Prague 1 eyes new bike ban in pedestrian zones

The motorbikes and scooters that replaced Segways are causing complaints

While Segways have been banned in the city center, they have been replaced by motorized bicycles. Prague 1 is contemplating a ban on all bicycles in pedestrian zones from 10 am to 6 pm as a result.

The new move has critics though, such as the civic group Auto*Mat, which promotes cycling as an urban transit solution.

Prague 1 Deputy Mayor Richard Bureš (ODS) told broadcaster Czech Television that the aim is not ban cyclists but protect pedestrians, who have been complaining about the unsafe situation for a long time. “The Council has taken a solution into account that is common in many world capitals: using a restriction that is only valid at certain times,” he said.

The pedestrian zones in question include the lower part of Wenceslas Square; Old Town Square; Náměstí Republiky; Malé náměstí; Karlova, Michalská, Železná and Celetná streets; and parts of Na Příkopě, Jilská, Maiselova and Melantrichova, Na Můstku and 28. října.

The ban is because pedestrians are vulnerable to tourists on electric vehicles. Bureš said that mopeds already are not legally considered the same as bicycles and already are not permitted in the pedestrian zones, but the police lack the resources to keep them out of the zones.

The new regulation would be easier to enforce, as any wheeled vehicle would be clearly not permitted in the pedestrian zones during the specified times. The new rules would apply to all bikes, despite some officially marked cycle routes going through the pedestrian zones, such as one through Old Town Square and Celetná Street, and another on 28. října and Na Příkopě streets.

New legislation would not be required to restrict bicycles in pedestrian zones, according to Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD). The law had to be altered to ban Segways as they had to be redefined as vehicles in the transportation law.

“The regulation is fully within the authority of the Prague 1 district. This measure is aimed at preventing operators from replacing them with other vehicles that would endanger pedestrians in tourisy areas,” Dolínek told Czech Television.

Representatives of Auto*Mat say there are other ways to deal with the issue. They claim there is a lack of bike routes in the city center, especially around Old Town Square. Better bike routes would help to solve the issue. They also cite bottlenecks caused by outdoor seating at restaurants, which makes the areas for pedestrians very narrow. Finally they say the use of electric bikes shouldn't be criminalized, as they are better for the environment than tour buses.

Segways were banned in Prague effective from August 2016, but the law could not be enforced until new signs were in place, which had not been ordered. The ban started to be enforced in December 2016. More than 600 signs had to be put in place.

The original ban covered much of Prague 1 as well as part of Vinohrady up to náměstí Míru, Žižkov, Letná, Karlín, Pankrác and Spořilov. Since then, more areas such as more of Prague 2 and Prague 10 have joined since Segway operators moved to new locations, though not all the signs are in place yet.

Segway operators are disputing the ban in court.

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