Interview with Mayor Siegfried Nagl at the bicycle summit 2019 in Graz – 27 May 2019
Kloss: How do you get people on bikes in Graz?
Nagl: (laughs) well to a large part I have to bring them down, because we currently experience quite a bicycle boom. This is probably because we have so much youth, there are more than 100.000 young people in schools, education, universities but also in many companies. We try in Graz for many years to be a bicycle city and set many initiatives. We plan whole districts where cycling is an integrative part of living, so we build less parking lots for cars and more parkings for bicycles. We try to foster cycling and build bicycle paths in different speed areas. It was remarkable that we took one car lane around the castle hill and transformed it to a bicycle path. This was a brave step and we need more of them.
Kloss: What do commuters need as motivation to switch from the car to the bike?
Nagl: In the Ruhr area in Germany they built bicycle highways with 6m width between Dortmund and Essen to make commuting by bike possible. So 50.000 car rides could be reduced. This motivated me very much. 100.000 people commute to Graz everyday because we have so many jobs. These are incredible many vehicles, who drive to the city centre. I hope to find partners with the mayors of the neighbouring municipalities and the Federal State of Styria to connect the bicycle paths to a regional network.
The e-bike also has much potential, if we offer this as a service and more bike parking, we could reduce thousands of car rides everyday.
Kloss: Where should bicycle highways be constructed?
Nagl: We conducted an analysis together with the Federal State of Styria. Especially in the south of Graz are not many bicycle paths, although many commuters come from there.
Kloss: In the neighbouring municipalities are many mayors, who are interested to build bicycle highways.
Nagl: Much is already happening between the municipalities. We have to connect the main suburban districts in the south to the city. We have to invest much more money, we have seen that in Germany and the Netherlands, where bicycle highways get constructed. The people want to live along these routes and also enterprises find it attractive to settle there.
Kloss: Is the bicycle highway of the Technical University still in planning stage?
Nagl: Yes this is a big topic right now, the Technical University wants to connect the university buildings better. The Mandell street is unfortunately very trafficked and parked, so a large part of cyclists, if they are brave at all to drive there, sidestep on the side walk. Maybe we succed to build a residential garage, then we can dedicate one parking lane to a two-directional bicycle paths.
Kloss: So pushing back the car and transforming space for cyclists is the big challenge.
Nagl: Yes this is the big challenge. The traffic pyramid must be put upside down, the car has been prioritized strongly since the 50s, everything else had to be subordinated. When I hear how people in Austria wants to do something for the environment, and in the same time 5 million cars are registered, this is a big contradiction to me. Maybe we can use the car more rational, the large part of ride in Graz are between 4 and 8 km long, by bike this is not a thing at all. I was quite a bike grouch in the past years, because I am a runner, and runners obviously have a problem with cycling and opposite. Now I ride always by bike and don’t stress myself, I always calculate more time. There are so many sidelanes, where you can get from A to B without being stressed by car traffic, so my appeal is: take a few minutes more time, then everything is not so hectic.
Kloss: What is the future of urban mobility in Graz?
Nagl: Mobility is getting much more diverse. In the centre and maybe also many commuters will switch to the bicycle.
Kloss: Graz almost reached its goal of 20% share of cyclists until 2020. What’s the next goal for the share of cyclists?
Nagl: The goal is very ambitious at the moment, because the City of Graz grows strongly by about 5.000 inhabitants per year. So we are content we could not only keep the modal split of cylists but even increase it.
Kloss: Do you ride the bike?
Nagl: I always made sure that my residence and work place are almost identical, so I can walk. My car is unfortunately most of the time only standing, and it takes much space. We can not help but to conquer back the surface of the streets by building more garages, because so many cars are registered. If you look back over the decades it is actually unbelievable how much quality of life in the city was taken by the car.
Kloss: Is the garage at the iron gate still planned?
Nagl: Yes it will probably come as central garage. If it comes, we replace parkings on the surface. In the Kaiserfeld alley is a big wish to remove the cars. The garage is also necessary due to the competition between shopping centres in the outskirts and the city centre. These shopping centres in the outskirts cause much more pollution and traffic. According to a studies cyclists buy more often and even more than car drivers.