Prague – After more than a year (not only) our hard work has finally paid off: on the grounds of a legal action taken by Auto*Mat and other petitioners the Prague Municipal Court is allowing cyclists into pedestrian zones in Prague 1 again. It has overturned measures of a general nature which were restricting cycling in the city centre. The court has mainly pointed out that the local authority failed to respond to 65 objections from institutions and citizens and that its solution was greatly exaggerated (for more information see the blog of our solicitor’s office). The municipal district has already accepted Auto*Mat’s proposal to arrange a meeting, where next steps and consensual solution is to be negotiated. However, the recently installed road signs will remain valid for as long as they are there.
Lifting the ban on cycling is great news, but the work is not over for us. Even now we do not consider the situation within pedestrian zones ideal, and that is why we are offering the Municipal District of Prague 1 our help again with preparation of a compromising, long-term and complex solution. Already a year ago we made our efforts public and tried to discuss our proposal with the Prague 1 townhall. It was not open to discussion at the time, though.
Although the Auto*Mat analysis shows that only a small number of cyclists behave recklessly in pedestrian zones, we are appealing to all bikers to be considerate!
Which is effective? The court decision or the road signs?
The current situation is truly peculiar. The court has overturned the ban on cycling, but the road signs will stay valid until they have been removed. Therefore we have asked Prague 1, TSK (public space maintenance Co.) and the municipal councillor for transport Petr Dolínek to see that in compliance with the verdict the prohibitory road signs are removed as soon as possible. Having road signs which have been invalidated by the court on the streets damages the credibility and legal enforcebility of traffic signs in general. This situation also makes work more difficult for the police, who are really in a bind when watching cyclists pass the road signs invalidated by the court.
The traffic signs should be brought into compliance with the court order as soon as possible. (Luckily the road signs can be quite easily covered.) With the pass restrictions several new two-way cycle tracks have emerged, which should now theoretically be cancelled again. That would be a shame, however, as they can actually help the cyclists as well as the passers-by. Therefore we propose to make these fast arrangements (invalidating the road signs while keeping the two-way paths) and above all look for the means to offer the cyclists a safe pass through the city centre (away from the pedestrian zones, if possible). We have asked Prague 1 to lift the ban at the Náměstí Republiky and allow a ten kilometers an hour speed limit at the other squares.
What is going to happen now?
At the moment Prague 1 authorities announced that they won’t consider filing a cassation complaint against the decision of the municipal court (but the restrictions for bikes cannot be brought into effect at least until the next court decision has been made). However, the townhall might try to find a reason for refusing the signs removal. But the only correct procedure now is to invalidate the signs with minimum costs as soon as possible – cross out the prohibiting signs with a tape or cover the signs with sacks. In several places the metal plates must be exchanged for the original ones.
Keep writing to the politicians
Even though bikes are allowed into pedestrian zones again, it is now the best time to write to politicians (feel free to do it according to our instructions). The conditions in the pedestrian zones (and outside of them) could still be much better for cyclists as well as pedestrians. Appeal to the politicians for a permanently safe path through the centre outside of pedestrian zones.
Perhaps you have also heard opinions (mostly from the Municipal District of Prague 1 townhall) that bikes do not fit into the centre of Prague because of the narrow lanes. Do not let yourself be fooled by this demagoguery (and refer the ones concerned to towns such as Assen in Holland for example). More than a third of the Old Town was renovated in the 19th century and the width of its streets is not any different from Vinohrady. As for the New Town, at least its main streets have been sufficiently widened from the times of Charles IV. If there is anything taking up space in the city centre, it is cars (which are also responsible for the majority of accidents involving pedestrians). But none of the current Prague 1 councillors are surprisingly planning on restricting them. Nevertheless, we can expect more spacious streets soon at least according to comments from some politicians, whom we have addressed in relation to the case.
On the 5th of September the happening which was originally meant as a protest against the ban, is still going to go ahead. We are going to request a safe and conceptual solution for cyclists and pedestrians instead. Follow our website and Facebook.
We also keep on writing to the politicians. On the 27th of July we sent a letter to the mayor O. Lomecký, the councillor for transport R. Bureš and the head of the MD Prague 1 Department of Transport L. Czital, where we propose to keep the new two-way cycle tracks until a compromising solution has been reached (see below).
In the last year, apart from the lawsuit, Auto*Mat has organized three protest demonstrations and two petitions to the Prague local authority, objected to the ban proposal and interpellated politicians. But action against the ban has not been taken only by us. The Prague 1 Green Party has interpellated at the local authority of the municipal district too. Also Radio Tuleň has organized two events (a ride of bikers in face masks of the mayor Lomecký and a race for the slowest ride through a pedestrian zone). Furthermore, several politicians (representatives of the Pirate Party and the Green Party, movement Praha sobě, Jiří Pospíšil and Robert Pelikán, the then Minister of Justice) as well as media personalities (Jan Lipold, Martin Fendrych) have spoken out against the ban. They all deserve our thanks. Last but not least we would like to express our gratitude to the solicitor Štěpán Holub, who pleaded our case in the courts.