Bike riders in Austria banned from using handheld mobiles as changes to cycling laws take force

Other amendments to existing regulations include cyclists no longer having to keep to bike lane

by Simon_MacMichael   April 3, 2013  

Vienna Cycle Hire (Source- European Cyclists' Federation on Flickr)

New traffic regulations that took effect in Austria last Sunday include one making it illegal for cyclists to use a handheld mobile phone while riding, with lawbreakers liable to a fine of €50. As with rules applicable to drivers of motor vehicles, bike riders will however be allowed to use a phone via a hands-free kit, reports the English language website, Austrian Times.

Other new measures incorporated into Austria’s road traffic regulations include one that authorises the creation of mixed zones – similar, from the sound of it, to the ‘naked streets’ concept pioneered in the Netherlands and adopted, for example, in London’s Exhibition Road – where motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians all share the space.

The law states that in such zones, the maximum speed is 20 kilometres an hour or in exceptional cases, and where there is no traffic risk, 30 kilometres an hour. At all times the most vulnerable road users has priority – so pedestrians take precedence over cyclists, who are given right of way over motor vehicles.

The Ministry of Transport believes that introducing those zones will reduce conflict and enhance road safety.

Where a separate cycle lane or path is provided, cyclists will no longer be required to keep to it and where it is safe to do so and does not disrupt the flow of traffic, they are now permitted to use the road instead if they wish. 

According to the ministerial press release in December announcing the changes, that is aimed at reducing the danger caused by overcrowding bike paths.

The other significant change is authorising highways authorities to create what are called “bicycle roads” – roads, or sections of roads, open to cyclists and pedestrians only, that may only be used by motor vehicles for picking up or setting down.

Traffic minister Doris Bures said the various regulations had been recommended by an expert committee on cycling that she convened in 2009 and which included representatives of academic institutions, national and local government and cycling advocacy groups, among others.

She added that the new regulations were aimed at improving road safety, that they came against the background of a big rise in cycling in the country, with a 40 per cent increase in cycling’s share of journeys from 2007 and 2011, and that there are now 7 million bikes now in the country.

The changes come into effect a little over two months before Vienna hosts the 2013 Velo-City conference in June.

18 user comments

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fair enough!
it it is not appropriate for drivers to use a hand held mobile while driving because it is distracting, then the same logic should be applied to cyclists

posted by dbb [34 posts]
4th April 2013 - 9:47

4 Likes

Not exactly the same is it? The main differences being a powerful engine and a couple of tonnes of metal.

posted by farrell [1520 posts]
4th April 2013 - 9:58

5 Likes

of course it's the same - if you get distracted, and you are not concentrating on the task at hand.
it's not unheard off that a cyclist has caused an accident as the result of other vehicles swerving to avoid them.

posted by dbb [34 posts]
4th April 2013 - 10:03

6 Likes

And of course it's highly unlikely a car driver will lose his balance as a result of using a hand-held device

Something I've done to highly comical (to onlookers) effect

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
4th April 2013 - 10:19

6 Likes

Have to agree, it is the right move. Makes sense!

The time of heroes is dead: the christ god has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs, fear and shame!

Vikeonabike's picture

posted by Vikeonabike [51 posts]
4th April 2013 - 10:28

6 Likes

dbb wrote:
of course it's the same - if you get distracted, and you are not concentrating on the task at hand.
it's not unheard off that a cyclist has caused an accident as the result of other vehicles swerving to avoid them.

So you will be advocating a ban on people using mobile phones whilst walking then?

posted by farrell [1520 posts]
4th April 2013 - 10:30

6 Likes

Makes perfect sense to me.

Although if being on the phone is banned because it needs one hand, I hope eating bananas/flapjacks/gels isn't next!

posted by jstreetley [61 posts]
4th April 2013 - 10:35

4 Likes

jstreetley wrote:
Makes perfect sense to me.

Although if being on the phone is banned because it needs one hand, I hope eating bananas/flapjacks/gels isn't next!

If you are eating whilst driving you'd be deemed to be not in full control of the vehicle, so would be against the law.

http://metro.co.uk/2005/01/25/fined-for-eating-apple-at-the-wheel-592428/

posted by farrell [1520 posts]
4th April 2013 - 10:46

7 Likes

farrell wrote:
So you will be advocating a ban on people using mobile phones whilst walking then?

Do you even have to ask?

Glasgow is hardly the most bustling of metropoli (?) but when I nip out for a sarnie at lunch time I have to play dodgems with other pedestrians texting, browsing or not paying attention while whittering away on their mobes

So yes - damn straight!

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
4th April 2013 - 12:52

9 Likes

So if a driver is intent on harassing a rider as is common, said rider will have to stop to use a phone and be a easy target for said driver rather than being able to call the police and ride...

Giant step backwards.

posted by northstar [1107 posts]
4th April 2013 - 12:56

5 Likes

This isn't about having hands available - people with only one hand are perfectly able to cycle and drive and I know one driver with no hands or arms - so please let's be careful to avoid discrimination here.

This issue is about distraction and I agree that whether driving or cycling you shouldn't use a hand-held phone, and unless the law enforces that we know that lots of people will. In fact I've come to the conclusion that hands-free should also be banned as the distraction level is similar (I've got rid of my own hands-free kit for that reason).

I think that any use of phones when driving, cycling or walking on the roads should be banned. Using a phone while walking elsewhere (ee.g. on the pavement) is pretty low risk and isn't a problem.

Whilst at it I'd ban any use of headphones whilst driving, cycling or walking on the road.

NOTE: I did say "on the road" and yes; I would include crossing the road.

Am I becoming some sort of road facist?

Shay

posted by shay cycles [236 posts]
4th April 2013 - 13:06

9 Likes

A few weeks back I spotted guy cycling the wrong way up Bond Street with an umbrella.

But hey, that's OK because he's a cyclist.

I'm a human being, God damn it! My life has value. I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

posted by Carl [136 posts]
4th April 2013 - 13:12

6 Likes

shay cycles wrote:
This isn't about having hands available - people with only one hand are perfectly able to cycle and drive and I know one driver with no hands or arms - so please let's be careful to avoid discrimination here.

This issue is about distraction and I agree that whether driving or cycling you shouldn't use a hand-held phone, and unless the law enforces that we know that lots of people will. In fact I've come to the conclusion that hands-free should also be banned as the distraction level is similar (I've got rid of my own hands-free kit for that reason)...


I'd argue that in the context of this new Austrian law, it precisely is about having hands available, hence a hands-free kit is legal but a handheld phone isn't.

I agree that a hands-free kit still adds too much to the attention load of a driver/cyclist and it is the attention load rather than the use of a of hand that makes speaking on the phone different from drinking out your water bottle.

posted by jstreetley [61 posts]
4th April 2013 - 14:11

5 Likes

Yes but if it was about having hands available they'd surely have banned using a water bottle on the move, riding with one or no hands and carrying anything in your hand - but the regulation bans the use of handheld mobiles only. I can't know what the thinking was but I'm sure they realised that. using a handheld phone is even more distracting than a hands-free one or carrying something else.

Still I think their move is a positive step in the right directon and I'm sure we ought to have that as a minimum here.

Shay

Shay

posted by shay cycles [236 posts]
4th April 2013 - 18:50

7 Likes

Imagine having to introduce legislation to reduce overcrowding of cycle lanes!

posted by paulfg42 [376 posts]
4th April 2013 - 22:47

3 Likes

shay cycles wrote:
I've come to the conclusion that hands-free should also be banned as the distraction level is similar
Dig around online and you'll find studies showing handsfree is worse than drunk driving, for safety.

I'm not in favour of banning cycle phoning, a proven factor in zero road deaths (or fewer than pedestrian phoning anyway). File under bikes-are-just-little-cars along with cycle indicators, bike seatbelts, bicycle road tax etc.

posted by vbvb [256 posts]
5th April 2013 - 1:56

5 Likes

I find it very distracting being on a bike and on a phone at the same time, I make an effort not to do that.

I think the law is fair if it is civil not criminal and the punishment is not outrageous.

posted by kie7077 [507 posts]
5th April 2013 - 10:44

4 Likes

Politicians doing something sensible..

I hope they emigrate to the UK.

posted by ColinRicketts [3 posts]
6th April 2013 - 19:46

7 Likes