Civic groups want highway changes

Plans to make the magistrála more friendly have been stalled

Civic groups are calling to make the north-south highway that cuts through the center of Prague more friendly to pedestrians. Nine local groups sent an open letter to Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) calling for changes to the sidewalks and other adjustments. The groups want the city to address the issue it the next City Council meeting.

Proposed changes concern a three-kilometer section of the highway, also called Severojižní magistrála, between the bridges Hlávkův most and Nuselský most.

Changes include new benches and furniture, better transitions and sidewalks, and an orientation system for better pedestrian movement. The most visible modifications would be found in the vicinity of I.P. Pavlova and the National Museum.

Traffic signals should also be changed and there should be better markings for cyclists and safer crossings, according to the plans.

These changes have long been recommended but have not been implemented. Critics say the reason is Mayor Krnáčová and ANO members fear that the proposed measures would have too large of an impact on transportation. The mayor suspended the City Council's decision to start making adjustments.

ANO Deputy Chairman Patrik Nacher told daily Pražský deník that his movement wants to know how the changes would affect traffic before any project starts.

The groups that want to make changes say the fears are unfounded. The open letter states that there is a schedule for the initial measures based on a study by urban design studio Gehl that does not interfere with transport capacity, and that the proposed changes would only have a minor impact on traffic.

“On the contrary, the changes will have significant benefits for residents and visitors to Prague who are walking in the center of Prague on foot, and would make a significant contribution to improving the quality of the territory in question," the letter said. The humanization of the area around the highway was originally planned to be launched at the same time as the opening of the Blanka tunnel.

Groups that signed the letter include preservationist group Klub Za starou Prahu, pro-bike group Auto*Mat, nature group Arnika, the bridge preservationists Libeňský most nebourat, architect group CCEA Centre for Central European Architecture, civic group Pražské matky (Prague Mothers) and the neighborhood group Holešovičky pro lidi.

Anna Vinklárová of Klub Za starou Prahu said that the highway causes noise and smog. The city has stated it wants to reduce traffic in the city center, yet is unwilling to take the initial steps, she added.

Yvette Vašourková of the CCEA Centre for Central European Architecture said that 100,000 pedestrians cross the highway every day, but only 80,000 cars use it. “Priority should be given to modifications of the sidewalks and the completion of the crossings so that the highway can become a significant Prague boulevard,” she said, according to Pražský deník.

Jarmila Johnová of Pražské matky said her group has been pushing since the early 1990s to change the highway from something that divides the city into something that connects it.

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