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Green Austrians pedal to cycling record

Austrians set a new cycling record last year by pedalling a collective 1.85 billion kilometres, which saved 148 litres of auto fuel and 342 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The number of kilometres cycled was 14 per cent higher last year than the year before.

The Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) said today (Tues) the number of kilometres Austrians had cycled had increased by 42 per cent or 550 million kilometres since 2005.

VCÖ official Martin Blum said: "High fuel prices motivated many Austrians to cycle more last year. The recession should have the same effect this year."

More cycling has reduced many Austrians’ transport costs, especially for trips under 2.5 kilometres long for which fuel consumption by cars is very high. "The bicycle is the piggy-bank among means of transport," Blum said.

Blum called for improvements in conditions for cycling, including construction of bike paths along country roads to make cycling there safer. Such work would also create many jobs, he claimed.

VCÖ also recently called for government subsidies for purchases of bicycles in the wake of the national bonus for the junking of old cars.

The club said it feared the recession would result in fewer sales of new bicycles if nothing were done to stimulate demand and so called for a national subsidy of 100 Euros for purchases of new bicycles. VCÖ said such a subsidy would both be good for the environment and promote domestic bicycle production.

As Austrians cycle more and purchase more bicycles, the number of bicycle thefts has been increasing, with over 20,000 stolen in the country last year - that's 66 per day - and police managed to solve only 25 of the crimes.

Some 60 per cent of the total 24,348 bikes stolen last year, up over 400 on 2007 - were taken in large urban areas.

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