Advocacy Manual (5): Where Street Designs are Negotiated

Publikováno: 18. srpna. 2023, 15 min. čtení
Publikováno: 18. srpna. 2023, 15 min. čtení

In the media, you often read about „road workers“ who initiate various repairs, reconstructions, and constructions of buildings, transportation structures, engineering networks, or entire streets. These road workers begin construction, and due to them, temporary restrictions on people’s movement occur. When the road workers finish their work, there may be a ceremonial opening of the completed project. It may seem that these mysterious workers have the power to determine where there will be road closures and what will be worked on at a construction site.

Street reconstructions and mysterious production committees

The „workers,“ or manual workers from construction companies, have no power in decision-making regarding constructions and their designs, just like you don’t, when you learn about the initiation of street reconstruction, for example, from the media. By the time the construction company starts work through its employees, it has long been decided how the street will look after the reconstruction.

The illusion of powerful workers deceives

All streets in the city undergo reconstructions, primarily due to the limited lifespan of the infrastructure that makes up the street. A street is not just its surface consisting of sidewalks, greenery, benches, lanes, tracks, and parking. From the perspective of lifespan, the engineering networks present beneath the street’s surface are also part of it. These networks mainly include water supply, sewerage, electricity, gas, and district heating. Once the lifespan of either the street’s surface or any of the engineering networks ends, it usually provides an opportunity for comprehensive street reconstruction.

Street reconstructions are a crucial opportunity for creating protected infrastructure for the safe movement of people using bicycles. Simply changing traffic signs, which will be discussed below, cannot move curbs or transform the street profile. It is the curbs that physically separate the space designated for motorized traffic. The current form of streets mostly reflects 50-year-old ideas of traffic planning when no one yet considered the need for cycle paths or the enhancement of the safety of cyclists by physically separating them from excessive motorized traffic.

An Advocacy Manual

In the online magazine „Městem na kole“ (City by Bike), we are publishing a series of articles called „Advocacy Manual.“ These guides, written by Michal Šindelář and the AutoMat association, describe how to support the development of cycling transportation and infrastructure from the perspective of an active citizen.

The manual provides know-how on how to navigate the entire process of public administration and the legal possibilities for influencing one’s immediate surroundings.

This article was made possible thanks to the support of the Open Society Foundations as part of the AutoMat’s National Outreach Via Social Base Management project.

The Reconstruction Investor and the Contractor of Project Documentation

Every street reconstruction has its investor, which is the organization that funds the reconstruction. Most commonly, this is straightforward the municipal office or city administration and its relevant investment department or a similar organizational unit. If it is not the local government, then the investor is usually an organization established by the city, such as a transportation company, heating plants, or water and sewage utilities.

The investor decides whether the street will be reconstructed. The investor also defines the scope of the reconstruction. Typically, it may happen that the investor wants to minimize the amount of work and prefers only repairs, such as the restoration of networks and the street surface to its original state. This option is appealing to investors because it is faster by avoiding the preparation of the so-called „durka,“ which is documentation for land-use proceedings (DUR). For simple repairs of the street and restoration to the original state, the preparation of documentation for building permits (DSP) is sufficient. If the investor decides only on repairs and restoring the street to its identical layout, then the opportunity to shift curbs in that street is wasted for several decades.

Requirements for modern street design should be included right from the start of the project.

Demand for shifting curbs and modern street reconstruction should be articulated right at the beginning of the process when the reconstruction is being considered. Even if, for example, a transportation company would like to reconstruct only the tram infrastructure, the reconstruction, typically involving budgets in the range of hundreds of millions of Crowns, is funded by public finances, and it is necessary to understand the reconstruction as an opportunity to improve the quality of life, not just as a technical renewal of infrastructure.

Based on the decision regarding the intent of the reconstruction, the investor prepares the specifications for a public procurement contract to select the contractor for project documentation. Design offices that make a living by preparing project documentation bid for these contracts. By signing a contract with the investor, the contractor undertakes to prepare the project documentation. Given the number of organizations involved in street reconstruction, the preparation of documentation takes place within so-called production committees (výrobní výbor).

The Production Committee

The production committee is a meeting convened by the designer or investor, attended by representatives of relevant organizations, such as gas infrastructure administrators, water and sewage utilities, the investor, the transportation department, the transportation company if the street is served by public transportation, city management, and others. These production committees are where the actual form of the street after reconstruction is negotiated. The requirements of individual stakeholders may often be conflicting, and compromises are reached during the production committees, on which the participants agree.

Advocating for space for cycling during street reconstruction needs to happen during the production committee process. It sometimes happens that the demands for safe movement of people are ignored because nobody raises them during the production committees, or the designer may raise them but they are overshadowed by other stakeholders‘ requirements for the layout of the street profile.

Production committees are held behind closed doors, and participation is by invitation only. In the overwhelming majority of cases, representatives of advocacy groups are not invited to the production committees, although there are exceptions. Advocacy for safe spaces for cycling is, at best, present thanks to employees of the transportation department who specialize in cycling, or, at worst, not present at all.

If it is not present at all, as an advocacy group, you can secure an invitation to the production committees. This invitation can be facilitated by the designer, the transportation department, or a representative of the city management (such as the deputy mayor for transportation). However, it is necessary to monitor the reconstruction projects being prepared by the city because the scheduling of production committees is not publicly announced.

How traffic signage is done

Improving conditions for safe cycling in the city is closely related to the role of traffic signage. Every bike lane or bike route is a form of traffic signage, just like driving and merging lanes, parking, and all the signs you encounter on the streets. Placing traffic signage is an administrative process that has its own rules in which you can participate to some extent. In this chapter, we will look at how traffic signage is done, who designs it, how it comes into effect, and what you can do.

How people should behave in traffic in the Czech Republic is regulated by the regulation of road traffic. This regulation is distinguished at three levels: general, local, and temporary regulation of traffic. The general regulation is primarily defined by Act No. 361/2000 Coll. on Road Traffic. The local regulation, which includes traffic signage, traffic lights, and other traffic devices, takes precedence over the general regulation. Traffic signage is part of the local regulation. Finally, the temporary regulation, also known as temporary traffic signage, takes precedence over both the general and local regulations.

Road traffic authorities (silniční správní úřady) have the power to regulate traffic through traffic signage. The road traffic authority, usually part of the transportation department of a municipality or region, issues a local regulation of traffic as a „measure of a general nature“ (opatření obecné povahy, i.e. a specific general legal act). When issuing the local regulation, the road traffic authority must adhere to the administrative procedure (Act No. 500/2004 Coll.). The local regulation establishes traffic signage, which imposes obligations on drivers, typically through prohibition and command signs and signs regulating right-of-way, as well as some informative signs*. This means that traffic signage that does not impose obligations can be established without issuing the local regulation. This may include designating spaces for shared bicycles and scooters or marking bike corridors.

*This material conception was confirmed by the Constitutional Court in a ruling on November 19, 2008, ref. no. Pl. ÚS 14/07, and subsequently by the Supreme Administrative Court in a judgment on January 7, 2009, ref. no. 2 Ao 3/2008-100.

Issuing the Local Regulation of Traffic is preceded by the preparation of traffic signage drawings. The city can arrange the preparation of the drawings through the work of its own designer or a designer employed by the municipal company. The drawings can also be commissioned, where the transportation department orders their creation from an external supplier. Furthermore, the drawings can be produced as part of a reconstruction by the entity delivering the project documentation.

The road traffic authority must discuss the proposed traffic signage drawings with the Police of the Czech Republic, as they are the relevant authority according to the law (§ 77, paragraphs 2 and 3 of Act No. 361/2000 Coll.). The police’s opinion is not binding when determining traffic signage. If the police’s opinion is negative, the authority may proceed with the local regulation despite the police’s disagreement. According to the law, discussing also includes sending the proposal for comments, and „if the relevant authority does not respond within 30 days from the date of delivery of the proposal for determination, it is deemed that the proposal for determination is approved“ (§ 77, paragraph 3 of Act No. 361/2000 Coll.).

After the discussion, the authority issues a draft of the Local Regulation of Traffic in the form of a public decree, which means it is published on the official notice board that the authority maintains, including its electronic version. The draft must be published for at least 15 days. From the date of publication, there is a 30-day period for filing objections, which the authority must address if objections are submitted. After the deadline for filing objections, the authority can begin preparing the final wording of the measure of a general nature, which will establish the traffic signage. The authority issues this Local Regulation of Traffic as a public decree accessible on the official notice board once again. The measure of a general nature becomes effective on the fifteenth day after the day of posting the public decree. Once the Local Regulation of Traffic is valid, the city can typically place traffic signage according to the drawings (which are part of the Local Regulation of Traffic).

Submitting a proposal for a change in traffic signage

It is not codified who can submit a proposal for a change in traffic signage. Municipal offices, district offices, or city authorities have established procedures for changing traffic signage. In most cases, changes in traffic signage are of internal origin and come directly from the administration of local government. However, as an individual, council member, or organization, you can also submit a proposal for a change in traffic signage.

You will have to submit the proposal to the relevant road traffic authority. For regular streets (local roads), this will be the municipal office and its transportation department. For primary roads, it will be the regional office. You can use this template to formulate your proposal. The proposal should include:

  • Identification of the applicant
  • Subject of the proposal, preferably including a graphic representation (such as a map with the proposed traffic signage)
  • Justification for the proposal

Define the subject of the proposal precisely and unambiguously, preferably by specifying the exact traffic signage. Attach a detailed justification to the proposal, which can rely on accident statistics, city conceptual documents, local surveys, and photographic documentation. Additionally, it is recommended to justify the proposal with reference to the relevant standard, typically TP 179.

According to the Administrative Procedure Code (§ 71 of Act No. 500/2004 Coll.), the authority must issue a decision without undue delay, but no later than 30 days from the commencement of the proceedings.

This article was developed with the support of the Open Society Foundations through the project AutoMat’s National Outreach Via Social Base Management. The Open Society Initiative for Europe, within the Open Society Foundations, has provided a grant for this purpose.

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This is an adjusted ChatGPT translation of this article: https://mestemnakole.cz/2022/10/advokacni-manual-5-kde-se-vyjednava-podoba-ulic/

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