Bicycle ban in center starts soon

Prague 1 is blocking bikes from pedestrian zones as of April 26

A controversial plan to keep bicycles out of pedestrian zones in Prague 1 during business hours is set to take effect April 26. The time for public comments has closed, and the district decided not to take any action on them. The move can still be overturned in the courts after a review if somebody sues to block the ban.

The Prague 1 Town Hall claims the ban is to protect the safety of pedestrians, but critics point out that accidents involving bikes have been rare.

Cyclists will be banned from the lower part of Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, náměstí Republiky, Celetná street and Karlova street, among other locations, daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Prague 1 Mayor Oldřich Lomecký (TOP 09) says the streets in the city center do not offer enough room for both pedestrians and cyclists. The move is meant to avoid disputes and conflicts, as well as ensure safety.

Ever since a ban on Segways took effect in much of the city center at the end of 2016. tours using bicycles, electric bicycles and fat-wheeled scooters have filled the pedestrian zones in the main sightseeing areas.

“We are seeing such conflicts every day, and that is the essence of the problem. The footpaths are intended primarily for pedestrians, and they complain,” Lomecký said, according to press reports.

Prague 1 Councilor Richard Bureš (ODS), responsible for transportation, confirmed that the district had evaluated the issue and found safety concerns that needed to be addressed. He added that the district was simply fine-tuning the already existing rules regarding the use of bicycles in pedestrian zones.

Prague City Hall, however, disagrees with the district authorities. Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD), responsible for transportation, earlier in April said the large ban was “inappropriate.” He saw the need for limiting bicycles during specific road construction projects but said the blanket ban was overreaching.

Prague City Hall has been trying to promote cycling as an alternative means of transportation and has been working to improve routes in the city. The city, for example, has also recently been promoting bike sharing where people can use a phone app to pick up a bike parked on the street and drop it off elsewhere. The goal is to reduce pollution that has adverse health effects.

Not all of the Prague 1 Town Hall is in agreement. Petr Kučera, a representative for the opposition Green party, has pointed out in the past that hundreds of cars and trucks have special permission to drive in the pedestrian zones, and these pose a much bigger problem than bicycles and statistically cause far more accidents.

The Prague Public Transit Company (DPP) and several civic groups also oppose the ban.

The pro*cycling group Auto*Mat is interested in the possibility of a judicial review of the measure. They say the ban will not do anything to improve public safety but will have the opposite effect. Auto*Mat representatives claim that people who rely on bicycles for transportation around the city center will now have to take long detours and ride in streets that are busy with automobile traffic, such as Smetanovo nábřeží. This will risk more serious accidents.

DPP representatives say the ban was not discussed with them at all. Bicycles will be moved to streets that have tram traffic, and this may lead to complications as bikes move slower than trams.

Courier companies also oppose the move, as bike messengers will not be able to make deliveries or will have to take longer roots.

The ban will apply to: Na Můstku, 28. října, Na Příkopě (from Wenceslas Square to Havířská), Wenceslas Square (lower part), Železná (from Havelská toward Old Town Sqaure), Melantrichova, náměstí Republiky, Celetná, náměstí Franze Kafky, Malé náměstí, Old Town Square, Maiselova (between Široká and Břehová), Michalská, Vejvodova, Jalovcová, Jilská (from the Zlatá intersection to Karlova), and Karlova.

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