items in almost every household in the country.

Every year, in Vienna alone, about 100,000 tons of recyclable organic material is collected in over 80,000 containers and processed into compost. This, in turn, can be collected by citizens in household quantities – so you can use your own trash to grow your plants.

Glass is also collected in separate containers, at over 2,500 public locations and at the dung places in the city. However, as they can be noisy, people should only dispose of glass waste between 6am and 10pm, according to the City of Vienna.

READ ALSO: How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

There are several containers throughout the cities where you can dispose of your waste. Still, it is crucial to do it right – and your neighbour will knock on your door if the things you are putting your paper together with your “common” trash.

Here are the main types of waste cans you will find in Austria – it is worth pointing out that these are based in the capital Vienna and might look a bit different depending on your region.

Waste paper

The Altpapier Karton, a red-coloured waste carton, is where you should dump your newspapers, magazines, catalogues, brochures, books, writing paper, letters, copybooks and telephone directories, as well as clean frozen food boxes, paper bags, and cardboard boxes (folded or filled with paper).

This is not a place to drop any composite materials, such as milk and beverage cartons, carbon paper, dirty papers, or receipts.

Organic waste

Also known as Biomüll, it usually has a brown colour. This is where you should throw away your lawn, tree and hedge cuttings. Weeds, shrubs, windfall, leaves, water plants, unseasoned and uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps, stale bread, coffee grounds, or tea leaves.

Organic waste disposal is no place for plastic, eco plastic bags, or eco plastic products. You should also not throw away meat, bones, food leftovers, large branches, eggs, dairy products, content from vacuum cleaner bags, cat litter, varnished or laminated wood, hazardous waste, composite materials such as nappies or milk cartons, or soil.

READ ALSO: Why does Vienna’s waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

Clear glass

The clear glass (Weissglass) container, a grey one, will hold clear non-returnable glass bottles and pickle jars (they should be empty but not necessarily cleaned). You can also drop clear, condensed milk and soft drinks and any clear glass containers and transparent wine and liquor bottles.

Do not throw in any coloured glass, bottle caps, corks, lead seals (such as champagne bottles), screw tops, plastic bottles, mirrors, window glass, flat or wired glass, light bulbs, china, crystal glass or drinking glasses.

Coloured glass

The green container is reserved for Buntglass or coloured glass. This is where you should throw your coloured non-returnable glass bottles, such as slightly coloured glass, wine, soft drinks, and liquor bottles.

Brown and green glass can go in here together, along with other non-clear glasses. 

READ ALSO: Austria to challenge EU nuclear green label in court

Just as with the clear glass, it is essential not to throw bottle caps, corks, lead seals (such as the ones from champagne bottles), screw tops, plastic bottles, mirrors, window glass, flat or wired glass, light bulbs, china, ceramics, crystal glass or drinking glasses.

Plastic bottles, drink cartons, cans

The yellow collection container will receive any plastic bottles, drink cartons and cans (Plastikflaschen, Getränkekartons, Dosen). This includes all plastic bottles for drinks (PET bottles), for supplies such as vinegar and dairy products, detergents and household cleaners, and plastic containers for cosmetics and toiletries.

READ ALSO: Hasta la mista, baby? How to vote for your favourite Vienna trash can joke

You may also add other plastic bottles, beverage cans, food cans, metal foil, metal tubes, metal tops of jars, and bottles.

Do not turn in any plastic bottles, engine oil bottles, lubricant and adhesive bottles, plastic cups, plastic foil, plastic bags, meat trays, styrofoam, rubber foam, wood, textiles, canisters, buckets, cookware, tools, cables, wires, bathroom or kitchen taps, pipes, steel straps, paint, varnish, and spray cans, etc.

Other waste

The black box will receive all your other waste (Restmüll) and any other residual waste that shouldn’t be thrown in the recycle bins and is not hazardous or bulky.

Hazardous waste or bulky trash

It is illegal to dispose of hazardous or bulky waste in these containers. Instead, there are several collection points in Vienna and other cities where you can leave them. City services will also collect bulky waste for a small fee.

Do you have any more questions about recycling and waste separation in Austria? Get in touoch at [email protected] and we will find the answers for you.

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