Can Vienna’s ‘radfahren’ be replicated elsewhere?
Earlier this month I had the first presentation for the Liveable Cities programme. I am doing a PhD in Sociology at Lancaster University, UK. I am studying bicycle tourism as a part of a wider research programme, Liveable Cities.
Liveable Cities is ‘an ambitious, five-year programme of research to develop a method of designing and engineering low carbon, resource secure, wellbeing maximised UK cities’. It is a joint venture programme between 4 universities: Lancaster University, University of Birmingham, University of Southampton and UCL. My role in this programme is to look at how mobilities in general and velo-mobilities in particular are shaping future low carbon cities.
This week the Liveable Cities team had a two-days meeting in Birmingham. I presented some raw research findings on cycling in Vienna and how did the capital of Austria managed to achieve a 6% in modal share for cycling in recent years (which is more than most of the European capitals at the moment).
Whilst most of UK policy makers are looking at European champion cities such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam to draw inspiration for engineering cycle-friendly urban agglomerations, the manifold socio-technical aspects that shaped these velo-cities in the last decades is often neglected. Modal shares of cycling as high as 20 or 25% in some Dutch and Danish cities – a diminishing legacy from the oil peak period in the 1970s when the two countries decided to invest in cycling, in sharp contrast with the ‘business-as-usual model’ throughout the Western world – are hard if not impossible to achieve today in the UK, the resilient car-dependence being the main barrier to a modal shift. Instead, I am proposing a possible easier path to follow by the policy makers in the UK: the example of Vienna.
There are several reasons for choosing Vienna as a case study. First, the city hosted this summer the Velo-City conference (details here). Second, the flourishing bicycle tourism in the region (of which I am particularly interested for my PhD). Third, obviously the rise in modal share for cycling from 3% to 6% in 15 years, which is one of the biggest increases in cycling amongst European cities in recent history.
I am arguing that along with the dedicated infrastructure several other reasons contributed to the rise of cycling in Vienna. The activists’ movement in late 1970s, the early bicycle sharing system provision (1990s) and the impact of bicycle tourism in the region all have a significant role in making this growth possible.
You may have a look at my presentation on Prezi. For any thoughts and questions, please use the above comments section.