After weeks of tug-of-war and power struggles within the city government, an agreement seems to be emerging in Vienna.
At the beginning of August, the government announced at literally the last second that it had decided against a car-free city centre after all. Only a few weeks ago the City District Head Markus Figl (ÖVP) gave the red light. But now is the turning point in the drama about the car-free city centre, because according to information from the Austrian courier, there is now a decree with 16 exceptions. Transportation City Councillor Birgit Hebein (Greens) is relieved after the back and forth of recent weeks: "Now we have completed the new draft of the regulation on the driving ban in the inner city. Now there is nothing objectively standing in the way of implementing the project".
The concept for Vienna's city centre envisages that in future only neighbouring residents who also have the so-called "Parkpickerl" will be allowed to enter the zone. However, under certain conditions, people who do not live in the city centre can also enter the city by motorised means. According to the current state of knowledge, taxis, emergency vehicles, companies with business premises and employees who work at night are among the exceptions. However, no exceptions are to be made for politicians, nor for pupils, for example, who are brought to school by car. Critics are up in arms, but when viewed objectively, this somewhat harsh-looking approach by the government is anything but unfair or exaggerated. First and foremost, the harsh line is consistent and shows Vienna's uncompromising willingness to make a difference in terms of the environment and to break new ground.
Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) has the final word in the matter. He has not yet agreed to any deadlines and will only present his timetable for a car-free city "when the concept has been worked out in a balanced way", as he expressly emphasised to media representatives.
Vienna now has the unique opportunity to assume a European pioneering position in the field of car-free city centres. But if we hesitate too long and act without courage, the action in Vienna could still become very embarrassing.