Court orders noise reduction on Prague’s thoroughfare

For years, people living in the close vicinity of the “magistrála”, the main artery cutting through the Prague city centre, have been fighting with City Hall to reduce excessive rates of noise and air pollution. This month, a Prague Court issued a breakthrough ruling, ordering the city council to reduce the levels within a year. Alžbeta Rejchertová is the chairwoman of the civic association which filed the complaint. I met her right in front of her house to find out what it is like to live right next to the artery.

“Well, you can hear it for yourself. It’s quite unbearable because you cannot open the window and leave it open. You cannot sleep at night. I myself have to use silicone earplugs which are not available here. My friends bring them from the United States. And it causes a lot of other health problems like insomnia or heart problems.”

How long have you been living here? When did you move to this area?

“We moved here in 1974, one year after this artery was put into operation.”

Why did you move here in the first place when it is so noisy?

“It’s a nice residential area, but it is intersected by the artery. The situation wasn’t bad at all at the time. The traffic was much, much lower.”

When did you start your dispute with the City Hall?

“We have been fighting against the city hall since 1993, when the traffic dramatically increased and when they started to plan new roads, an on-ramp and off-ramp- very close to our buildings.”

The recent ruling was quite surprising. Did you expect to win? Until now, the court has always been in favour of the City Hall.

“It was a very pleasant surprise. We didn’t expect it would be over so soon. But our arguments were well grounded and we expected to win.”

What do you expect the City Hall to do now? What measures should be taken in order to improve the situation here?

“There are two ways how to improve the situation. The most efficient way would be to build a glass tunnel over the artery, which would protect us from the noise. Another is to solve the problem on a comprehensive basis and regulate car traffic. That is, by imposing a toll on cars entering the city and driving along this artery, reducing the speed and the number of lanes. In addition to these regulatory measures we also want the council to change our windows for noise proof windows.”

Have you ever considered moving away and giving up the battle?

“I didn’t consider giving up the battle but I definitely considered moving out of this area. I tried to sell our flat but it is practically impossible to sell because if somebody who is interested in buying the flat comes here, opens the window and hears the noise, he just leaves.”

The recent court ruling has set an important precedent for thousands of people who live along Prague’s main thoroughfare and Prague City Hall can definitely expect more residents to file complaints in the future.