The Austrian capital of Vienna installed nine additional, but temporary pedestrian priority zones to ease conditions for walking outside during restrictions related to the COVID-19 crisis. Four of these “encounter zones” (Begegnungszonen in German) opened on Good Friday, this year and five more are planned to open in the week after Easter. The zones are in response to the national COVID-19 measures to close large national parks in Vienna and enforce a minimum distance between individuals of one metre and encourage people to stay at home except for essential activities nation-wide.
All COVID-19 restrictions resulted in an increased need for space to walk outside due to the lack of other options. The encounter zones are easing the situation by dedicating space to pedestrians and giving them priority in the first place, but at the same time not cutting off other transport modes. The zones are planned to stay in force until the beginning of May. Additionally, the Viennese administration has previously opened 20 streets for pedestrians only.
Vice Mayor Birgit Hebein states that closing streets and offering more space to walk supports national COVID-19 measures. The more space is given to people, the more likely they can stay the required distance from each other. Providing space is a smart move for residents' health and safety. Federal Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler welcomes the Viennese initiative: “Many do not have an own garden or balcony. They need to go outside to avoid cabin fever at home. […] Now, all who need to go outside have space for this.”
Vienna gives are providing support in other areas as well, such as dropping any fees for kindergartens and child care facilities during the pandemic and offering work grants for artists and scientists to bridge the current situation.
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Article published first at www.orf.at on 9 April 2020