Auto-Mat initiative publishes 'car-free' map of Prague


Prague has emerged almost unscathed from the ravages of the 20th century – all except one, that is. Car ownership has rocketed since the fall of communism; huge amounts of the city’s budget go towards building elaborate new road systems and the streets are often thick with exhaust fumes. However, one civic initiative is trying to redefine how people see and use their city, and as well as promoting cycling and other alternatives to the combustion engine, they’ve also produced the first ‘car-free’ map of Prague. Rob Cameron tried it out.

It’s a grey and rather miserable afternoon here in Prague, an afternoon like any other really – it’s a working day, lots of people around, lots of cars in the streets. Czechs have a love affair with the car I think it’s fair to say. After 1989, the number of cars owned by people in this country jumped enormously, and it’s still the transport of choice for most people in this country. One group that’s trying to change that is an organisation called Auto-Mat, and one man from Auto-Mat, Vratislav Filler, has come up with a map.

The map is rather different from a regular road map of Prague, isn’t it?

“Yeah, it’s the first map for unmotorised users of the city.”

Unmotorised users of the city, so cyclists and pedestrians...

“Yeah, mostly for pedestrians, a little bit for cyclists, it’s not the main content of the map. First of all it’s a map of places, not of transportation, but a map of places where you can stand for a while, where you can enjoy the city, where you can sit, where you can walk in a nice environment.”

Right, and one thing it does not show is information for people who are driving, people in cars, so nothing about one-way streets or parking or whatever.

Prague | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International
“Yeah, there are some grey areas, which means there are busy roads or parking places. But they look uninteresting on this map, and this was our aim.”

So where are we now exactly?

“We’re on the border of Žižkov and Vinohrady, in Slavíkova street.”

Right, and there it is on the map.

“We are here, and you can see that this street has a green line over it, it means that there are trees in this street.”

OK, a tree-lined street. Let’s take a walk for a bit, along Slavíkova. Svata, are you yourself from Prague?

“Yes, I’ve lived here my whole life.”

And do you have a sense that things are beginning to change in the way that people feel and think about their city?

“I am not very sure. There are some minor changes, and yes, there are many new places which are run by people that are very nice, so it’s better. But there’s been no change from the city authorities. Street planning is still very car-centric I think.”

Right, so the people want change, but the people in power, the politicians, are less keen on that change.

“Yeah. There will be elections now, so maybe some change will come. I don’t know.”

The 'Prague Green Map' is available free in selected shops and restaurants around the capital. An online version should be available by the end of the year.