Michael On Everything Else

Pedestrianizing Cities

During last week’s travels to Czech Republic, we got a good taste of Prague’s pedestrianizing initiative. The day we arrived, we rented a car from the airport and drove to our hotel using an iPhone as sat nav. We thought it was odd the wide loop out of our way that the phone took us to get to the hotel but thought nothing more of it in our hazed, jet-lagged state. But on our return trip, we lost sat nav just inside the city and tried to wing it from memory, with the help of Marie’s sister Michelle, who had previously lived in Prague for a few months.

Getting to the general area of the hotel was relatively easy — we followed signs for city center and then started working with familiar landmarks to go in general directions, slowly whittling our way closer. But we got to a point where we were litterally going in circles trying to get to the hotel that was one block away from us. Each time we’d drift into an area and Michelle would say “you don’t want to go that way, it’s heavily pedestrianized.” We finally got so frustrated we had to simply stop for something to eat and hop on a cafe’s wifi to get directions.

The directions the phone gave us again plotted a very wide, counter-intuitive loop, which skirted one-way streets and pedestrianized zones to get us to our hotel.

What's my point in all of this? It's my opinion that highly pedestrianized areas needlessly create tension between motorists and pedestrians. Not only was it rediculously difficult for us to find our way to the hotel in the car, but outside the pedestrian-only zones, the pedestrians felt empowered to walk right in front of us. We even found ourselves doing the same to other drivers when we were walking the streets. I think a better solution would be one that enables pedestrians and cars to coexist on the same streets, especially in areas containing hotels, where people are obviously going to arrive in cars. I understand some zones like market and town squares need to be pedestrian-only. But I completely disagree with slicing off entire city sections just for pedestrians. If you're going to do that, why not also slice off entire sections as "car only?" It makes about as much sense to me (read: none).