Safety - our view

Sustainable mobility strongly relates to safety, that's what everyone agrees with. What is different are our ideas about what a safe mobility means and looks like. Czech experts often think about traffic safety from the car drivers' perspective who often see other road users (cyclists and pedestrians) as barriers to a smooth and safe traffic flow. This could be incomprehensible especially for our project partners in Austria, that's why a speech of the CR Traffic Police Director is attached on "a safe distance while overtaking cyclists" which was given at a meeting of the Economic Committee of the Chamber of Deputies on February 3, 2021, with the aim to urge the Deputies to vote against the proposed 1.5m distance between a cyclist and an overtaking car. His words represent an approach of a large group of the Czech experts and police officers. (Note - the bill was approved on April 14, 2021, which is good news at last!)

This rather narrow-minded approach of some of the competent people who are responsible for assessing the infrastructure safety in our country is the greatest barrier to the cycling development in the CR, mostly due to personal opinions and attitudes prevailing over general rules, public interest and practical use. This fact needs to be said out loud if the CR is to move forward.

The problematic point of view can be illustrated on the generally accepted Vision Zero. We aim to include health benefits of active mobility into the vision, as well as conditions for prioritizing active mobility when addressing public space design. This would have certain effects:

  • Road safety needs to be addressed both at the national-regional-local level, and in relation to other strategic areas such as public health, environment protection, economics.
  • The way people approach mobility needs to be changed, which most easily can be achieved through school education and positive examples in families. Changes in travel behaviour must result from the shift towards other means of transport than cars, not only for environmental reasons, but also for health and economic ones. Public demand is gradually increasing for alternative transport options, and it depends on the political will of local governments whether the growth will be supported, or slowed down due to a lack of long-term, sustainable urban planning.

This is what those who prioritize car use should realize. Sustainability and traffic safety go hand in hand, but sustainability really requires making the above changes and shifts, together with transformation of a public and road space so that it is in harmony with the required behaviour. The ultimate goal is what "humanization" of a street space is called, which means the space is not only effective for transport system, but also liveable, people friendly and multi -purpose.

Since the CR Police is the approval authority for amendments to transport systems and public space use, it is their approach and mindset which need to be transformed, for being based on a well-established requirement currently which comes from the past and says that the greatest available capacity must be provided for cars, without taking into account sufficiently measures to improve environment for other public space users. Car drivers' interests win over other road users' interests, and many drivers are aware of it and use it to behave accordingly. Therefore, a dialogue between the Police and experts is necessary to clarify the situation and subsequently to make amendments to given standards.

We recommend the traffic safety experts and the Police to follow the principles of sustainable development, specifically the recommendation of the European Road Safety Council PIN Flash-38: "It is recommended to use urban planning hierarchy which puts walking, cycling and public transport above car use, together with implementation of 30km/h speed limit and other traffic calming measures in areas with a high number of pedestrians and cyclists[1]. However, a real shift towards walking and cycling, especially for short everyday journeys in densely populated areas requires to make changes right in the urban space design: motor traffic moves very slowly in the space used by vulnerable road users, there's a separated infrastructure in the space as well as smart junctions, school streets without any cars are a standard. Since the European, national and local governments play a key role in the process, ETSC provides recommendations for policy makers[2] throughout the document.

To separate various transport modes is often interpreted as a necessity to build separate cycleways. However, urban traffic struggles with limited space when it usually is impossible to build a cycleway, or it results in other delays, or even resignation, in finding the right solution. Therefore, integration is what our towns and cities need. This is what the German Technical Conditions for Cyclists "Guidelines for Cycling Facilities" (ERA 2010) say: To increase safety on European roads, the European Road Safety Council recommends separating cyclists from motor traffic on all roads with more than 30km/h speed limit. It is recommended to find any type of separation, such as designated cycle lanes.