Court rules against bike ban

Prague 1 has two weeks to respond to the setback

The Municipal Court in Prague annulled the ban on bikes in the city center. The unexpected ruling was on a suit brought by pro-biking group Auto*Mat and two other plaintiffs, who took action against the Prague 1 administration.

Auto*Mat on Facebook said that signs already installed remain valid until they are removed or hidden.

The ban, imposed by the Prague 1 district, has been under increased criticism from not only biking advocates but also from Prague City Hall.

Prague 1 district spokeswoman Veronika Blažková said that the district authorities would decide next week on what action to take. The district has 14 days to file a cassation complaint, which is a form of appeal. She added that the district had expected the case to be decided in its favor.

The situation on whether or not the ban will be enforced will be more clear next week once Prague 1 decides on a course of action.

Auto*Mat said it remains willing to work with city districts on compromise solutions to allow bikes, cars and pedestrians to co-exist.

The bike ban was intended to keep bikes, electric bikes and scooters out of certain parts of the city center from 10 am to 5 pm daily. Riders wishing to pass through those areas were supposed to get off their bikes and walk them through the zone.

The suit filed by Auto*Mat said that the district had not properly addressed public comments on the ban that had been filed as part of the legal approval process. The suit also claimed the district's solution was disproportional to the problem.

The cycling ban follows on a Segway ban that took effect in 2016 in parts of the city due to complaints and conflicts on sidewalks. Tour operators switched from Segways to bikes, electric bikes and powered scooters.

The ban was mainly intended to cover electric bikes and scooters but was made more extensive so as to not leave any more loopholes.

The court reversal follows on other news that some of the signs for the ban were placed improperly. The Municipal Police say the mistakes in the placement of some signs could interfere with enforcement.

The Municipal Police and the Technical Administration of Roadways (TSK) inspected the signs that have been put up and found there were some mistakes compared to the technical documentation. TSK spokeswoman Barbora Liška told the media the mistakes were minor.

The nature of some of the signs has also caused concern among city officials.

Some of the zones are marked with white painted signs on the sidewalk with a crossed-out bike and the times the ban applies.

Prague City Hall, which oversees the entire city, has been trying to encourage cycling as an alternative to cars downtown, and the move by the Prague 1 district to create a ban has caused conflict between the city and the district.

A thick white line has been painted around náměstí Republiky, for example. Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) has called the thick lines “unsightly and inappropriate.” Krnáčová, before the court ruling, had written to Prague 1 Mayor Oldřich Lomecký (TOP 09) to ask for the signs to be changed.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD), responsible for transportation, said the ban is somewhat one-sided and unnecessarily harsh. “I understand the need to protect pedestrians who are walking in the streets in the center, but at the same time the measures could be better prepared to be more friendly toward cyclists,” he said in comments published by pro-cycling group Auto*Mat, which made a survey of politicians.

Green Party member Ondřej Mirovský, who serves on the City Assembly and Prague 7 District Council, says the only solution is to lift the ban. “The leadership of Prague 1 has made our metropolis an international disgrace,” he said.

Prague 7 Mayor Jan Čižinský (Praha sobě) called the measure “stupid” and said it damages the whole of Prague.

Other politicians called for compromises such as dedicated bike paths in the pedestrian zones and further limiting cars in the city center.

Members of the Green Party and the Pirates, in particular, have been against the ban and had been using it as a campaign issue for the upcoming municipal elections set for early October.

The ban covers 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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