As one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe the City of Vienna faces a major challenge to redistribute road space from cars to people to create better, greener and healthier public spaces, in particular in its dense inner districts. In this sense, the transformation of Mariahilferstrasse, one of Austria’s most prominent shopping streets, from a regular road to a street for people with a pedestrian zone and two shared space areas has become a landmark project for Vienna’s future urban development.
This transformation is about fairness: With pedestrian volumes significantly increasing for the past 20 years, around 60,000 pedestrians vs. 10,000 cars used Mariahilferstrasse on a regular day before its transformation while its design showed a clear priority for the car. Today, pedestrians come first and have plenty of opportunities to stroll and to sit down and enjoy this public space. Moreover, pedestrian safety increased as cars move slower and have to communicate with pedestrians and cyclists. As people stay longer, this also brings economic benefits which are reflected in many new businesses (in particular large, renowned retail chains) opening stores on Mariahilferstrasse.
A walk along the 1.6 km long Mariahilferstrasse from Vienna Westbahnhof train station to Museumsquartier cultural quarter shows us how the street was transformed and how its new design and different elements create a more vibrant space and contribute to its popularity (according to a recent survey, two thirds of people who have visited the street after its transformation are either very satisfied or rather satisfied with the result). It should also be noted that construction was completed both on time (two construction periods each lasting for around 6 months) and within budget (EUR 25m).
But now, let’s go for a walk: