Whether we’re getting around by car, bike, metro or just heading across the street, it takes a whole city to keep us mobile.
“The main reason people should cycle is not just to ride a bike, it’s about choosing the most sustainable form of mobility in order to improve our quality of life.”
Like many people, Roland Romano, 26, remembers very clearly the day he learned to ride a bike.
“It was Easter, in front of my house. The bike had training wheels,” he said, warming to the tale. “It was on a protected dead-end road with no through traffic and a 30-kmh speed limit.”
The last few details might not occur to everyone recalling this moment, but for Romano – spokesman for Radlobby, a nonprofit organization that campaigns for the improvement of the bike path network in Vienna – noticing traffic conditions and behavior has become second nature.
Romano’s precision begins with a critique of how city traffic statistics are calculated. According to the “modal split” system, the internationally accepted standard for allocating transit usage, 7% of Vienna’s traffic could be attributed to cyclists in 2017. But Romano is quick to point out that this number is based only on journeys traveled within Vienna, excluding commuters who work or live beyond the city limits.
He also finds that how streets are defined by transit planners confusing.
“A ‘street’ refers to the space between two buildings whereas the ‘roadway’ is the part of that street reserved for [motorized] vehicles,” he clarifies.
Understanding how streets are apportioned and demarcated is an important aspect of Radlobby’s work, campaigning for the creation of safe bike paths and cycle streets within those.
One big victory, which took over 20 years to achieve, was the establishment of two proper cycle paths on Getreidemarkt. But this triumph is only a first step toward creating a truly optimal cycling network in Vienna, which for Romano still doesn’t really exist.
“Although it’s our goal, Vienna cannot be considered a bike city yet. There is still a lack of awareness on the political level,” he said.
Keeping a foot in the door of that all-important level is also part of Romano’s business. Before the interview, he had just come from a meeting with the district council on a subway construction project.
“Every change in the infrastructure creates a new opportunity for us,” he grinned. “If people have to figure out an alternative method of travel, for example, taking a bike to work, that’s a chance to change their behavior.”