Vienna crowned world’s greenest city for its parks and public transit

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By Johannes Pleschberger & Natalie Huet
Vienna's Art History Museum
Vienna's Art History Museum   -  Copyright  Image by aguettl from Pixabay

Vienna has been declared the world's greenest city by a Canadian-American consulting company.

The firm, Resonance, analysed the air quality, numbers of parks and access to public transport across the world's most visited cities.

"The birthplace of modernism has a bounty of fresh ideas about mobility and public parks," the ranking said of the Austrian capital.

"But the commitment comes from a history of methodical city planning that has given the world everything from the English garden-inspired City Park (opened in 1862) to an actual national park just outside of town (Nationalpark Donau Auen)."

It also praised Vienna as "the European benchmark for public transit," with almost half of the city’s population holding an annual transit pass.

"Vienna is really wonderful, with over 50 percent green areas, which is unique. Of course, they are unfairly distributed," Birgit Hebein, vice mayor of Vienna, Green Party, told Euronews.

"That's why during this pandemic we’re creating pop-up bike paths and opening up roads for pedestrians. I think that's tremendously important. Not everyone is lucky to have a park right outside the door."

European cities emerging from weeks-long coronavirus lockdowns have been scrambling to accommodate the growing number of people hopping onto their bikes to avoid crowds on public transit.

Pop-up bike paths can give provide the extra space, and fast. But according to university professor Azra Korjenic, professor for ecological building at Technical University of Vienna, longer-term strategies are needed.

"This pandemic has shown us that many people are not allowed to leave their homes, and older, sick people probably will stay indoors all year round and are hardly allowed to go outside. That means they just need something green nearby," she said.

Vienna is not equally green in all city districts, but more and more international rankings are giving the Austrian capital high marks for its quality of life.

Solar energy systems have also recently become mandatory on all new buildings in the capital.

Re-thinking cities in light of the coronavirus pandemic

Resonance regularly publishes its Best Cities rankings, but for this year’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day it focused on the 50 most visited cities in the world -- based on the total number of TripAdvisor reviews -- to rank the greenest ones.

The consultancy said it based its list on a series of criteria "that seem particularly relevant as we think about the meaning of density and the future of urban planning in the context of the coronavirus and government mandated social distancing":

  • Percentage of public green spaces
  • Percentage of total energy needs from renewable energy
  • Percentage of population who use public transportation to go to work
  • Level of air pollution
  • Per capita water consumption
  • Walkability
  • Availability of city-wide recycling
  • Availability of city-wide composting
  • Number of farmer’s markets

Here are the world's 10 greenest cities, according to Resonance:

1. Vienna, Austria

2. Munich, Germany

3. Berlin, Germany

4. Madrid, Spain

5. São Paulo, Brazil

6. Manchester, United Kingdom

7. Lisbon, Portugal

8. Singapore

9. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

10. Washington D.C., USA