In March of this year, the AutoMat organization sent inquiries to the Prague City Hall regarding the pavement, spatial design, and traffic regime in a section of the newly reconstructed A2 cycle path near the Podolí maternity hospital. This raised numerous reactions, including a critical comment on our website. How does the City Hall’s Department of Transportation justify these changes?
The following text was originally published on the AutoMat organization’s website. We are publishing the organization’s inquiries and the responses in their original form. Despite the efforts of the „Městem na kole“ editorial team, we have still not been able to obtain a more detailed comment from the city. Therefore, we find it valuable to publish at least these brief responses as a further contribution to the public debate on this section of one of Prague’s most significant cycle paths.
The positions presented by the organization and the city may not reflect the views of the „Městem na kole“ editorial team.
AutoMat: The sidewalk has been changed from a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists (C9) to a sidewalk with permitted cycling (C7 + E13). For cyclists, this means a speed limit and it creates a space where cyclists are allowed to ride more out of grace on a road where the rights of pedestrians and cyclists are equal. We request the preservation of the current traffic regime as a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists (C9) instead of the proposed change to a sidewalk with permitted cycling (C7 + E13). This solution does not correspond to the significance of the route and contradicts European trends of creating separated cycle paths from pedestrians on major cycling routes.
City Hall: The regime of the pedestrian path with permitted cycling in the section between U Podolského sanatoria Street and the Vyšehrad Tunnel was approved by the relevant authorities and was aimed at increasing the safety of pedestrians in the narrowest section of the embankment, where the sidewalk locally does not reach a width of 4 meters (incorrectly stated as a minimum of 4 meters in your letter, note by AutoMat: according to our measurement, it is approximately 4.2 meters at the railing and approximately 3.9 meters from the sign, which would not be necessary in the case of a continuous C9). This was done through measures resulting from the regime of a pedestrian path with permitted cycling. Cyclists who want to ride faster and without sharing the space with pedestrians can use parallel dedicated cycle lanes on the roadway, and many of them do so. Additionally, this allowed for the removal of some traffic signs on the visually exposed Vyšehrad Cliff. We consider the newly proposed traffic regime to be a suitable compromise between all the requirements placed on the public space in this location.
AutoMat: Why was the asphalt surface replaced with less suitable limestone mosaic as part of the reconstruction on this major cycle path with a frequency of several thousand cyclists per day?
City Hall: It is an original waterfront promenade sidewalk with historically documented mosaic pavement, including the pattern used, and the section is located within the Prague Monument Reserve, which is the area with the highest level of monument protection. Additionally, we would like to add that there are a large number of engineering networks with frequent interventions and excavations beneath the sidewalk in this section, making a removable surface more appropriate.
AutoMat: Was there consideration given to expanding the associated space of the existing cycle lane towards the city center to allow for a separated path leading to the Vyšehrad Tunnel?
City Hall: This modification was rejected in the early stages of planning due to financial costs, as it would require the relocation of street drains connected to the sewer system under the tram track. It is uncertain whether such an action without significant construction interventions on the waterfront would be feasible. The modification would only have an effect if the traction wiring and public lighting were also relocated, leading to further relocations in a situation where the underground infrastructure is already extensive.
AutoMat: Is the City Hall and its service organizations (TSK, DPP, etc.) currently planning to reduce the comfort or standard of cycle paths on certain sections of the citywide cycle routes, such as paving, changing them into sidewalks with permitted cycling, or removing cycling permissions?
City Hall: The change from a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists to a pedestrian path with permitted cycling was intended to take place in Nusle Valley along the sidewalk next to Sekaninova Street in connection with the marking of integration measures for cyclists in the roadway. However, in light of the change in the position of Prague 2 Municipal District regarding the marking of integration measures, changes are currently being discussed with the Prague 2 Municipal District. Other modifications in line with your inquiry have not been ordered by our department, but it cannot be ruled out that such requirements may arise during the discussion of specific projects.
AutoMat: What steps will the City Hall of Prague take to ensure that the current Standards for Active Mobility for cycling transportation are adhered to in future reconstructions and modifications of streets, at least in the corridors of major and backbone cycle routes?
City Hall: The Standards for Active Mobility in Prague apply not only to cyclists but to all users falling into the category of active mobility. For example, pedestrian traffic is given priority in the standards. Additionally, in Prague, we navigate through a complex, long-established area with many often conflicting professional and political interests, given the existing constraints and standards. In some cases, it is not possible to meet all requirements while achieving the implementation of construction or other modifications, so suitable consensus must be sought. The Active Mobility Strategy in Prague is a document that our department and other city units work with, and each project is responsibly assessed according to its criteria.
We find the city’s response unsatisfactory, especially regarding the application of sustainable mobility standards. Let’s start with the minimum width of the shared path, which we measured differently in the narrowest section for mysterious reasons than what the city states in its response. According to the ČSN (Czech National Standard), a width of 3.5 meters would be sufficient.
Furthermore, we believe that the standards of active mobility were not correctly applied in the response. The requirements for superior cycle routes should apply to the A2 route under Vyšehrad, either by separating pedestrians and cyclists (C10) or allowing a shared path (C9). The sidewalk with permitted cycling that was created here is not acceptable according to the standards for superior routes, and the current width conditions still allow for a shared path to be maintained. Therefore, it should be preserved.
The demand of the city’s conservationists for the cycle path to resemble a sidewalk, regardless of traffic needs, does not mean that the city should abandon an appropriate traffic regime.
The actual difference in the behavior of all participants is likely to be small because few pedestrians and cyclists know the difference in rights and obligations. However, a subordinate traffic regime devalues the functionality of a superior cycle route as a whole, and symbolically, we perceive it as a clearly negative signal. We definitely do not consider it acceptable for the establishment of integration measures to degrade existing shared paths into sidewalks with permitted cycling. Especially when the city declares its intention to build continuous and comfortable protected cycle paths, which contradicts what we actually see.