Houses, gardens and architecture of the Danube valley – Lower Austria

Gallery

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Spring sunshine, sharp sunlight. The colours of the buildings, houses and gardens are brought into sharp focus while cycling along the Danube Cycleway and the Franz Schubert Cycleway between Vienna and Krems. I especially like the old wine houses and … Continue reading

Vienna – centre of cycling cultures

An important focus for our hosts in Vienna was cycling cultures. This meant several things:

  • The heritage of Vienna as a cultural capital
  • A growing bike culture and counter culture in the city
  • A relatively newly elected city administration that is determined to build a cycling culture by all means possible
  • A parallel workshop at the ECF AGM for young volunteers from new cycling organisations – the VOCA programme

This element is so strong they decided to make it the theme of next year’s Velo-City conference and announced it while we were there.Velo-City 2013 theme

As a self confessed old git cyclist I have to say the best of this was being exposed to the new advocates group on the VOCA programme and counter cultures tour led by Alec Hager of campaigning group Radlobby IG Fahrrad and Gudrun of the Bike Kitchen.

Ending up in the Bike Kitchen late afternoon enjoying some food and a beer and hearing the enthusiasm of everyone involved was just refreshing. I felt a bit sorry for friend Doretta who thought she had signed up for a culture tour and ended up with a tour of workshops and bike shops, but I was really at home. And a big shout out for their inclusive, supportive, collective values – not much of that survives in a material society.

I wonder whether there is a point when the counter culture becomes the new orthodoxy because none of the elements on the tour were at all unique to Vienna, but I guess you can’t really describe a city as having a vibrant cycling culture without them so Vienna is making important strides.

My thanks to all the places that hosted our visits, here are a few photos of variable quality – and special thanks to Bikelager for outstanding coffee served amongst a gallery of classic bikes laid out like an art show. And of course the scene stealers were the fabulously painted Colnagos on the scalloped frames. At the time we just knew they would become classics.

Bikelager Wien

Bikelager Wien - coolest bike shop in town

Vienna Fixie - great paint job

Vienna Fixie - great paint job

Cargo fixie at Fix Dich

Cargo fixie at Fix Dich

Heavy Lifting Cargo Bikes

Heavy Lifting Cargo Bikes

Vienna bike workshop - build your own

Vienna bike workshop - build your own

Colnago frame feature

Colnago frames feature

Rant time – Austrian drivers

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.

Not despairing in Vienna (1)

Great to be here in Vienna, lots of cycling highlights (and a few lowlights)

First post has to be about our cycling melting pot. Over 80 people from nearly 30 countries thrown together for three days to talk cycling. If you could capture the energy you could power entire cities, it is just fantastic.

Vienna is the ideal location for this sort of cultural melting pot because it is so accessible to the countries of the east and south of Europe and Eurasia. We have had Dutch and Danish stories for 30 years, they are so far ahead in cycling its hard to catch up. But here we have a whole new community who are starting from a similar position as everybody else, cycling got lost along the way. But they are starting from a totally different political perspective, and one where there is often less heritage of civil society campaigning, especially on cycling. Yesterday ECF was joined by new members from Greece,Turkey,Byelorussia and Georgia, joining relatively new members like the Ukrainians and Bulgarians.

Vienna Tour by Bike

Vienna Tour by Bike - 8 country peleton

OK lots of frustrations, lots of discussion about overcoming cities and governments that just don’t have a clue. If I had a pound or euro or dollar for everyone who says “they are just not interested in cycling” I wouldn’t have a job raising funds for cycling.

But the chance to share those frustrations is so valuable, and then to grab at new ideas and concepts and friends who offer ideas about how to go forward.

A group from Minsk (Byelorussia) who tell us that you can be a cycling activist in Europe’s last dictatorship, but you can’t be a dissident. Get them talking to the Germany HPV club about infrastructure, and throw in some Danes to bring Nordic cool.

ECF gathers for a ride in Vienna

The meeting point - Vienna tour for delegates from Byelorussa, Germany, Switzerland, Ukraine, Spain, Ireland, Holland

Roll around the historical palace area of central Vienna in a bike convoy with the Irish and French and an Austrian guy based in southern Turkey who are all working to convince governments to take cycling seriously, but in different ways.

Dinner table – US, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Croatia, The Netherlands and UK. Common language – cycling. But from cycling talk flows around stupid politicians, history of European empires, infrastructure, bike sharing schemes, green politics, tourism, crap facilities, best bikes, land ownership and collective farming, and concludes close to midnight with a discourse about swimming in sub-zero seas. You couldn’t write a script that says cycling will take you to all these places.

Coming soon – Not despairing in Austria

Next week – bound for Austria

Highlights

Advocates and enthusiasts from all over Europe at the ECF AGM.

A tour to the hot spots of bike culture in Vienna, „Fix Dich“ bicycle boutique, “Radlager”, Critical Mass Meetpoint, BikeKitchen. “European Bike Counter Culture”  

ARGUS Bike Festival.

According to ECF “the annual ARGUS Bike Festival is the largest in Europe with over 100.000 visitors. For two days the square in front of Vienna’s city-hall turns into a paradise for every-day and leisure bicyclists.

The festival offers a broad spectrum from many aspects of bicycling: a bicycle fair with over 100 exhibitors, the dirt-contest where 50 world-class dirt-riders take part, test-courses for children and E-bikes, information about every-day and leisure bicycling and a lot more.”

For details see http://www.bikefestival.at/

The culmination of the festival is the Bicycle Parade. In its first year up to 8.000 cyclists rode around the „Ring“, the grand parade boulevard of Vienna where the Austrian Emperor used to show himself to the people.

Bike tour along the Danube for 2 days.

Watch this space.