what you are reading right now is no normal newspaper. We – the residents of Donaustadt, activists from various organisations, and dedicated citizens from diverse backgrounds – have volunteered our free time in between rallies, everyday life at protest camp, and our regular jobs to create and distribute this publication for free. Let us explain why!
The City Government of Vienna is building a new motorway through Hirschstetten. To this end, it has – sometimes illegally – cut down trees and killed off local wildlife. It has orchestrated the violent removal of climate activists from tents, trees, and construction equipment, including the use of pepper spray and truncheons.
The IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s independent scientific commission for global research into climate change) is issuing dire warnings about the dangerous consequences of going on with business as usual. “We are on a fast track to climate disaster,” declares UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Now the war in Ukraine reminds us that dependence on oil and gas does more than just threaten our livelihood — it helps fund wars, as well. These global issues are inextricably linked to decisions made at the local level. Building more roads for more cars that burn even more fuel — these decisions endanger more than just the climate. Building roads locally contributes globally to social injustice, economic turmoil, and war. And yet, the City Government of Vienna continues with its short-sighted, fossil plans.
That is why in summer 2021 we have formed a new movement: LobauBleibt (“LobauStays”). Protest camps were set up on construction sites and we organised rallies and information sessions. Today, there are thousands of us willing to take a stand against this new motorway and for an ecological, socially just transformation of transportation.
The city government is spending hundreds of thousands of euros on newspaper ads. As a community organisation, we do not have that kind of budget. But we do have our conviction that these backward policies must be opposed. We are funding our newspaper with nothing more than small donations and we create and distribute it mostly through volunteer work.
We are working together to guarantee a fulfilling future for everybody. You do not have to pitch your tent at a construction site to support our movement. Come by, see for yourself, and we will gladly invite you to join in and participate. Vienna is what we make it!
Your LobauBleibt editorial team
Alexander Behr, Mattis Berger, Christian Bunke, Karl, Marlene Deibl, Isabell
Eckl, Manuel Grebenjak, Mira Kapfinger, Anna Kontriner, Angie Lorenz,
Jutta Matysek, Kurto Wendt
translated by Lukas Prebio
The city highway
According to city plans, the “Stadtstraße Aspern” will cut right through Donaustadt and will clearly lay the foundation for a future Lobau motorway. Climate Minister Gewessler has already vetoed construction of a Lobau motorway last fall, but the city government continues to work towards it. They might claim that they are building a simple “Stadtstraße” (an urban road), but their planned 3,2 km four- to six-lane road with neither pavements nor bike lanes can only really be described as an “Autobahn” (a motorway), which is why we call it a city motorway. Its cost is estimated at € 460 million – that’s € 140 million per kilometre! Local residents and climate activists have been protesting the project for years. But the city government has rejected any serious attempt at discussion and dismissed scientifically sound alternatives. Instead, they just clear out protest camps with police action.
Who profits from the city motorway?
Debates about the city motorway or the Lobau motorway frequently revolve mostly around local traffic needs in Donaustadt. But that is not the real reason why the City of Vienna and the WKO (the Austrian Economic Chamber) are behind these projects.
What Is This Really About?
The “future agreement” between the city government and WKO published earlier this year shows the real intentions of the SPÖ Vienna: the uncompromising development of the city’s economy into a more attractive location for large corporations. They want to turn Vienna into a major hub for international freight transport. By connecting the city more closely to heavy goods traffic, large volumes of merchandise can be carted off to logistics centres on the edge of town. In January, Mayor Ludwig promised the construction of the Lobau motorway to the WKO – against Climate Minister Gewessler’s direct veto. To ensure the construction of these two motorways, the WKO has brought in Martin Biach (ÖVP) to represent its interests as their “Standortanwalt” (“economic location attorney”).
The City Motorway and Its World
The intention is not — as the SPÖ likes to claim in the media — to improve social housing. The motorways are designed to benefit large corporations that compete with small local businesses. Fertile agricultural land is becoming the site of additional construction projects like logistics warehouses, which will result in the soil below being sealed for ever. STRABAG and PORR both have longstanding good relations with the SPÖ and now they’re being paid at least €150 million for the city motorway. Even Vienna Airport has been offered a commission for construction supervision. That’s not a coincidence: it is also investing in logistics centres.
In Everyone’s Interest? No Chance!
What are the consequences for us, the people of Vienna, when the city becomes a “stronger business location”? First of all, it means more money goes into the pockets of corporate executives. Most people do not benefit from it at all. In fact, this project does more than contribute to the climate crisis, it also takes money away from other areas that actually benefit the general public: public transport, elder- and childcare, healthcare, good working conditions, and fair wages. The campaign “Mehr für Care!” (“More for Care!”) demonstrates that investments into the care and social sectors create double the amount of new jobs as equivalent investments into large, climate-damaging construction projects.
The promise of social housing is quickly exposed as nothing more than a pretext. Very little public housing is actually being built and affordable, publicly subsidised housing is usually only available for a limited period of time. And after a few years, management can hike up the rent.
The SPÖ Vienna’s attacks against LobauRemains are just the tip of the iceberg. Lurking beneath the surface are construction companies like PORR and STRABAG, the WKO, the Federation of Austrian Industries, and the management of Vienna Airport. The SPÖ Vienna only considers transportation policies for the common good if they are also in line with capitalist interests. This can and must be rejected decisively. Ultimately, one thing needs to be clear: a groundswell of environmental activism will make it impossible for any city government to construct any further motorways.
The Patriarchy Likes to Drive
The city motorway with its up to six lanes will run past residential areas, schools, and preschools. Many trees and portions of parks have already been cleared away to make room for construction sites. This begs the question: who is planning these projects and who benefits from them?
Driving is a predominantly male activity and the same is true for road construction. And that is precisely what steers city planning to this day. The focus continues to be on roads and individual motor vehicles, while footways, bike lanes, and car-free public spaces are pushed to the sides. These priorities in allocating space do not just sideline people who cannot drive cars — like children and the elderly — but it is practically tailor-made for men. That is because the typical Viennese driver is male and in his mid-sixties. On average, he uses his car for 39% of his daily journeys. In comparison, women between 25 and 34 only choose a car for 8% of their travels. (Source: “Aktive Mobilität in Wien”, 2021, City of Vienna; the study found in the article only differentiates between men and women, which is why only these two genders are referenced.)
When it comes to foot traffic, the gender ratio is basically reversed. Women of every age are more active pedestrians than males. Women cover almost a third of their daily journeys on foot, whereas for men it’s just 24%. One reason for this is that women still do the majority of unpaid work (“care work”), such as care, housework, and parenting. Many of these activities involve a lot of walking. For instance, more than half of all daily shopping is done on foot. While working men usually have simple and straightforward commutes to and from work, women’s everyday chores usually involve much more complex routes. Women are not just burdened with most unpaid work, but the transport system adds to those problems. Vienna’s roads and public transport are laid out like a spiderweb that converges at a central point. That is helpful for people who need to take direct, central routes. But even small trips inside of a single district — especially in outlying areas — can be made much more difficult as a result. So the metro can take you from Stadlau to Schottentor in 20 minutes, but getting to your kid’s preschool is a minor odyssey.
But where do these plans come from? The way public infrastructure is planned and built has developed historically. In our industrial society, workplaces have moved further and further away from homes and the resulting commutes are prioritised in traffic planning. The supposed duty of men to provide for their family is given priority when it comes to making traffic more efficient. In addition, most city planners are male. Naturally, they design cities and traffic routes that meet their own needs. But the fact that care work comes with different requirement regarding public space is often neglected.
So what do these facts mean for the city motorway? Instead of wasting over €450 million on a motorway, the city government should begin factoring gender equity into their plans for developing public spaces! That much money could actually be useful to society if it would be invested into more public transport (particular in outer districts), secure bike lanes, and expanded walkways. Such a fundamental adjustment requires a greater appreciation for care work – but also more brave women in the position of decision makers.
„Where would we be today if everybody had always been obedient?”
„Where would we be today if everybody had always been obedient?”, asked LobauStays spokeswoman Lucia Steinwender just a few days after the City of Vienna threatened her with legal action to the amount of over a million. “Civil disobedience” is the deliberate violation of laws and social norms with the goal of pointing out injustices. Without social movements and civil disobedience, women still would not have the vote and India would continue to be a colony. Our labour rights would not be what they are today, just as many precious natural habitats would be completely lost. There would be no Civil Rights for BIPOC in the United States and no ban on nuclear energy in Austria. None of these achievements just appeared out of thin air. They were fought for by members of civil society and pushed through against the legal status quo at the time. Without the many people who have defied injustice in the past, we would live in a wholly different world.
The occupation of the Hainburger Au is the most famous example of civil disobedience in the history of Austria. In the winter of 1984/85, thousands of people occupied the Hainburger Au east of Vienna to prevent a logging operation intended to clear space for a power plant. “Back then, we said: where justice becomes injustice, resistance becomes a duty”, explained the late spokeswoman of the Hainburg occupation, Freda Meissner-Blau, in an interview in 2008. “Now, might is usually right. Even if it’s in the wrong.” But it’s pointless to wait for decisions to be made from above, according to Meissner-Blau.
On 19 December 1984, the police attempted to clear out the Hainburger Au with force. On the very same evening, 40,000 people assembled for an expression of solidarity in central Vienna. Pressure from the streets finally managed to stop the construction of the power plant. The logging was stopped and the forest instead became part of Danube-Auen National Park.
When on 31 August 2021 hundreds of people — many of them quite young — sat down in front of heavy-duty construction vehicles to block work on the city motorway, they followed the call for a “Hainburg 2.0”. “Today the task is even bigger”, said Wolfgang Rehm, who joined the occupation of the Hainburger Au as an 18-year-old straight out of school and who has been active against the Lobau and city motorways for decades. “Back then, we stopped a power plant, but didn’t achieve a turnaround in energy policy.” A few critical voices had called for a wider engagement, but overall, there was a lack of foresight regarding the wider system that lies behind the destruction.
LobauStays can go down in history as the movement that stopped the Lobau motorway through civil disobedience and contributed to a climate-conscious rethinking of transportation in the process. But the City of Vienna is trying to undo the stop of the Lobau motorway. They are pushing through the construction of the city motorway as a connector to the future Lobau motorway in order to present us with a fait accompli. To this end, the city government has already ordered two protest camps to be violently cleared out. But the protest camp at Anfanggasse persists and so does our resistance.
There is a lesson to learn from Hainburg: civil disobedience, a broad grassroots movement, and widespread protests in the streets have stopped a power plant before. Now LobauRemains needs the voices of its supporters – whether they join us in the streets, they help distribute this newspaper, or they put pressure on the SPÖ. Because, as Lucia Steinwender points out: “We have no other choice. Should we stand by and watch our livelihood be destroyed just because that’s what’s written in a Federal Roads Act from 1971?”
“Politics Dictates How People Should Move“
Interview with city planner Reinhard Seiß
What have been the political priorities in Vienna when it comes to city planning and traffic over the last decades?
The priority was to assure the desired profits for selected landowners, construction companies, and speculators. In terms of social policy, housing expansion has been successful. Regarding sustainability, long-term viability, and climate protection, however, I see a wide gulf between the propagandistic claims being made and the realities under construction.
What does that gulf look like?
On the one hand, Vienna calls itself a “model climate city”; on the other hand, the city government is promoting the expansion of high-level roads, which is anything but viable for the future. That is the exact opposite of a mobility transition and climate protection.
Why is that so bad?
Because a city dependent on cars destroys the livelihoods that we want to protect: tolerable climate, clean air, unsealed soil, not least because of food production. This is about nothing less than the destruction of our means of existence.
Politicians frequently say that it would be wrong to dictate how people should choose to move about
That is ridiculous because policy decisions over decades have already predetermined the choice of transport: they have created a city that is dependent on cars. As a consequence, they enforce how hundreds of thousands of people in the metropolitan area should travel: that is to say by car. I’m sure that many would freely choose to travel on foot, by bike, or by public transport if their environment wasn’t so oriented towards cars.
How does the goal of a “climate model city” match up with the city’s transport policy regarding the city motorway and Lobau tunnel?
The expansion of high-level road networks stands in complete opposition to every kind of climate protection. New roads draw in new traffic. That means: increased CO2 emissions and more problems with soil sealing.
Aren’t projects like the city and Lobau motorways necessary to ensure economic growth, as well?
If we want to continue our disposable economy and our throw-away society, then we’ll need more of the kind of growth that we have ravaged the planet with over the last decades. But if we say that this obsession with growth is in no way sustainable and has catastrophic consequences, then economic growth as we have so far understood it should no longer be pursued as an objective: it is based on the exploitation of people, waste of resources, and processes of extraction, production, and trade that damage the climate. The growth of our economy is the best indicator for the global destruction that we are lamenting.
How should a district like Donaustadt be developed today?
By improving the more densely populated areas with genuinely appealing public transport – particularly tramways – in addition to reviving the train services that have been neglected over the last years. Beyond that, the planning and construction of homes, offices, shops, and commerce should be considered in conjunction instead of separately.
What would such a reorganisation mean for the quality of life?
A gradual improvement. An ample living environment, a pleasant cityscape, shorter travel distances to workplaces and shops, less compulsion to drive, less time in traffic jams.
Reinhard Seiß, photo (c) Heidrun Schlögl
Resistance Can’t Be Cleared Away – An Occupier’s Perspective
In early April, the city – in cooperation with ASFinAG – has cleared the last occupiers protesting the construction of the city motorway. Because: Ulli Sima “is done with protest camps”. We’re a thorn in their side and we know why.
The SPÖ being “done with protest camps” doesn’t just mean they won’t be interrupted while they continue stoking the climate crisis with new motorways, but they can also be done with something else they are afraid of: open spaces where different groups can exchange views on an equal footing. Spaces for free culture, participatory discussion groups, and creative gardening. Spaces to develop critical, anti-capitalist alternatives for a socially and ecologically just city.
By clearing out the occupiers, the city government betrays which voices count most in their political calculus: not those of citizens but of construction companies and investors. That’s why the city’s reaction towards political participation in Vienna looks like this: hundreds of police officers and canine squads. We are done with you and your cement policies!
A large tree…
+ offsets the CO2 emissions of almost three single-family houses
+ produces oxygen for 10 people
+ filters 35,000 cubic metres of air per day through about 1.200 m² leafy surface (with a cellular surface of 15,000 m²)
+ reduces air pollution and irritation from particulates, pollen, and bacteria
+ creates cooling effects – both from shade and by absorbing and evaporating hundreds of litres of water
+ is important for the soil’s water cycle
+ offers shelter and food for animals
Source: “Natur im Garten”
Before the three of us started spending time together, individually we’d already known one another a little but not all that well.
The camp and the occupation have brought us much closer together.
There’s a big difference between knowing someone by sight and having spent a night next to them in a tight space because there just wasn’t much room in the tower.
Afterwards, we spent a lot of time just the three of us. We shared experiences that showed us how to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and realised how well we got on.
It is just so energising to take action alongside people that you care for.
Of course, we are frequently tired and exhausted, but this community is like a catapult – we launch each other upward, always boosting and strengthening one another.
The occupation camp is a place for discussion, questioning things, passionate conversations, and a safe space.
The relationships that we are forming are close and intense but also very open, so every new person who joins is generally welcomed and included.
Recommended further reading: ”Letzte Generation“ (Last Generation) by Paula Dorten and Marcus Wadsak
The climate crisis is the greatest threat to mankind. This manifesto is a call to all citizens to go out into the streets, make their voices heard, and demand climate justice. It is the clear, vocal desire for a future. Activist Paula Dorten relates her fears and dreams. Climate expert and meteorologist Marcus Wadsak explains why – based on scientific findings – we have no time left and why the climate crisis will permanently change our lives. We still have a shot to commit to these changes. It is the only chance humanity has left to make sure this generation won’t be the last one.
Book presentation on 15 May as part of the “Culture Not Concrete” Festival.
#LobauStays now all over Vienna
We’ve got a world to win. But it will take all of us!
Upcoming events and opportunities to participate:
- Starting 28 April: distribution campaign for the “LobauBleibt” Newspaper in all of Vienna (https://www.facebook.com/LobaubleibtinWien)
- 1 May: LobauStays Rally Bloc
- 6 May, 6pm: “Eco Revolt? In All of Europe?” Joint discussion with Serbian and Australian activists about international cooperation in Camp Anfanggasse
- 6 Mai, 3pm to 6pm: “Trees Instead of Cars”, rally against Vienna’s transportation policy, Hörlgasse, 1090
- 14 & 22 May, 1pm: “How Construction Companies Wall In the Future” – walking tour along the city motorway followed by a discussion at Camp Anfganggasse; meeting site: U2 station Hausfeldstraße
- 15 May: “Culture not Concrete” Festival at Camp Anfanggasse with book launch party for Paula Dorten and Marcus Wadsak
- 22-29 May: “Climate Camp near Vienna” with workshops, days of action, and cultural activities at Camp Anfanggasse (www.klimacamp.at)
- 28 May, 12 noon: LobauStays at the SPÖ state party conference
- 10-17 June: Exhibit “LOBAUsstellung“, Kollektiv Kaorle, Schmalzhofgasse 5/2, 1060
Latest information at: t.me/Lobaubleibt
Keep yourself and others informed
Organise information events in your neighbourhood, club, church, online. Representatives of LobauStays gladly share information and answer questions about protests and alternatives.
Donate material and food
Vegan food donations are always welcome at the protest camp. Keep up to date about material we need at our LobauStays Live Ticker or on-site.
Contribute on location
Info point and protest camp (registered assembly): Park grounds Anfanggasse, 1220 Vienna. Even dropping by for a few hours or keeping watch for a night is a great help.
IBAN: AT03 2011 1844 5763 5300
Bank: Erste Bank
Payment reference: Spende Lobau bleibt
Information events: lobau.web.anode.at/kontakt