Segway ban is in Kafka territory

A law banning the two-wheeled riding devices took effect in August but cannot be enforced

A law banning Segways and similar self-balancing transportation devices in much of the center of the city took effect at the start of August, but due to a Catch 22 so far cannot be enforced. The much-hated two-wheeled vehicles still roam the city streets, and aggressive hawkers still practically run over tourists with them in the narrow streets of the historical center.

The Kafka-esque situation of the ban existing but not being enforceable will continue until new road signs are posted, and when that will happen is uncertain. Until the signs are up, the police are powerless to enforce the ban. “The ban applies only to a defined area properly marked by road signs, which are not currently in place,” said Jan Čihák of the Municipal Police.

Asociace Segway ČR spokeswoman Zuzana Eliášová insists Segway operators are not violating the law. “We are obeying the lay, since the signs have not been posted yet,” she told the media. Eliášová was also critical of the Segway No Way campaign mounted by the city telling people in English that riding Segways is illegal. She questioned the cost of the campaign, which has large signs in prominent advertising spots, and said it has unfairly defamed Segways.

Prague 1, which is covered by the ban, blames City Hall for the lack of signs in the affected area. Prague 1 Deputy Mayor Richard Bureš said that the signs could be put in place from Sept. 20 to Oct. 10, but that City Hall has sent proposals only for temporary signs and only around Old Town Square and some bridges, not for all of the district. This would allow Segways to continue in the unmarked areas.

This is not acceptable to Prague 1, which wants permanent signs throughout the entire area where the ban is in effect. Bureš says that temporary signs in just part of the area would open the city up to ridicule in the foreign media. The temporary signs could also easily be removed or rotated to make them invalid. It is also unclear who would be responsible for replacing them.

City Hall spokesman Vít Hofman told the media that the blame falls on Prague 1 for blocking the temporary signs and insisting on permanent ones, which are not available yet.

It may take months for the signs to become available, as they were not even requested until the middle of August, almost a month after the law passed and two weeks after the ban had theoretically taken place. The city agency responsible for signs, Technická správa komunikací (TSK) was not given a deadline regarding the signs.

City Hall is asking Prague 1 to reconsider its stance on the temporary signs and the limited scope of the placement, otherwise the Twilight Zone situation of the unenforceable law will likely continue for months.

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