Monday, May 4, 2009

Bicycles in Vienna: Part I

On account of my job, I spend parts of the year in Vienna, Austria. Now that my interest in bicycles is ignited, I have been paying attention to the local bike culture.


Urban cycling is of course much better developed here than in American cities. Bicycle parking is available everywhere, and safe (at least compared to Boston) cycling paths are integrated into the city map. The relaxed-style frame is also far more popular and frequently seen. But are the bicycles lovely?


One interesting phenomenon that Vienna is evidence of, is that any bicycle begins to look attractive once it is fitted with fenders, lights, a chain enclosure, a basket rack in the back, and a dress guard. And in fact, it is more difficult to find a bicycle here without at least some of those features, than with!

No bicycle seen in the city -- be it commuter, racing, or mountain style -- seems safe from fenders, baskets, racks, panniers, and the like. Partly this is due to the regulations that require bicycles to be fitted with functional lights and bell, and partly it is due to the necessities of city living (i.e. transporting groceries). And this does create an overall pleasant impression of the bicycles seen parked on the street. However, beneath the accessories, most of the bicycles I have seen are rather utilitarian and lacking in the grace and pizzazz of their Dutch and English friends. I have spotted a couple of Batavus models, as well as vintage bicycles, but not as many as I had been hoping to see in a European city.

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