As officials in other European cities announce plans for car-free city centers, Prague’s leaders have decided to ban bikes from the urban core.
Cyclists will be forbidden from entering many of the city’s most famous historic districts between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting May 1, the Guardian reports. Parts of those districts are “pedestrian-only,” but cars are often still permitted — even on some streets supposedly designated solely for walkers. The Prague 1 municipality argues that bikes are a hazard to tourists.
“We are not against cyclists, but the problem is space,” Oldřich Lomecký, the Prague 1 mayor, recently told the paper. “In a pedestrian zone, the advantage should be for pedestrians, not cyclists.”
The bike ban started as a Segway ban — in 2016, officials forbade the scooters from entering certain historic zones, claiming that they clogged streets and endangered pedestrians. Motorized bikes then became popular among tourists, and councilors wanted to ban those. After concluding that police couldn’t tell the difference between regular and motorized bikes, they opted to make the districts completely bike-free.
“It’s a very stupid decision that will cut off central Prague from the infrastructure that’s been provided for cyclists elsewhere in the city,” Jan Cizinsky, mayor of the Prague 7 area known for its cycling paths, told the Guardian. “If they want to create more space for pedestrians, it would be better to reduce the size of open-air pavement restaurants.”
Bike advocates are likewise incensed, claiming that a ban on cars in the pedestrianized zones would be smarter.
“Data shows there were 21 pedestrians hit by cars over the past 10 years, and only three involved in accidents with bicycles,” Vratislav Filler, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Auto*Mat, told the paper, adding that the decision “means cyclists are going to be forced on to streets that are dangerous because they have heavy car traffic and busy tram lines.”
Madrid, Cape Town and Paris are among the growing list of cities that have recently moved to make portions of their cities either completely car-free, or available only to zero-emission vehicles, in a bid to reduce emissions.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.