"Race" through city exposes difficulties faced by pedestrians

Photo: CTK

Friday, September 22, is European Car-free Day. In 22 European countries, including the Czech Republic, drivers have been asked to leave their cars at home and use other means of transport. The day is part of the European Week of Mobility which this year raises awareness of how transportation contributes to climate change. Various events have taken place around the country this week and we joined one right here in the centre of Prague.

Photo: CTK
Several dozen mothers with baby carriages, some ten wheelchair users and a few visually impaired people with guide dogs gathered on a street corner not far from the Czech Radio Building to take part in what they called a "race around cars on the pavements".

"It is really dismal, being a pedestrian here in the city centre. Drivers don't let you cross at a zebra crossing. What often happens is that cars park on the pavements and then I'm actually forced to step down from the pavement and into the roadway with the pram and my other child."

This young mum, too, took part in the "race" - which was a real eye-opener for anyone who does not move around Prague in a wheelchair or with small children. The crowd walked just around two blocks in this residential district but the number of obstacles in their path was extraordinary: A delivery van blocking the whole pavement, cars parked on pedestrian crossings - including a police tow-truck. On some crossroads the crossings were painted in such a way that if you were to observe the rules you would never get to your destination. Jarmila Johnova of the organisation Prague Mothers was one of the organisers.

"The aim of the event was to raise awareness of the difficulties wheelchair users, mother and pedestrians in general face. Badly parked cars often block the view so people are forced to step into the road not seeing the cars. Every year there are fewer and fewer zebra crossings and sometimes you would need to be able to fly to get across the street."

Among the participants was also Senator Daniela Filipiova, herself a wheelchair user but also a driver. She says she often encounters inconsiderate drivers who park in spaces reserved for wheelchair users.

"It's true that events like this one have been taking place for the last 15 years but the improvement does not correspond to the effort and number of people who take part in them. But we must hope the day will come when the trend turns the other way and we must not relent in our efforts, otherwise it won't get better."