How to implement the bicycle-friendly city?

Published: 24 August 2023

Marian Haydn | LinkedIn
Marian Haydn holds a Bachelor of Science in Spatial Planning and Regional Planning. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Spatial Planning at the Technical University of Vienna. His academic focus is on equitable traffic planning, with a particular emphasis on public transportation and active mobility.

Selected final essay, published 23rd May 2023
Unravelling the Cycling City MOOC on Coursera

To begin this essay, I will briefly summarize my experiences in the course “Unraveling the Cycling City”.  Then, I will discuss my key takeaway, and at the end, I will talk about the situation in Vienna and  what further questions are important to me.

The course: A ton of small insights and “aha” moments 

For me, there was a lot to learn in this course, and I was able to take away something new and  exciting from almost every chapter. That is why it is not easy for me to identify a specific key  takeaway in this essay. Most of the insights are closely linked, and I had an “aha” moment at many  points. Before I get to my key takeaway, which concerns the legal situation regarding cyclists in the  Netherlands, I would like to mention two aspects that fascinated me and gave me a broader  understanding of cyclists: 

  1. Cyclists do not behave according to the rules/laws because they do not feel safe, which is due to  car-centric planning. Quote: “The current iteration of our transportation system was not designed  with bicycles in mind, and most bicyclists seem focused on surviving in a system designed for a very  different mode of transportation” (Marshall et al, 2017, p.826).
  2. The informal exchange between cyclists through subtle body movements and facial expressions  enables a complex type of communication based on consideration and understanding, which allows  for a smooth flow of traffic between road users in complex traffic situations. Often, rules such as  traffic lights hinder this dynamic (Glaser, 2017).
Key takeaway: Bicycle-friendly jurisprudence in the Netherlands 

One aspect that stands out from all the others is the jurisprudence and “untouchability” of cyclists in  the Netherlands. In accidents between cyclists and car drivers, the car driver is held responsible, even  if the cyclist ran a red light (Brailsford, 2016).

At first, when I saw the video, I thought I had misheard because it is fundamentally different from  what we have in Vienna. Even if a cyclist in Vienna rides over a cyclist crossing at over 10 km/h, the  car driver can argue that they did not see the cyclist coming and may, at most, bear partial  responsibility. 

According to the video from week 4, in the Netherlands, judges do not accept the argument “the  cyclist’s behavior was unexpected and unavoidable” in a dispute. Quote: “Even if an accident occurs  when a cyclist runs a red light, the motorist cannot argue that the cyclist’s behavior was unexpected  and unavoidable” (Brailsford, 2016, 03:37).

It makes sense to differentiate between car drivers and cyclists. After all, one chooses to get into a  car that weighs 1500 kilograms and can potentially kill people, while the other rides a bike that rarely  or never causes deaths. 

For me, the question arises: Where is the best starting point to raise awareness among the  population? Do citizens need to experience the advantages of cycling themselves by using good bike  paths? Is a bicycle-friendly jurisdiction needed first to better protect cyclists in traffic? Or is there no  way around demonstrations and civil disobedience to bring about change? Just like in the late 1960s  in the Netherlands (Week 1.1, How the Dutch got their cycle paths). 

In addition to the broad range of questions that will shape my future education, I have taken great  interest in the publication “Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic.” This manual provides specific planning tips for designing  a city according to the Dutch model. Such information would have greatly aided me in developing my  designs during my undergraduate studies. Moving forward, I intend to utilize the extensive  recommendations presented in this publication during my graduate studies to ultimately implement  high-quality bicycle infrastructure in Vienna and improve the quality of my designs.

Figure 1: Current make up of a junction in Vienna
Figure 2: Design proposal for how the junction could look


Marshall, Piatkowski, D., & Johnson, A. (2017). Scofflaw bicycling: Illegal but rationalJournal of Transport and Land Use10(1), 805–836.

Glaser, M. (2017). What happens if you turn off the traffic lights? The Guardian.

Brailsford.L. [LucasBrailsford]. (2016). Cyclists behaving badly – Understanding cyclist disobedience in Amsterdam

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