So you’re probably thinking, “Heh, this isn’t rocket science – I think I know how to cross a road”.
And you’d be right, but there are some local habits that might make it more of an adventure than you were expecting.
Black and white stripes across a road indicate a “Schutzweg” for pedestrians to cross safely (in theory). In fact, if there is such a zebra crossing within 25m of where you want to cross, then you’re obliged by law to use it.
There are essentially two types: unregulated and regulated.
The adventurous option
“Unregulated” crossings are marked with warning lights or a simple traffic sign like in the photo (check out that hat).
This is where you need to be careful.
Drivers are obliged by law to stop and allow pedestrians using (or clearly waiting to use) these crossings unhindered passage across the road.
But they don’t stop. At least not always.
This can be quite a shock to those used to, for example, UK driving habits.
In fact, in 2014, some 37% of traffic accidents involving pedestrians occurred on zebra crossings. Which tells you something.
So I’d advise always waiting to cross until the cars actually stop for you. Even then, keep an eye out – I’ve seen cars overtake those cars that stopped to let pedestrians cross.
The less adventurous option
“Regulated” crossings use stop/go lights for pedestrians in combination with traffic lights for vehicles, so are much safer to use of course.
Take care though – at junctions a green pedestrian light doesn’t always mean all cars have a red light. Those turning left or right onto the road you’re crossing may still have a green light, though they should normally wait for you to cross.
The sequence for the pedestrian lights is nothing unusual:
1. Red person (don’t cross)
2. Green person (um, cross)
3. Flashing green person (lights are turning red imminently so don’t start crossing)
4. Back to red person
If you’re lucky, you might find one of the rare “couples” pedestrian lights erected when Vienna hosted the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest (pictured).
At most junctions, the pedestrian lights change automatically. But if you see a box like the one in the photo below, you need to press the button marked “drücken” and then the word “warten” (“wait”) will show up and the lights will eventually change in your favour.