Advocacy Manual (6): Filing Objections regarding Traffic Signage

Publikováno: 22. srpna. 2023, 22 min. čtení
Publikováno: 22. srpna. 2023, 22 min. čtení

In this chapter, you will learn about the administrative rules that allow for the lawful establishment of traffic signage and how you can participate in this process. You will discover what constitutes a general measure and how to write a well-founded proposal to improve such measures.

Traffic signage is a fundamental tool for organizing traffic and is crucial for creating a safe environment for cycling in cities. There are rules for designing traffic signage (as discussed earlier, referring to ČSN and TP standards) as well as rules for its establishment. Most traffic signage imposes certain obligations on road users, and therefore, it must be established by a public decree as a general measure according to the Administrative Procedure Code, Act No. 500/2004 Coll.

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.

However, changes to traffic signage may not only bring improvements to conditions for active mobility but can also result in a deterioration of the situation. This can occur in situations where measures such as crosswalks, bike lanes, or cycling signals are removed, or where existing conditions are worsened, such as the creation of parking along railway tracks, which forces cyclists onto the tracks or into the door zone. Additionally, a street may be converted to one-way traffic without the introduction of a cycling signal, thereby eliminating the possibility of two-way bicycle movement.

When traffic signage leads to a worsening of conditions for active mobility, it means that the rights and interests of pedestrians or cyclists are affected. In such cases, it is possible to submit comments and objections to attempt to prevent the deterioration of the situation.

  • Anyone whose rights, obligations, or interests may be directly affected by a general measure has the right to submit comments. The administrative authority is required to consider these comments as a basis for the general measure and address them in its justification. (Section 172(4) of Act No. 500/2004 Coll., Administrative Procedure Code)
  • Objections are submitted by property owners whose rights, obligations, or interests related to the exercise of property rights may be directly affected by the general measure. The decision on objections, which must include its own justification, is stated as part of the justification for the general measure. (Section 172(5) of Act No. 500/2004 Coll., Administrative Procedure Code)

Comments and objections (referred to as objections hereafter) must be submitted in writing within 45 days from the publication of the proposed general measure. According to the law, the administrative authority, typically the Traffic Department in this case, is obliged to address them in the justification for the general measure.

What does a General Measure (OOP) look like?

Before we discuss how to properly submit an objection, let’s examine how the administrative authority should issue a General Measure (OOP) that will withstand legal scrutiny. A properly formulated objection must correspond to how a court will assess whether the OOP was issued in a lawful manner. In the most extreme case, a submitted objection is a prerequisite for a potential request to annul the OOP.

When reviewing an issued OOP, the court proceeds through five steps to assess whether the OOP was issued in accordance with the law.

1. Review of the administrative authority’s jurisdiction to issue a general measure.

At this point, it is evaluated whether the administrative authority had the authority to issue the OOP in the first place. In the case of traffic signage, this point is usually unproblematic. However, situations may arise where the administrative authority issues an OOP exceeding its territorial jurisdiction or encroaching upon roads under the supervision of a higher authority (e.g., a region).

2. Review of whether the administrative authority exceeded the limits of its statutory jurisdiction when issuing the measure (ultra vires action).

The authority of the administrative body to establish traffic signage through a General Measure is primarily regulated by Section 77 of Act No. 361/2000 Coll., on Road Traffic.

3. Review of whether the general measure was issued through the procedure prescribed by law (procedural process for issuing a general measure).

At this point, difficulties often arise because, based on previous practices and experiences, administrative authorities struggle to properly address objections and include their resolution in the justification for the OOP. If the administrative authority fails to address objections and simply dismisses them, this alone can be sufficient grounds for a successful request to annul the relevant OOP or its parts.

4. Review of the content of the general measure in terms of its compliance with the law (material criterion of legal compliance).

The issued OOP must be in accordance with existing legislation. If the OOP is clearly contrary to a valid legal provision, it can be proposed for annulment based on non-compliance with the law.

5. Review from the perspective of proportionality (criterion of appropriateness of legal regulation).

It is the criterion of proportionality where the appropriateness of the OOP, its impact on traffic organization, and its influence on the limitation of rights or interests of pedestrians or cyclists can be assessed. A properly written objection must provide evidence regarding the proportionality of the issued OOP. The proportionality review examines the OOP from the following perspectives:

  • Does the challenged OOP enable the intended goal to be achieved (suitability criterion)?
    • Every OOP must have a goal that the administrative authority aims to achieve. According to the Administrative Procedure Code, this goal must be in line with the public interest (Section 2(4) of Act No. 500/2004 Coll.). This step examines whether the OOP, which establishes obligations and restricts the rights and interests of affected individuals, can actually achieve the declared goal.
  • Is there a logical connection between the challenged OOP and the intended goal, or could the goal be better achieved through other legislative means (necessity criterion)?
    • The administrative authority chooses a form of traffic organization to achieve the goal. However, there are various ways to achieve the same goal. This step evaluates whether the proposed measure is truly necessary and whether the same goal could be better achieved through an alternative measure that does not restrict the rights and interests of affected individuals. If it is possible to achieve the same goal through a less restrictive means, it would not fulfill this criterion. However, the existence of such a means must be supported by facts.
  • Does the measure of a general nature minimize its impact on its addressees as much as possible (the criterion of minimal interference)?
    • At this point, the examination focuses on whether the measure of a general nature unnecessarily restricts its addressees. This analysis is carried out step by step in the following stages:
      1. Does the specific intervention into individuals‘ rights have a constitutionally legitimate and legally justified reason?
      2. Is it done only to the necessary extent?
      3. Is it done in the most gentle manner while still reasonably achieving the intended goal?
      4. Is it done in a non-discriminatory manner?
      5. Is it done without any arbitrariness?*
        *See the resolution of the extended panel of the Supreme Administrative Court No. 1 Ao 1/2009 – 120 dated July 21, 2009.
  • Is the proportionality of the consequences of the contested measure of a general nature proportional to the intended goal (the criterion of proportionality in the narrower sense)?
    • This criterion weighs the benefit that arises from the fulfillment of the goal of the measure of a general nature against the harm to the rights and interests of the affected individuals caused by the measure.

Writing an objection (or comment)

Now we know how the legality of the issued OOP (General Measure) is assessed. The administrative authority, in the case of traffic signs, usually the Department of Transportation, must proceed in accordance with the law and issue an OOP in a lawful manner. As mentioned above, if a situation arises where the authority limits the rights and interests of individuals, for example, by establishing one-way traffic without maintaining two-way access for cyclists, it is possible to file an objection against such an OOP. You can download two sample objections here.

The objection must be submitted within 30 days from the publication of the OOP proposal on the official notice board. The deadline starts 15 days from the day of posting the proposal, so the objection must be submitted no later than 45 days from the first day when the OOP was published.

The first page

In the header of the document, state the sender and recipient. In the title, indicate whether you are submitting an objection or comment. Objections are submitted by property owners whose rights, interests, or obligations may be affected by the OOP. Comments can be submitted by anyone whose rights, obligations, or interests may be directly affected by the OOP. Furthermore, indicate what the objection is related to, for example:

regarding the establishment of local traffic regulations under reference number MMB/0224294/2019, dated July 1, 2019, „Paid Parking Zone 1-01, City Center, Brno – Phase A“

(In the title, provide a brief introduction and summary of the objection and your requests, which should be further elaborated in the text)

„Due to the complexity of the issue, we present the following arguments (points X to X) as an integral part of our objections, which we request to be addressed individually.“

[Example objection]

The authorities are obliged to address objections and comments and include their resolution in the justification of the OOP.

Active legitimization

Take this chapter from the sample objections and modify it according to whether you are submitting the objection as an association or an individual. If you are an individual, describe the impact that the proposed OOP will have on your rights and interests. If you are an association, do not forget to include the last sentence „Active standing for filing objections is derived from the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court 10 As 336/2017 – 46,“ referring to the judgment granting associations advocating sustainable mobility in the city the right to file objections.

Public interest

Take the chapter defining the public interest in supporting cycling transportation from the sample objections and adapt it to your region. You can adopt the definition of national public interest without changes, but you need to adapt the definition of public interest at the regional and municipal level according to the location where you operate. Use strategic documents of the region and municipality to define the public interest, which explicitly states the public interest in the development of cycling transportation.

Subject matter of the Objection

The further content of the objection will depend on the specific wording of the OOP. If it concerns the issue of cycle paths, you can work with the sample objections and adapt their content to your needs. In other cases, you will have to formulate the objection in a manner that corresponds to the rules of possible future review of the legality of the OOP.

The core of the legality review is the relationship between the declared objective of the OOP, the proposed measures, and the impacts of these measures on the rights and interests of affected individuals.

It is possible to formulate a section that questions the declared objective and proposed measures in order to review them in terms of proportionality and suitability criteria. For example, if the administrative authority intends to prohibit cycling in a pedestrian zone in the city center with the aim of increasing pedestrian safety, it can be demonstrated based on accident statistics that this objective cannot be achieved because accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists are so rare that there can be practically no increase in safety. In relation to this objective, it would also be possible to provide much larger statistical data on accidents involving pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers. However, it is necessary to substantiate the challenge to the declared objective and the allegedly leading proposed measures with evidence in the form of statistics, surveys, or other documents.

Furthermore, it is advisable to address the criterion of necessity of the OOP from a proportional perspective. In this section, alternative options for achieving the declared objective can be elaborated, such as different traffic organization and alternative proposals for traffic signage. The proposed solution that better achieves the declared objective needs to be specified, and its specification should be based on corresponding standards, typically ČSN 73 6110 and TP179 (see the Advocacy Manual part 5: Designing Roads in the Czech Republic).

In the next section, it is appropriate to elaborate on the criterion of minimizing impacts, where there is room for a detailed description of how the proposed OOP will affect the rights and interests of affected individuals. In this part of the objection, we recommend following these points:

  • Does the intervention in individuals‘ rights have a constitutionally legitimate basis and a legal justification?
  • Is it made only to the extent necessary?
  • Is it made in the least intrusive way that still reasonably achieves the intended objective?
  • Is it made in a non-discriminatory manner?
  • Is it made without arbitrariness?

Referring back to the example of an OOP that prohibits cycling in a pedestrian zone to increase pedestrian safety, it can be pointed out that non-motorized vehicle users are being discriminatorily restricted, as their rights and interests will not be limited if they drive a motor vehicle with permission to enter the pedestrian zone.

Handling objections

According to the law, the administrative authority must address and incorporate objections and comments in the reasoning of the issued OOP. If the administrative authority chooses to respond constructively to the objections and adjust the proposed traffic signage based on them, it must first issue a subsequent proposal for the OOP that includes the implementation of the changes compared to the original proposal. This represents a successful scenario where the OOP was modified based on the objections raised, ensuring that the affected individuals are not deprived of their rights and interests.

If the administrative authority intends to issue the OOP in its original form, it must still address the objections. Based on experiences in Czech cities, there may be situations where the authority simply dismisses the objections without addressing them or practically ignoring their content. In such a case, it is possible to file a motion with the regional court to invalidate the issued OOP, and the court may partially or completely annul such a measure because the third step of the process for reviewing the legality of the OOP was not fulfilled, as the legally prescribed procedure for issuing the OOP was not followed („Reviewing whether the measure of a general nature was issued according to the prescribed procedure (procedural steps for issuing general measures)“). The measure will be annulled on formal and procedural grounds, and it will not undergo substantive evaluation.

Next steps

Another scenario that may occur is that the authority issues the OOP in its original form and addresses the objections to some extent. If the OOP includes such an address – that can significantly vary in quality from one authority to another – it fulfills the first three steps of the process for reviewing the legality of the OOP. These first three steps involve reviewing whether the measure was procedurally issued correctly. However, if the measure still, in your opinion, goes against the public interest and causes harm to your rights and interests or the rights and interests of the organization you represent, you can still file a motion with the regional court to invalidate the OOP due to its illegality, focusing on reviewing its proportionality (proportionality criteria).

In exceptional cases, the administrative authority may bypass addressing the objections by not presenting the potentially disputed intervention in the traffic arrangement in the draft for public comments, but only in the issued OOP. In such a case, the OOP fails to fulfill either the third or fifth step of the process.

In the last scenario, it is possible that the administrative authority does not issue the OOP at all, and nothing happens. Such situations have occurred in the past when the Department of Transportation completely abandoned the intended change in traffic organization, and thus, the original state remained preserved. In this case, no change occurred that could affect anyone.

Motion to invalidate the OOP

If you are not satisfied with how the administrative authority addressed your objections and the harm caused by the issued measure, you can file a motion with the regional court to invalidate this measure of a general nature. Here you can find a downloadable template of such a motion, which ultimately led to the annulment of a part of the OOP that revoked a contraflow cycle lane in Brno.

When formulating the motion, it is recommended to collaborate with a law firm that specializes in administrative law and is familiar with the topic of transportation organization. The law firm will be responsible for formulating the wording of the motion to invalidate the OOP, so it is essential for them to be knowledgeable in the subject matter.

When submitting the motion, be prepared for financial costs amounting to 5,000 CZK for each applicant who joins the motion to invalidate the OOP. Additionally, there will be a legal fee for the law firm’s services. Generally, expect financial expenses in the tens of thousands of CZK in connection with the court proceedings. If you succeed, the opposing party will reimburse you for the court-awarded legal costs. However, if you do not succeed, there is a possibility that you will be required to cover the court-awarded costs of the opposing party. Therefore, it is necessary to have a financial cushion in place to cover all possible outcomes during the litigation process.

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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