33rd StVO amendment: Finally improvements for cycling?
The years of lagging behind compared to other European countries are now finally to be partially made up for. An important step in the right direction for more safety for cyclists will be taken in autumn. Changes such as a legally defined minimum overtaking distance, a green arrow for cyclists at traffic lights and side-by-side cycling are just a few examples in the Road Traffic Regulations (StVO), which will come into force on the 1st of October 2022. Is this the long awaited starting signal for safe cycling in Austria? We provide you with an overview of those regulations that, in our opinion, are the most important and beneficial for cycling in the future.
Minimum overtaking distance of 1.5 metres
Do you recognise the following scenario? Cars that pass by far too close and you are afraid of being pushed off the road by a car. As of October, this problem will be a thing of the past, because Austria is following in the footsteps of countries like France, Spain and Germany and introducing a legally defined overtaking distance. In the future, motor vehicle drivers will have to keep a distance of 1.5 metres from cyclists when overtaking in towns, and even 2 metres outside towns. Up to a speed of 30 km/h, however, this safe overtaking distance may be undercut. The previous regulation applies here, which states that the distance should be kept that corresponds to road safety and the speed of the vehicle. This exception stirs up unease among some cyclists, as it is not people’s safety that is given top priority, but rather differentiation based on speed. We hope that this will be considered in future changes to the law.
Green arrow for cyclists at traffic lights
In order to reduce waiting times at traffic lights, it will be possible in future to turn on red at individual junctions by attaching an additional sign with a green arrow and bicycle symbol. An analogous regulation is to follow at T-junctions to make it possible to cycle straight ahead. In these situations, cyclists have to wait for pedestrians to cross. This means that they must stop before turning. This regulation has been copied from Germany, although in Belgium, Denmark, France and Switzerland the “give priority” principle applies, which is intended to provide more comfort.
Side-by-side cycling allowed
Parents can now breathe a sigh of relief, because in future side-by-side cycling will be permitted under certain circumstances. There is a big comfort for all parents who always wondered whether they should ride in front or behind their child, because now it is allowed to cycle next to children up to 12 years of age. In addition, it also applies that on roads with a maximum speed limit of 30 km/h, adults are also allowed to ride side by side. However, this is not permitted on rail and priority roads or against the direction of travel of (open) one-way streets. In this case, the left-hand bicycle must be in one lane, no one may be obstructed and overtaking must not be endangered.
Approaches to cycle crossings
There will also be some minor changes in the maximum speed allowed when approaching unregulated cyclist crossings. Like the previous rule, you may only approach them at a maximum speed of 10 km/h. However, this rule will cease not apply if there are no motor vehicles in the immediate vicinity.
Fast e-bikes on interurban cycle paths
You have go with the flow and their trends, and one thing is certain: e-bikes are definitely very much on the rise. That is why S-pedelecs (e-bikes with speeds of up to 45 km/h and compulsory licence plates) are allowed to use cycle paths or mixed footpaths and cycle paths outside built-up areas. This also applies to agricultural vehicles, but both types of vehicle may only travel at a maximum speed of 25 km/h.
Facilitation for bicycle lanes
The introduction of cycle lanes will be made much easier by the fact that the authorities may in future, under certain conditions, determine that a cycle lane may be used by motor vehicles permanently or at selected times or for selected purposes.
Crossing intersections in a closed formation
Crossing an intersection in a closed group of cyclists is to be permitted, even if the traffic lights turn red during the crossing. However, this cycling group must consist of at least 10 members. When entering the intersection, the priority rules for cyclists must be observed. The person in front is responsible for signaling the end of the group to the other drivers in the intersection by hand signal and, if necessary, dismounting from the bicycle. A reflective waistcoat must be worn for safety.
Clarification regarding traffic fines
The changes to the fines also mean that your wallet can breathe a sigh of relief. Here it applies that even multiple violations of equipment regulations of the bicycle ordinance regarding reflectors or lights are only to be punished as a single administrative offence. Nevertheless, please always make sure that your bicycle is properly equipped, because it is not only about your safety, but also about the safety of others.
Bicycle parking in pedestrian zones
Up to now, the parking of bicycles in pedestrian zones has only been allowed during times of permitted use for the duration of the activity to be carried out there. This will change with the new amendment, parking of bicycles will always be allowed.
Changes for pedestrians and cyclists
In addition to the above-mentioned changes, there are further improvements for pedestrians and cyclists:
- The eternal waiting at traffic lights, but also the stressful crossing at green phases is to be stopped, because the green phases will be longer and the red phases shorter.
- Cars encroaching on cycle paths and pedestrian routes are finally a thing of the past, as it is expressly forbidden to obstruct traffic areas reserved for pedestrians or cyclists.
- More peace and safety will be ensured in school streets in the future, as the school environment will not be accessible by motor vehicle at certain times, but only on foot or by bicycle.
- This point is particularly relevant for the start of school: passing public transport at bus stops is not permitted for drivers – including cyclists.
- New signs for dead-ends-streets with the possibility for cyclists to pass or drive through will be placed.
In our opinion, the changes in the legal text listed above are the most relevant. For more detailed information, we recommend reading the StVO amendment. Basically, we can say that these will have a positive effect on bicycle traffic. Some of the changes have been demanded for years and, in our opinion, are coming into force belatedly. But let’s say: better now than never. We think the increase in the minimum distance is particularly important, as respectful interaction with each other and, above all, the safety of all road users should be the top priority in road traffic. Also, the fact that parents are allowed to cycle next to their children is definitely very helpful and saves a lot of nerves. Time will tell what effect the changes will have and whether and how they will be accepted by the population. A long overdue important building block has been set for safe cycling in the future. It is also our goal to make cities more liveable in the near future, which is why we consider this amendment to be good, but we see it only as a first step in the right direction, which still has to be followed by others. We are looking forward to what is still to come and will keep you informed.