Bike ban in city center may start in April

Prague 1 wants to restrict bicycles in working hours from the historical area

Prague 1 wants to limit bikers from the center of the city starting in April. The move is large because bicycle and electric bicycle tours have replaced Segways in the city center, and have been interfering with pedestrians.

A proposal has been published by the Prague 1’s Transport Department. The public can comment on it until Jan. 27.

Some 23 streets, passages, and squares in Prague 1, with a total length of 3.3 kilometers, may be closed daily from 10 am to 5 pm for all cyclists. Restrictions are mainly around Wenceslas Square, náměstí Republiky, and Old Town Square.

Opponents of the ban include the pro-cycling group Auto*Mat, which is collecting signatures on a petition and turning to City Hall.

“The restrictions will significantly reduce the safety of cycling and its attractiveness on a large scale —it interferes with the cycling route system (the essential A24 and A25 routes), and it is also inconsistent with Prague's strategies to support the development of cycling,” Auto*Mat Jakub Holzer said, according to daily Pražský deník.

Prague has announced green initiatives to reduce the number of cars in the city, and at least on paper, the city is committed to promoting cycling and expanding bike routes.

“If you want to ride from Wenceslas Square to Mánes Bridge today it will be 1,560 m on quiet streets, but from April onward you will have to go to the National Theater and then follow tram line in Spálená and Vodičkova Street for a total of 2,400 meters,” Holzer said.

If the comments received by Jan. 27 are sufficiently serious, Prague 1 may abandon the project. Holzer said that if the issue is not settled by public debate, cyclists may need to turn to the courts.

“Restricting bicycles that relieve the congested center from cars has no logical justification,” he said, adding that it would decrease safety for cyclists in one of the city’s most dangerous areas.

The city banned Segways from the city center, effective December 2016 when signs went up. The motorized two-wheel vehicles had long been criticized by pedestrians and city groups for blocking the sidewalks. Tour touts were also quite aggressive, annoying both tourists and residents throughout the city’s historical area.

After the ban took effect, Segway operators moved to outlying areas of the city, but the banned area expanded so that now few points of interest can be reached by Segways.

In the city center, the companies that offered Segway tours switched to bicycles, electric bicycles, and scooters. The same problems associated with Segways, aggressive touts, and blocked pedestrian zones, started to be associated with bicycles.

Cycling advocates have urged that some compromise solution is found so that people who rely on bikes for transportation on a daily basis can still ride in the city center.

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