Cycling in Prague can be dangerous

Unlike in many countries where cyclists are protected from the onslaught of cars, buses, trams and lorries, their counterparts in the Czech Republic, and especially in Prague, face a very different situation. There are few quality cycle routes here in Prague, only the brave take to the streets on two wheels and it's rare to see bicycle stands in front of office buildings, railway stations or shops. Wednesday's edition of the paper Mlada Fronta Dnes comes up with further bad news. By this year the town hall had planned for over four hundred kilometres of cycle routes; only half of those have actually been built. Alena Skodova takes a look at the situation:

A bicycle bell ringing is a sound you don't often hear in the Czech capital. And its' not just the traffic that causes cyclists headaches. A serious problem arises when a cyclist wants to transfer his bicycle from one place to the other without riding it. For instance in Prague, it's forbidden to transport a bicycle in trams and buses. The metro transport rules say that passengers are only allowed to place their bikes by the back door in the very last carriage of the train, and never during rush hours. But no-one is willing to say precisely when rush hour begins or ends.

Petr Stepanek, a spokesman for a civic association called Oziveni - that's Revival in English - which is working to set up cycle routes is less than impressed by all these rules. "In most Western countries," he says, "bicycles can be transported in the underground for the whole day, in the American city of Phoenix buses are equipped with bicycle holders and holders are also on the roofs of all taxis in Denmark."

What's even more important, though, is the fact that many bicycle routes in Prague lead along streets jammed with cars. Cyclists also complain about intolerant drivers and their exhaust fumes, and even doctors point to the danger of cycling in downtown Prague. Immunologist Karel Mastny says that nearly a third of the Czech population suffer from allergies, and that riding their bicycles in towns does them no good at all. And there's also the threat of other diseases that might show up much later, Doctor Mastny warns.

And so people keen on cycling have to look for cycling routes outside Prague. They say that although it takes them at least half an hour to take the metro out of the city and then another 30 minutes to get back, they prefer doing so. Not only drivers, but pedestrians too, do not respect us either, one of them says, adding that he always prefers a slower ride in order to get to his destination later, but alive.