Cyclists get unique opportunity to ride through Blanka tunnel

Blanka tunnel, photo: Filip Jandourek

This Thursday, cyclists in Prague will have a unique opportunity to take a ride through the Blanka tunnel, before it gets filled with cars. The organizers of the annual Velká Jarní Cyklojízda or Critical Mass Bike Ride, the NGO Automat, expect thousands of people to turn up for the event. Vratislav Filler is in charge of the project:

Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
“We saw an opportunity to use the Blanka tunnel for our Critical Mass Ride, because it is not yet open but the construction is finished, so it is probably the only time something like this is possible. We have approached our city councillor for transportation, if it was possible, and he said yes. So we did all the necessary paperwork and we can go through.

How long is the stretch that goes through the tunnel?

“It will be about 2.5 kilometres long, just one section of the tunnel, but I think it will be enough since the whole ride is about 14 kilometres long.”

Can you describe the route of the ride? Where does it start?

“We start at the square of Jiřího z Poděbrad at 6:30 p.m.. We go through Husitská street and Magistrála, over the Masaryk train station, by the Těšnov tunnel to Čechův bridge and to Malá Strana.

Vratislav Filler,  photo: archive of Automat
"Then we climb up the Chotkova street, and enter the tunnel on Letná. We get out at Pelc-Tyrolka, cross the river by the new bridge in Trója to get to the district Holešovice, to the final destination at the Holešovice market, where there will be an after party.”

How many people do you expect to turn up? Last year, around 5,000 people took part in the ride.

“We expect a similar number, several thousand, but definitely more than last year. We didn’t make an exact calculation but we expect it will be several thousand.”

You organize the mass bike rides through Prague every year and one of the reasons is to promote urban cycling. Would you say the conditions for cyclists in Prague have improved over the years?

“It definitely has. You can see a huge improvement in Prague over the past ten years, but in recent years we have noticed some stagnation. There are more and more people using their bikes, but the conditions are not improving as fast as they should.”

As far as I know, you will also be collecting signatures for a petition concerning the Blanka tunnel. Can you tell me more about that?

Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský
“Yes. We proposed several measures to steer cars from the city centre to the Blanka tunnel. We want to add crosswalks for pedestrians to the Magistrála motorway and we also want to abolish transit through the historical centre, allowing only local transportation in Malá Strana and Staré Město.

“And finally, after the opening of the Blanka tunnel calms down the traffic at Veletržní street, we want to decrease the number of car lanes.”