2007-09-28 Ruth Frankova
Listen to the report >>

Cycling in Prague only for the brave?

Cycling in Prague - only for the braveCycling in Prague - only for the brave
The politics of traffic is congesting the capital. Visitors coming to Prague from Holland or Scandinavia may get the impression that Czechs don't like cycling. Seeing bikes on the streets of the Czech capital isn’t unknown, but compared to other European cities, there are still very few of them. Besides, you almost never come across bicycles parked in the streets. Yet, strange as it may seem, statistics say that every second inhabitant of Prague is a bicycle owner and Czechs claim that cycling is their favorite sport. Radio Prague’s Ruth Frànkova has been finding out.

For one thing, many Czechs are wary of using their bikes in the city for fear of theft. But that's not all: what keeps the cyclists off the streets is a bit more complicated than that. Prague councillor for transport Petr Stepanek says one of the reasons could be that Czechs are also simply fond of driving their cars:

"Czechs are still amazed that they can buy expensive cars and some of them behave accordingly. That's something no infrastructure will solve and we have to work on relations between people. We have to work on a road culture that also favours the weaker participants - pedestrians and bicyclists."

Councillor Petr StepanekCouncillor Petr Stepanek
Czechs definitely don't belong among the most tolerant drivers in Europe. But if you have to cycle through streets stuck with cars with no lanes reserved for bikes, politeness doesn't really solve the problem. Michal Krivohlavek of the Auto-Mat Initiative, which was established a few years ago to promote the rights of cyclists, says there are simply too many cars in the city.

"Prague is the most motorized city in Europe at this moment. We were second at the top ten after Rome but I think two years ago we hit the top. There is one car per 1.4 people. Most trips in Prague - 43 % - are made by public transport, 33% by cars, 22% on foot, and 2% on bike."

Councillor Stepanek, himself a big cycling fan, says his council is the first in the history of Prague that had the courage to suggest that they would limit access of city centre by cars. But Michal Krivohlavek is sceptical, arguing that politicians promise a lot but little is actually done on the ground. Meanwhile, he and his colleagues try to push through smaller changes which, however, have a big effect on the every-day life of cyclists. A few years ago, Michal Krivohlavek set up his own project called Ruzove Kolo or Pink Bike. You can attend his workshop and get your bike painted bright, fluorescent pink to make it more visible. I was curious how he got the idea at the first place.

Protest ride on bikes through the centre of PragueProtest ride on bikes through the centre of Prague
"When my fourth bicycle was stolen two years ago in Prague I decided that the fifth one was not going to be an easy target for thieves. I bought brand new bicycle and the same day I painted it pink. And I hoped it was going to take out the bike from the black economy of stealing and reselling the stolen bicycles." And did it work? ”Even the pink bikes have its limits. I got rid of it by parking it for two weeks in the city when I was too busy. When you park the bike for more than two weeks in the streets, even the pink bikes can be stolen. But it works perfectly on a regular basis that you leave your bicycle in the street and pick it up in two three days later."

But instead of talking all the time about obstacles to cycling I wanted to hear something more positive. I asked Mr Krivohlavek to give me some reasons why I should prefer my bike to the public transport or cars.

"It's really quick. It's incomparable with other means of transport. If you are in the city centre, you can get everywhere in the city in 20 to 30 minutes. I am not doing any sport because I get regular portion of body movement during the transportation. I think it's a great advantage. Otherwise, 90 % of people in Prague have occupation where they sit all day long and afterwards they are seeking some occasions to move their bodies."

Listen to the report:





Real Audio





Also in this issue

EU wants mandatory safety tests on some toysThe European Union is taking aim at manufactures this week with a proposal for tougher controls on toys made in China. The European Parliament will vote on Wednesday to introduce more rigorous checks on imported toys and impose fines on companies that make dangerous products. The move comes after a recall of Chinese-made toys by the US toy giant Mattel this summer because of loose parts and lead content in its products. So will this toy story have a happy ending? Radio Netherlands world wide’s Brussels correspondent Vanessa Mock reports. >>>

Film Director Gunnel ArrbäckIn Sweden, all films are subjected to the watchful eyes of one of the world's oldest film censors, Statens Biografbyrå from the National Board of Film Classification which is a governmental body. Now even though a movie hasn't been cut in over a decade, film Director Gunnel Arrbäck is opposed to the agency's censoring activity: Radio Sweden’s Elisavet Sotiriadou has this report >>>

Roadsign in Irish reading "Caution Children"After decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, republicans and unionists have been sharing power again since May. But many republicans want official recognition of the Irish language in the province. That, they argue, was part of last year’s St Andrew’s Agreement which paved the way for power sharing. As a result, a draft bill to protect and promote Irish has been drawn up but as Eric Heath reports; unionist politicians say they’ll veto it. >>>

Logo of OSCEThe polish government hasn’t endeared itself to other European states this year, upsetting Germany with references to the war many deemed inappropriate. And it seems intent on following that path again now. Less than a month before parliamentary elections in Poland it is still not clear if observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will be allowed to monitor the campaign and the ballot itself. The OSCE has slammed Poland for refusing to issue an invitation but as we hear in this report from Michal Kubicki of Polish Radio’s External Service the story is not that simple: >>>

Marceau said much with his silent act

Christine Pizziol-Griere

Marcel MarceauFrom the silent dance of bicycles we go to the silent dance of the body, and to the man who made this form of art known around the globe. The world-famous master of mime Marcel Marceau died on September 22nd at the age of 84. Marceau achieved world fame when he created Bip, his on-stage persona, a sad-faced tragi-comic figure. Bip expressed happiness and hope, solitude and despair. He showed life in all its beauty and fragility. Radio France International’s Christine Pizziol-Griere has this report: >>>

Latest Programme
The Programme About Us
Programme Archive RSS and Podcasting
Contact Us
Deutsche Welle Deutsche Welle Polish Radio External Service Polish Radio External Service Radio Bulgaria Radio Bulgaria Radio France International Radio France International Radio Netherlands Radio Netherlands Worldwide Radio Prague Radio Prague Radio Romania International Radio Romania International Radio Slovakia International Radio Slovakia International Radio Slovenia International Radio Slovenia International Radio Sweden Radio Sweden