Court overturns ban on cycling in central Prague

Photo: ČTK/Krumphanzl Michal

A divisive ban on cycling in areas of downtown Prague has been overturned following a legal challenge from an activist group. Cyclists will now be able to return to pedestrian zones such as Old Town Square. However, local politicians continue to argue that bikes don’t belong in the historical city centre.

Photo: ČTK/Krumphanzl Michal
At the start of May the Prague 1 district council brought in a regulation barring cyclists from pedestrian zones in parts of the city centre between 10 am and 5 pm.

The ban concerned the bottom of Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square and the bustling Náměstí Republiky.

The local authority had first spoken about the need to rein in electric scooters, which were introduced following a ban on Segways, saying they were a danger to pedestrians.

In the end, however, councillors also prohibited ordinary bicycles, which they said were a similar menace to pedestrians, as well as a source of annoyance to residents.

Thick white lines appeared on the ground, marking out the borders of where bikes could be ridden in the downtown area.

They may soon disappear as the ban was overturned on Thursday after the cyclists’ rights association AutoMat challenged it at the Prague 1 Municipal Court.

The group’s Vratislav Filler spoke to Czech Radio after the verdict was delivered.

“The court argued that if a city district is complaining that cyclists go at 20 kilometres an hour then it’s possible to reduce speeds by using traffic signs applicable to everybody. There are such localities. On Kampa the speed limit is 10 kilometres an hour and at the pedestrian zone in Chodov it’s 15 kilometres.”

AutoMat has also questioned the assertion that bikes are dangerous to passers-by.

Vratislav Filler,  photo: Jana Kudláčková / Czech Radio
It quotes police figures, according to which there have been only three collisions between cyclists and pedestrians in the last 10 years, compared to 22 pedestrians being hit by cars.

Judges said they had thrown out the ban because the procedure for implementing it had not been carried out thoroughly.

Specifically the Prague 1 authority had failed to respond to objections submitted by AutoMat and others.

These included the argument that the ban also covered sections of three of the city’s own cycle paths.

Ivan Solil of the Social Democrats is the councillor responsible for security in Prague 1. He insists bikes should be barred in sections of the district and says creating more cycle paths isn’t very feasible.

“Everybody knows, of course, that the very centre of the city is a historical place. It’s served by narrow streets so when it comes to cycle paths, that’s complicated.”

The Prague 1 authority says it will respond within a week to the court’s decision.