With a population of about 300,000 inhabitants, Graz is the second-largest city in Austria and the capital of the federal state of Styria (Steiermark). The city of Graz has always been an important centre of economy and employment politics in the south-east of the European Union. Since the further geographic expansion of the European Union, Graz has moved into the heart of the alliance of states and has become an important part of the European process of integration. Graz has a long tradition as a student city: its six universities have more than 40,000 students. Its "Old Town" is one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe. In 1999, Graz was added to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage Sites, and the site was extended in 2010 to Eggenberg Palace. Graz became the first European Human Rights City in 2001 and was sole Cultural Capital of Europe for 2003. In 2008, Graz got the title of a City of Culinary Delights, and is UNESCO City of Design since 2011.
Graz is an important contact point for knowledge-transfer and many cities profit from the EU-experiences of the Styrian capital city. However, the contacts of Graz do not stop at European borders, but stretch all over the world. Graz was recognised by a high number of local, national and international awards, e.g. the “National Transport Safety Award 2005” and the “International Osmose Award – for New Non-polluting and Energy Efficient Vehicles 2007”, and the CIVITAS City of the Year 2008.
Graz has gained the reputation of being the “Bicycle Capital of Austria” through a number of innovative ideas for the promotion of bicycle traffic. Notable examples are the cycling training delivered to all fourth-grade pupils of the city in real traffic conditions, the 120-km-long network of bicycle paths linking the center to the suburbs and the surrounding communities, the Bike&Ride service implemented in 2004, as well as the digital bicycle map (initiated through the CIVITAS Trendsetter EU Project). Graz is truly committed to Gentle Mobility and participates to many EU-financed projects related to cycling, positioning itself as a European leader on gentle mobility policies.
Gerhard ABLASSER, send e-mail
City of Graz, www.graz.at