A junction at Prague’s Nábřeží Kapitána Jaroše is set to get an unusual new monument in May, with the installation of a work by the renowned artist Krištof Kintera. Comprising a bicycle with rotating parts attached to a street lamp, Bike to Heaven will serve as a memorial to riders who have been killed in the city, including cyclists’ rights activist Jan Bouchal, who was run over at that very spot in 2006. The monument is being funded by a public collection organised by the civic association Auto*Mat, whose project coordinator Tereza Vohryzková explained the genesis of the idea.
“It came soon after Jan Bouchal’s death, from a group of his friends and relatives, because there was the idea that his death should be commemorated somehow, and also that it should be a certain symbol of all the tragic deaths of cyclists in the city.”
Why has it take so long for it to come to fruition?
“The reason is that an important part of this whole process was the reconstruction of this crossroads, of this junction, which was very dangerous for pedestrians and for cyclists.
“When Honza Bouchal was alive, he was one of the people who kept saying the crossroads was dangerous and should be reconstructed.
“So it was very important that we first manage to convince or to push the politicians and City Hall to change, to reconstruct the crossroads. And this was a very lengthy and very complicated process.”
Krištof Kintera’s memorial takes the form of a real bicycle attached to a street light and pointing upwards, hence the title Bike to Heaven. Will that be replacing an existing street light, or will it be entirely new?
“No, it will replace the existing street light. There is a street light now to which a small white bike – which is called a ghost bike – is attached.
“This street light will be replaced by a new one, but it will still be a functional street light, with a bike on it.”
Jan Bouchal died in 2006. Generally speaking, have things improved at all for cyclists in Prague since that time?
“There are still a lot of problems, but the situation has changed radically, in the sense that cyclists are viewed a lot more as part of the traffic system in Prague, and that measures are taken for them to be able to move through Prague more safely and comfortably.
“It has really changed, but it has been quite a slow change and there are still many problems. It is really difficult to convince the city to give over a substantial part of the transportation budget to measures for cyclists.
“So there are still a lot of things that could be change, but the visibility of cyclists in the city is growing, I think, every year. Also the measures that you see on the roads are a lot more common than at the time of Honza’s death."