Jaywalking in Vienna is taken seriously
Now, until I moved to the United States decades ago, I had no idea what the term ‘jaywalking’ meant or what you had to do to be accused of it. (One British friend of mine visting Los Angeles at the time thought it meant being a prostitute, and argued angrily with the cop trying to give her a ticket).
That is because it is an American term that means crossing a road against traffic rules (eg: crossing the road when the pedestrian light is still on red).
In the U.S., I never took jaywalking laws that seriously as, unless you live in a rules-obsessed state like California, it is rare to ever be given a ticket for jaywalking in America.
In Vienna, Austria, however, that is not the case as Austrian police will quite happily hand out tickets to people they see jaywalking.
Anywhere. At any time. Even if there isn’t a vehicle anywhere on the road 1,000 meters in any direction.
Yep, they are that strict.
That is why when you come to Vienna, you will see people from the oldest person to the youngest child dutifully standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the light to turn green even if there isn’t any traffic.
Not only the police take jaywalking in Vienna seriously
While this has not happened to me as I rarely jaywalk in Vienna (I am too cheap and prefer to spend my money on things I like), I have had several non-Austrian friends say they have been shouted at by elderly Viennese for attempting to cross the road before the pedestrian light had changed to green.
One of them was even told “You are being a bad example to the children”. A fair enough point, I suppose.
In other words, don’t just think the Polizei will be the only ones noticing you jaywalk, as everyday Viennese might have something to say about it as well.
How to avoid getting a jaywalking ticket in Vienna?
As jaywalking tickets in Vienna can be 30-75 euros, it pays to know when and where you can cross legally without waiting for a pedestrian light to change.
While you could get a ticket for crossing at a crossing before the pedestrian light has turned green, Austrian law does allow you to cross a street away from a pedestrian crossing as long as you carefully check traffic before you do, cross in a straight line and..
as long as you are further away than 25 meters from a pedestrian crossing. (#5 on the 1960 Road Traffic Act — which states (5) “If there is a protective path, or it is no more than 25 m away, it must be used to cross the roadway.”
I do know this to be true as I once stopped a Vienna police officer to ask if my crossing the street about 30 meters away from a pedestrian crossing was legal and I was told the “25 meter rule” applies.
In other words, if you are a good gauge of distance and believe you are at least 25 meters away from a pedestrian crossing, you can legally cross a street.
If not, and you absolutely have to cross at that specific second, make sure you take a good long around you before you do. If you get my meaning.
Otherwise, be prepared for the possibility of paying a pretty hefty fine.
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