Bikes in Prague face ban from historic squares and streets
Posted on 03/04/2018

TransportCzech Republic

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Cyclists may soon be prohibited from historic central spots in the Czech capital by officials citing pedestrian safety whilst 1,000 cars will not.

The ban could be in force by 1st May

The ban could be in force by 1st May

Jakub Panek explains the joys of cycling to work in one of Europe's most historic and enchanting cities to The Guardian .

"There have been situations where I've had to stop and get off my bike because of the number of tourists, but no one has ever complained," says Panek, a production specialist with Post Bellum, an NGO documenting the Czech Republic's experiences under totalitarianism. "My experience has always been pleasant. It's faster than cars or public transport and I feel more free."

However a leisurely ride through Prague's streets could soon be prohibited under the new restrictions of the city's municipal authority in the coming weeks.

Local pro-cycling lobbyists have labelled the move as "transportation populism."

The Prague 1 municipality, whose jurisdiction covers the city's main historic districts will ban cyclists from some of the most famous pedestrianized zones between 10am and 5pm, arguing that they are a hazard to tourists.

Officials say that the ban could be in force by 1st May and it will restrict cyclists in areas including part of Wenceslas Square, the iconic Old Town Square with its landmark clock, the busy Karlova street approaching the 600-year-old Charles Bridge and Josefov, site of the city's former Jewish ghetto.

"Data shows there were 21 pedestrians hit by cars over the past 10 years and only three involved in accidents with bicycles," said Auto Mat's Vratislav Filler to The Guardian , pointing out that the city has 900 cars for every 1,000 inhabitants - more than double the ratio of some comparable western European cities.

"The council just doesn't think supporting cycling or creating corridors for cyclists is necessary in the city centre. It means cyclists are going to be forced on to streets that are dangerous because they have heavy car traffic and busy tram lines."

The municipality has been emboldened by the impact of a 2016 ban on Segways, the two-wheel scooters that were popular among the 12 million tourists who visit the city each year.

Cycling restrictions were initially envisaged as targeting only motorized bicycles marketed at tourists as replacements for Segways but will now apply to all bikes, with councillors claiming that police are unable to tell the difference.