Posters advertising the Critical Mass events in Prague. Images via Auto*Mat.
Heavy traffic, aggressive drivers, few bike lanes, and fear of theft made the Czech capital a place where cycling was "only for the brave," as an article for Radio Prague put it a few years ago. Since then, new bike lanes have been built, bike maps created, and the city has become safer for cyclists -- a development being celebrated this afternoon with a street party and, of course, a bike ride.Today's Critical Mass ride through Prague is "unique in comparison to some other mass bike rides in cities that have long embraced a pedal-to-work culture," the New York Times writes:
Critical Mass starts at noon with a "sustainable living" street party -- ecologically minded fashions shows, environmentally responsible treats, live music -- in Vinohrady, followed, at 4 p.m. by a two-hour jaunt across main arteries and over Nusle Bridge, in a round-trip route. (Visitors without their own wheels can rent bikes at Bajkazyl and Praha Bike.)
Though drivers are still getting used to sharing the road with cyclists, the situation is "a lot better than it was," bike activist Daniel Mourek told the paper. The first Critical Mass in the city, in 2001, drew less than two dozen people; last year's attracted 5,000 cyclists. The group ride with police protection is "tailored to those who are scared to ride through Prague," Mourek said.
Thanks to the efforts of groups such as Critical Mass organizer Auto*Mat, which works to reduce the impact of cars on Prague, the ranks of the fearful are on the decline and the needs of cyclists are being taken into consideration by city planners. Hopefully other bike-unfriendly cities such as Istanbul will eventually follow in its footsteps, or, perhaps we should say, its tire-tread marks.
More about city biking:
Reinventing the Dutch Bike for Global City Slickers
7 Great Solutions for Safely Parking City Bikes
6 Ways to Boost Your City's Bike Mojo
Success! Video of New York City's Bike to Work Day
Bike Sharing Program Launched in Mexico City
Bike City Berlin