My big wake up call. I have never seen cars and buses routinely used for deliberate intimidation on the scale of my last four days in Austria.
I have cycled all over the world. Most of the time driver behaviour doesn’t worry me too much. I get annoyed by rank stupidity, unnecessary speed, impatience and incompetence, but so do drivers and walkers. Abuse comes, but the threat is minimal and not physical.
Four days ago in Vienna was the first time I saw a car driver partially overtake a group and then steer into the side of the group to force us out of the lane. I thought it was a mixture of incompetence and impatience, someone unable to realise that the group was 50 metres long.
But then several times more over the next three days, including hand gestures to make the intention quite clear. A city bus – like the hated bendy buses of London, but this driver deliberately trapped five riders against the kerb by pulling across us.
While most drivers waited politely to let our groups turn to the left across the traffic flow together yesterday there was a guy who sped towards the group to scatter it out of his way.
I wish I had the presence of mind to take photos or get the bus number, at least in Vienna. I think there would have been some local government embarrassment about intimidation of a visiting cyclists’ group, but the drivers clearly had no such fears.
Maybe I’m naïve – riding companion Vladimir from Moscow said he was not at all surprised by the drivers, but he felt safer in Russia because most roads had shoulders which the cyclists use and he did feel uncomfortable in a group out on the carriageway on rural roads. But I guess I expected Austria to be more benign, at least like Germany.
Most Austrian cyclists I met were positive about the direction of cycling in the country, and especially the potential for tourism with the stunning scenery and iconic routes like the Danube cycle route. Clearly their drivers have a lot of catching up to do and it would be a shame if this put visitors off.
Rant over – later I’ll follow up with some more positive Austrian stories.