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14 January 2011

Prof. Hermann Knoflacher: “Our car-addicted society is not easy to handle so we have to make changes step by step to improve sustainable mobility”

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Prof. Hermann Knoflacher has been active in the sustainable mobility field for about 40 years. He is conducting research in sustainable transport at the Institute for Traffic Planning and Traffic Engineering at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. He talked about sustainable mobility development and his scientific solution

You have studied the effects of technology and growth on sustainable mobility. What conclusions did you reach?
We live in a totally man-made environment and the effects of living in this environment were not known. We produced trains and cars and with them congestion. More roads were built instead of introducing other solutions. So the core problem, human behavior and parking places, was not recognized at all. The car promises everybody who is using it that less energy is needed compared to biking and walking. The solution is not traffic flow but to recognize how parking effect human behavior. We can encourage sustainable mobility by giving people back their choice. I know that if you in a city have, for example, 100 bus stops and only 50 car parking places people will choose public transport because the distance from the bus stop to home is closer than walking from the parking place.

What sustainable mobility solutions are developed in Vienna at the moment?
We have 1200 km of bike lanes and one of my former assistants is working on innovative bike lane solutions. For example, on very narrow one-way roads cyclists are allowed to bike in opposite direction, which makes it possible for cyclists to use more roads than car users. You can also rent bikes one hour at the time for free. This is a systematic approach. Electric bikes are used in hilly places in Austria, but at the moment electric bikes are not discussed in Vienna because it’s not so hilly here. We have electric mobility through trams and the subway and we might connect it with electric cars which can be rented. Since 2002 the car ownership in Vienna has decreased by 3-4 percent per year. Parking places are removed and trees are planted instead. I’m not against cars, but today’s environment is forcing people to use their cars. The virus is that everyone who constructs a building is obliged to provide parking places, even though this damages the expansion of public transport and our health. The city of Vienna has followed my recommendation up to 70 percent when it comes to for example building car-free areas. My scientific solution is when 100 car parking places are built on the right places underground, 160 should be removed on the surface. Today it’s one to one in Vienna and I can understand this. In practice you have to make compromises. Our car-addicted society is not easy to handle so we have to make changes step by step. I think my scientific solution will happen in some years from now because people give up their cars easier nowadays and use public transportation, bike and walk instead.

You are involved in the bike sharing scheme Leihrad-Nextbike in Austria. What are the key findings?
We are analyzing the behavior of people. Where they rent their bikes, where they return them and how long they rent them. By trying to understand users we can plan better. However, we are not yet finished. provides its content to all media free of charge. We would appreciate if you could acknowledge as the source of the content.
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