Cyclists protest pending restrictions

Bikes may be banned from pedestrian zones due to big tour groups

Cycling activists organized by Auto*Mat took over 100 empty tires to Prague 1 City Hall to protest planned restrictions in some pedestrian zones. The restrictions are being considered because bike tours and moped tours have taken the place of Segway tours in the city center after Segways were banned as a nuisance.

The exact form of the new cycling rules isn't clear yet, as they are still being evaluated by an expert panel. Cycling advocates, however, want to see cycling areas in the city center expanded and improved, instead of being restricted.

Cycling advocacy group UrbanCyclers, said restrictions could affect roughly half of the cyclists who passing through the city center. They base this on GPS data from smartphones from the beginning of the year.

The previously announced 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.

Officially marked cycle routes go through some of the pedestrian zones, such as one through Old Town Square and Celetná Street, and another on 28. října and Na Příkopě streets.

According to UrbanCyclers, over 40 percent of all cyclists who use the city center pass through Na Příkopě at some time.

Prague 1 Councilor Richard Bureš (ODS), responsible for transportation, said that the district has received dozens of complaints about electric cyclists and mopeds since the Segway ban started. There was a risk of collision in densely used areas due to cyclists not paying attention to where they were going.

He said the police favor a radical ban on cyclists in the city center, while he wants to examine which specific areas put pedestrians in conflict with cyclists. He favors a ban between 10 am and 6 pm in selected areas.

Bureš claims that Auto*Mat depicts him as an enemy of cyclists, but that is not the case. He says he has to balance the interests of all people using the city center including pedestrians and residents as well as cyclists.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD) is also involved in negotiating the restrictions and favors a less strict approach that allows cyclists to use the center for transportation but prevents a situation like the one that existed with Segways.

The restrictions should be proposed by September and then they have to be approved by the transport department of City Hall.

The Czech Transport Ministry says that the issue is best resolved at the local level, but it recommends that electric cycles only up to 250 W of power be allowed in areas where there are many pedestrians.

Auto*Mat has proposed 11 alternatives to a ban on cycling. Among them is restricting large groups of cyclists, having police enforce specific rules, cycling speed limits, removing bottlenecks and having electric cyclists turn off their motors in crowded areas.

Having cyclists walk their bikes would only work in small areas such as near bridges, according to Auto*Mat.

The group previously said the use of electric bikes shouldn't be criminalized, as they are better for the environment than tour buses.

The ban on Segways took effect in December 2016 when over 600 signs were finally put in place in much of Prague 1, Prague 3 and other areas. Fines for violating the ban are up to Kč 2,000. Segways then moved to other areas such as Riegrovy sady in Prague 2 before the ban was expanded.

Segway tours are still available in some parts of the city, but there is little of interest to see on the routes as they are beyond the city center.

Many operators in the city center went out of business, but others switched to other types of motorized vehicles that were not specifically banned under the new law. 

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