Biking in Vienna
This information was put together to help would be visitors or first time cyclist in Vienna to appreciate the wealth of possibilities for travelling and sightseeing in Austria’s capital. Like any large urban area Vienna has positive and negative sides to it. This article is aimed to help you understand Vienna better and to take advantage of the positive experiences and avoid the negative ones.
Vienna has taken great strides in the last 20 years to accommodate cyclist and make cycling in and around the city a memorable and safe experience. Also included is information about the Danube Bike Trail. Vienna’s location on the Danube River at the midpoint between Passau, Germany and Budapest, Hungary makes it the major embarking point for exploring these two sections of the Danube Bike Trail.
Sightseeing by bicycle in Vienna
Vienna is a great city to bike in. Over 1,400 km of cycle paths are available to visitors and some of them are really scenic. Is there another city of this size were you can bike in a national park? Even the motorists have become accustomed to the cyclist and treat them a piece of the road. There are 2 flowing bodies of water in Vienna; the Danube itself and the Danube Canal. The Danube Canal flows in the Danube’s original bed and both sides of the canal are very interesting examples of urban cycling providing many kilometers of traffic free cycling right in the city. The Danube itself offers many interesting rides, and not only the both shores. You also have the 22 kilometer long Danube Island running most of the entire length of the Danube as it flows through the city. And if you are talking about relaxing and traffic free cycling you have to include the extensive Prater Park in the 2nd district.
The entire first district is within the Ringstraße, a wide one-way boulevard (expect for trams!!) with bike paths on both sides. Crossing the “Ring” you enter historical Vienna mirroring the grandeur and power of 650 years of the Hapsburg Dynasty. Narrow alleys, horse drawn carriages called “Fiaker”, majestic churches and cathedrals, museums, and ornate palaces line the roads. Nowhere in the world is so much history, European and world, concentrated in such a small area. It is all there for the cyclist to enjoy, gaze upon and visit either on their own or with one of the companies that offer bike tours. And in addition there are shops, restaurant and coffee houses. The “real” coffee houses of Vienna offer up to 22 different “coffees”. You could spend half your life here and not do it all!
City tours on your own
The obvious tour that is done by the most visitors to Vienna in a city tur to get to know the city and to visit the most well-known and important sights.
The Vienna tourist office recommends Pedal Power offering daily Vienna city sightseeing tours in English. Pedal Power uses official "Vienna Guides" which guarantees a professional tour.
Want to know why Vienna impresses so many visitors and why people love living here? The Vienna Tourist Board provides the answer. In 2018, the Mercer Study voted Vienna the world's most livable city for the ninth year in a row. More than half of the metropolitan area is made up of green spaces. More...
Day long biking tours from Vienna
There are many possibilities that can be done by just getting on your bike and heading out of Vienna; for example on the Danube Bike Trail south to Bratislava or north towards Krems. It is also possible to combine a short train ride with a day trip. The world famous Wachau Region being the main choice. Here take the train to Melk, cycle back through the beautiful Wachau Valley to Krems and then hop on the train again back to Vienna. More...
Another possibility is Lake Neusiedl a 50 minute train ride from Vienna. Here you can see the beginning of the Hungarian steppes (the border to Hungary is only a few kilometers away) and if you are a bird watcher this is your tour. More...
European cycling routes leading through Vienna
Vienna sits at the half-way mark of the Danube Bike Bike Trail. So it is ideally situated to explore this, perhaps most beautiful cycling route in Europe, between Passau (Germany) and Budapes (Hungary). This trail follows the Danube from the Black forest in Germany to the Black Sea, more than 2,000 Kilometer. Just cycle to the Danube and either turn north or south and start pumping. 2 weeks later you are in either the Black forest in Bavaria (Germany) or on the Black Sea in Rumania or Bulgaria. Or turn around after 2 hours and head back to your lodgings and a hot shower. Exhilarating!
If you need bikes and equipment the tour operator Pedal Power in Vienna is your first choice. They have been specializing in helping visitors to organize their trip for more than 20 years.
Get a bike guide; for example the Esterbauer Bike Line Guide will be really helpful in planning your trip.
On these bike trails you can choose Vienna as a stage stop:
Bicycles and Public Transportation in Vienna
What you need to know if you want to transport your bike with public transportation.
Bike and Ride
All-important traffic junctions - especially at subway stations - provide the opportunity to park bicycles (about 17,000 bicycle stands) to facilitate changing to public transportation. Parking is free of charge: it is recommended to always lock your bicycle.
Bicycle Transport in Vienna's Public Transportation
- Mon-Fri: if a working day: 9 a.m. -3 p.m. and after 6:30 p.m.; Sat, Sun and holidays all day, Free!
- Entry is permitted only through those doors that are specially marked with a bicycle symbol. In the subway, please always place your bicycle perpendicular to the direction in which the train travels.
Bicycles cannot be carried on buses and trams for safety reasons. Exception: folding bicycles.
Schnellbahn (City Train)
- Bicycles are permitted at any time in every train. Reservations are not possible, and bicycles can only be taken on board if sufficient free space is available
- Prices: Within Vienna, you will need a discounted single ticket (“child’s ticket”) for your bicycle. For trips outside Vienna, special tickets are offered by the Austrian Train Company.
Rules for riding and parking bicycles in Vienna
Parks in Vienna create a very special situation because many of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Even the walkways and paths are protected! This includes the following parks Augarten, Belvederegarten, Burggarten, Volksgarten, and Schönbrunn. In Vienna, there are bike racks at more than 3,400 different locations that provide space for more than 42,000 bicycles. Every year new parking spaces are added.
If you cannot find a bicycle parking facility, the bike should be parked in such a way that it can neither fall over nor obstruct traffic. Bicycles may be parked only on sidewalks that are wider than 2.5 meters. Bicycles may also be parked in the automobile parking lane. When parking bicycles, make sure that tactile or acoustic aids for people with visual impairments remain free and safely usable. It is not allowed to park in bus stops that don’t have bike racks, on guidance systems, in green areas, on non-public areas as well as on other areas with no-parking restrictions.
At subway stations, it is not allowed to lock the bike about to the handrail around the station. Bicycles locked in front of escalators and entrances to subway station will be removed. In emergencies, people need space to get out of the station quickly. The removed bicycles are turned over to the MA 48. Picking up the bike is tedious and, above all, expensive.
The history of bicycles in Vienna
Just one year after the invention of the first “Laufrad” (running bike or Draisine) by Karl Freiherr Drais von Sauerbronn in 1817, the company Anton Burg & Sohn built replicas in a simplified form in Vienna and offered them for sale from 1818. The Draisine, which was originally made entirely of wood, was improved around 1860 in France by the brothers Pierre and Ernest Michaux to the “pedal wheel”, the Vélocipède. The wheel had front wheel drive, pedals and a brake. From 1869 such “bicycles” were also made in Vienna, for example by the craftsmen Carl Lenz and Friedrich Maurer.
The high-wheel (“penny-farthing”) enthusiasm emanating from England seized Vienna around 1880. In general, the beginning of the greater importance of the bicycle can be dated to the 1880s. There was a rapid development of various types of bicycles, mainly due to technical changes and the emerging use of ball bearings, hubs, pedals, metal rims and spokes, and solid rubber tires. In addition to the penny-farthing, popular models were a "Tricycle" (tricycle with two rear wheels), and the lower wheel (also "Safety Bicycle") with chain drive, which was already very close to today's bicycles.
The emergence of Vienna cycling clubs and the first races
The first club to adopt the new means of transport was the "Wiener Vélocipède-Club" founded in September 1869. It also organized the first bicycle race for Vienna, which took place on May 29, 1870 in the Prater. The first penny-farthing race took place in Prater on June 11, 1882 near the horse race track At the beginning of the 1880s, numerous clubs were founded including the Viennese Bicycle Club (1881, with a clubhouse in the Prater 1899), Vienna Tricycle Club (1882), Vienna Cyclist Club (1883; with the first clubhouse) and the Wanderer (1883, clubhouse). Members were mainly business people, merchants, civil servants, employees, but also ten nobles, including Hanns Bohatta and Eduard Engelmann. At the end of 1883 there were ten bicycle clubs in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1886 there were eight cycling clubs in Vienna. On October 3, 1886, a race (club championship of the "Wanderer") took place on the racetrack of the "Wiener Rennverein für Radsport" (Vienna Racing Club for Cycling) located where today's Lassallestraße is found. The winner was Hanns Bohatta. In 1886 the "First Viennese Vélocipède- and Sporting Goods Exhibition" was organized. In 1888 there were 13 bicycle clubs with 700 members in Vienna. In 1889, the "Wanderer" was the first Viennese cycling association to publish its own journal, and in 1896 a cyclist manual was published. In 1894 the Währinger Bicycle Club was founded, which set up a practice track in the Türkenschanze next to the Gasthof Holzer. When this no longer met their requirements, the club leased land in 1898 from Prince Czartoryski and built the Währinger cycle track.
Bicycles in City Traffic
Riding the earliest forms of bicycle was initially banned from the streets of Vienna. Bicycles were too quiet and thus thought to be a potential danger to passers-by and horse-drawn vehicles. Only at a few places, such as the Prater, was cycling allowed. Early on, cycling was viewed solely as a sport or leisure activity. Over time however, the wish arose in Vienna to use the bicycle as a means of transport in road traffic.
The Viennese city administration, as well as the K. and K. Lieutenancy for Lower Austria, were skeptical about the bicycle. The first bicycle regulations for Vienna from 1885 reflect this mistrust of cycling in the very strict regulations that were set for the use of bicycles. For example, it was ordered that every cyclist had to take a bicycle driving test at the "Wiener Rennverein für Radfahrsport" and carry a bicycle driving license. The number of the license had to be marked on the bike in the form of a number plate. In 1885, the police department issued the 10,000ste biking license. According to the regulation of 1885, cyclists also had to carry a lantern and carry a whistle to attract attention. It was clearly regulated which roads were prohibited for cycling. This included all major transport routes, such as the Ringstraße, the Kai, the Landesgerichtsstraße, but also the Praterstraße, Josefstädterstraße or the Landstraßer Hauptstraße. Likewise, cycling was forbidden on all roads with tramway tracks because it was thought that bicyles would prove to be a danger for the horse-drawn trams. Thus almost all major roads were excluded from the use of the bicycle. Important were the paragraphs for the correct overtaking of horse-drawn vehicles and the consideration of pedestrians. Even riding in groups was prohibited. Cyclists were not allowed to ride side by side and had to keep at least 20 meters distance to other cyclists.
The bicycle as a catalyst for social developments
Even though Vienna, in contrast to other cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin, did not become a cycling city before the motorization of traffic, the liberalization of bicycle traffic in Vienna in 1900 still led to the first bicycle boom. The bicycle as a cheap means of transport became significant for the mobility of broad sections of the population. At the turn of the century, the bicycle was not only sport equipment, but it was also used professionally to get around the city (postmen, company messengers, but also police and doctors used bicycles).
It also played a role in the Viennese workers' movement. The workers' education associations of the 1870s formed cultural and sports organizations in which the gymnasts and cyclists were the most important sections at the beginning. At first, the worker cyclists were still on high wheels and their club was called "The Bee". The clubs bought bicycles on installments, drove to the country every Sunday and combined these trips with political work. At the time of the state of emergency, when the worker meetings in the local drinking halls became illegal and too dangerous, the weekend outings on bicycles provided workers with the opportunity to continue their discussions.
The bicycle as a means of transportation also became an important element in furthering women’s emancipation. From the 1890s, the bike became more and more popular with young women who also organized themselves into bicycle clubs. In 1894 the "First Viennese Ladies Bicycle Club" was founded. Women literally got rid of the corset on the bicycle and cycling led to a revolutionary change in women's fashion such as the development of the pants skirt and the wearing of men’s pants when they cycled. The bicycle provided women with a private means of transportation away from control and the prying eyes of society and provided many new possibilities that hadn’t been open to them before.
The bicycle versus the automobile
With the increasing popularity of the automobile after the First World War, the bicycle lost its importance as a means of transport. In 1934, a bicycle tax was imposed in Vienna and in that year 127,900 license plates were issued. When the Höhenstraße, through the Vienna Woods was opened in 1936, bike races, including penny-farthing racing, were regularly organized. One of the first propaganda actions of the National Socialists on the Viennese level was the abolition of the unpopular bicycle levy in June 1938. The possession of bicycles during the Second World War had to be reported to the Main Economic Office.
After the Second World War, like elsewhere in the world, traffic was organized to entirely to aid motorized automobiles. The bicycle almost disappeared completely out of the cityscape until the 1980s. Only in the last 30 years has the bicycle experienced a renaissance as an environmentally friendly, fast, and alternative means of transport.
In 1983, the municipal council decided on a cycle path concept. By the end of 1986 there were 168 kilometers, and by 1991 completed 430.5 kilometers of bike paths, including the "Danube Canal Path", and the “Ring bike path2 (where in 1993 the separation of the cyclists from the pedestrians was first put into place). In addition, by August 1990, 500 bicycle parking facilities with almost 5,000 individual parking spaces had been installed. Cycling increased by one third between 1986 and 1991 in Vienna to almost 5% of all traffic. The city goal is to reach 15% of transport in the city done by bicycle.
By December 2015, the Vienna cycle path network covered 1,298 kilometers. Of these, 53.73 percent are cycle routes (where there is general driving ban for motorized vehicles), 20.74 percent structural facilities (cycle path, pedestrian and cycle path) and 25.53 percent marked facilities (cycle lanes, multi-purpose lanes and cycling against the one-way). Similarly, in recent years, the one-way streets in Vienna has been continuously opened for cycling. Cycling against the one-way is allowed on a length of about 254 kilometers. In the meantime, around 39,000 (2004: 15,600) public bicycle parking spaces are currently available in Vienna. The bicycle’s share of traffic in the city area increased to 7 percent by 2015.
Most of the information in the above section came from https://www.geschichtewiki.wien.gv.at/Fahrrad