"Strategy for Bicycle Transportation" to encourage cycling in the Czech Republic

12-07-2004

While in some European countries, like the Netherlands, the bicycle is a standard means of transport, in most of Czech cities you don't often see people cycling. However, the Czech government has now prepared a Strategy for Bicycle Transportation, which aims to change the situation.

The Strategy for Bicycle Transportation aims to encourage cycling in the Czech Republic. That involves for example connecting bike routes or expanding different services for cyclists. According to the transport minister Milan Simonovsky, cycle use compared with other means of transport in the Czech Republic is about 5%. The government's target is to reach the level of some European countries like Germany, where bikes make up 12% of all transport on the roads.

"The most important priority is to develop the infrastructure. There are hundreds of kilometres of new bike routes appearing every year. However, the greatest problem appears to be in big cities, where bike routes collide with parking places and other barriers. The bike routes are often at the expense of pedestrians rather than motorists. This is partially caused by imperfect road traffic regulations."

Cycling campaigner Michal Dufek criticises the unsatisfactory state of bicycle routes in Prague:

"In Prague or in the bigger cities is the main problem rush traffic. People do not want to be part of such traffic, they don't feel safe and it is not comfortable, you must breath the exhaust emissions. I would say this is the main problem: the intensity of individual car traffic. To improve the biking conditions I would suggest to strenghten the public transport, so that the central part of Prague would be more open and free for bikers."

Cycling campaigners are also organizing themselves on an international basis. Last week the enviromental association Ecotopia organized a bike tour that started in Vienna and via Prague went on to the Netherlands. Pepa Galap from Great Britain, who took part in the tour, compares cycling conditions in different countries:

"Holland and Denmark are really the models for me. The situation in England is very poor comparing to these countries. However there are still cities like Oxford, where biking conditions are excelent, because cars are banned from the city center and only busses are allowed in. Here in Prague I find it very difficult because there are not many biking paths. If there weren't so many cars on the road, it wouldn't be important. People used to bike on the roads, and it would be my ideal way to use the roads, but here I think it feels very dangerous. Sometimes I find that I have to go on the pavement, which is not very satisfactory, because it is not safe for pedastrians and cyclists to share the pavements."

Even though there is still a long way to go before the bicycle becomes a standard means of transport on Czech roads, minister Simonovsky remains optimistic:

"I believe the Czech Republic builds its infrastructure very quickly. Although not as quickly as Hungary which has been developing extremely rapidly in this area. On the other hand we are still doing better than Slovakia or Poland. So we do have a lot of work ahead but we also have something to be proud of."

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