The transformation of Vienna’s Mariahilferstrasse, one of Austria’s most prominent shopping streets, has turned a street for cars into a great public space for people (see my previous blogposts on the actual transformation and the end result). The 1.6 km long street now consists of two shared space areas and one pedestrian area and has become a vibrant, green and livable public space for Viennese citizens and in particular the residents of the two adjoining dense inner districts Neubau and Mariahilf.
During a recent walk along Mariahilferstrasse I took some photos which should better illustrate the street’s transformation as I combined them with freely available photos from the (not so long ago) past. Use the interactive white slider in each picture to explore by moving it to the left and right edges of the pictures!
Despite 60,000 pedestrians vs. 10,000 cars using Mariahilferstrasse on a regular day, pedestrians were forced to use the often crowded sidewalks. The transformation redistributes road space to give pedestrians priority and allows them to walk around and cross the street more freely. People particularly love the pedestrian area and immediately started to use the whole space once the different street levels were removed.
The pictures should also show the amount of space that we waste not only for moving cars but in particular also for parking cars. Apart from occupying scarce public space, slowing down and removing these cars also made it possible to create great commercial and non-commercial places to sit and made it much easier and safer for people to cross the street, thereby adding positive economic effects as well.
The two “Begegnungszone” shared space areas also empower pedestrians (and cyclists) by forcing cars to slow down and interact with other road users. Given the amount of space wasted for parking cars, it comes as no surprise that more opportunities to sit were the biggest request from citizens during the comprehensive public engagement process. In this regard, diverse street furniture, water tables and many green elements create lots of opportunities for people to sit down and encourage conversations and interactions.