Melbournians pride ourselves on our status as the world’s most liveable city. This week I visited the city follows Melbourne in a close second.
As capital of the Hasburg’s Austrian empire for over six centuries, Vienna is still decorated in grand palaces, churches and summer royal residences. But behind the history lies a patient and tolerant Vienna.
Melbourne’s 4-year-old bike share scheme had been poorly received and will soon collapse. In contrast, Vienna’s version City Bike is going from strength to strength.
While having no compulsory helmet law helps uptake, City Bike is in huge demand because of the infrastructure the city has recently built. The city is in the middle of its “Year of Cycling” and is investing in bike lanes and bike path to ease city congestion.
6% of all trips in the city are now by bike and ambitious Viennese councillors aim for 15% by 2020.
Naturally, a cyclist cannot survive on the road without the help from motor vehicles and Viennese driver pass this test with flying colours. Adequate room is given when passing and drivers often patiently wait 20-30 seconds for a overtaking opportunity.
Responsible in part for this patience is the junior licensing system enforced in the city. Those under 12 cannot ride solo on the roads without first completing a short-course in road safety. This procedure leads to an increased awareness of the vulnerabilities of pedestrians and cyclists and far more tolerant drivers.
The same patience and tolerance was shown this weekend as Vienna hosted Austria’s largest gay pride festival. Over 300 000 people of all sexual orientation gathered in the city’s main cultural district, MuseumsQuartier, for Vienna Pride and the Rainbow Parade, turning the historic Heldenplatz into a loud, proud fairground.
While there were some Christian protesters peacefully voicing their opposition, many Viennese and tourists paraded along the ring road in support of a minority.
Of course, there are many more reasons Vienna is so liveable. The metro system is efficient and expansive, museums and monuments tell stories from the past, lively bars and beer gardens line the cobbled avenues and the famous Prater amusement park bring laughter and thrills to locals and tourists alike. A flat landscape, temperate climate and historical buildings all add to the vibrancy that the Austrian capital plentifully exudes.