Austria has a master plan for facing climate change and making its cities better to live in. The country has already an extensive network of public transport – though critics say there is much to be done, and it’s now updating its regulations to improve the lives of cyclists and pedestrians.
The amendments to the highway and traffic code “take the rules for walking and cycling from the 1960s to the 21st century”, Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler (Grüne) said in a press conference this Friday, 29th.
“Only now do pedestrians gain priority,” the minister added.
Along with Andreas Ottenschläger, spokesperson for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), and Lukas Hammer, mobility spokesperson for the Greens, Gewessler presented a comprehensive reform of the Road Traffic Act (StVO, in German).
What is changing that will benefit pedestrians?
The government’s amendments aim to give higher priority to both pedestrians and cyclists, and pavements will have to be kept “free of vehicles and obstacles” with the new regulation.
At least one and a half metres of space needs to be reserved for people who are walking.
Perhaps most noticeably, the government announced traffic lights will change so pedestrians can cross the streets after a “short waiting time and without haste”.
People on foot will also need to be given priority when they have to cross a street to get on and off public transport, also benefiting those who use the public transport system across Austria.
What will be the changes regarding cyclists?
The main changes will be that cyclists will have more space in road traffic. When overtaking a cyclist, the minimum distance cars should take will increase to up to two metres depending on the location.
In the future, one-way traffic lanes with a speed limit of 30 km/h and a width of more than four metres will be open to cyclists in both directions – and signalled.
Turning right at a red light will be allowed for cyclists “if it does not endanger road safety”, according to the government. For this, a new traffic sign will be introduced in Austria: the green arrow, which will show where the turn is possible.
In addition, cyclists will be allowed to ride side-by-side when one of them is under the age of 12 or at a speed of 30 km/h with another adult.
Cycling is booming in Austria
Despite being known for its mountains and Alps, Austria is also an extremely bike-friendly country, especially in the lower plains on the Danube.
In Lower Austria, more than half of the tourists visiting the state are there on cycling holidays, as reported.
READ ALSO: The best cycle routes in and around Vienna
Bike riding has boomed thanks to the Covid pandemic. Still even before 2020, around € 252 million were generated through cycle tourism in Lower Austria annually.
Last year, the Danube Cycle Path was the busiest bike route, with 1.1 million tourist bike rides between April 1st and September 30th, 2021. Other heavily frequented cycle paths are the EuroVelo 9 in the Weinviertel, the Kamp-Thaya-March route, the Traisental cycle path and the Triesting-Gölsental cycle path.
Much of the changes are part of Austria’s larger climate change action plan. The federal government has already put in place its Klimaticket, with discounted country-wide public transport tickets to incentivise people to leave their cars at home.
The capital Vienna has also adopted the 15-minute city concept, aiming to make the most essential everyday routes possible within a 15-minute walk.
The goal is that all Austria’s most populous city residents can feel like they live in a small village. They can walk 15 minutes and reach supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, doctors, schools, and recreational areas.
Many of Austria’s main capitals also have several car-free zones, and Vienna recently introduced the short-term parking concept to (almost) all of its streets.
Cyclist – Radfahrer
Pedestrian – Fußgänger
Speeders – Raser
Measures – Maßnahmen