The area around the new Masaryčka office complex in the center of Prague suffers from traffic problems. On a brand new street for 214 million, there are not enough spaces for supplies, vans and cars, constantly blocking cycle paths and the road. Other times there is a trash can. The investor blames the driver and the ineffective police. The plan is old, and it would be different today, with city corporations fending for themselves. And they will discuss about the remedy.
It’s morning and the completely reconstructed Na Florenci street is enjoying the busiest part of the day. The area near the Masaryk station is gradually becoming a commercial center where tens of thousands of people are expected to work. This fall, Penta Group opened the first section. It is dominated by a distinctive nine-story building with a golden mantle from the studio of the late architect Zaha Hadid.
Here, formally dressed men and women run down the corridors, work in the new supermodern offices or work next door at Florentino, another Penta project that was later sold to China. The condition of the brand new road is not so neat anymore. Rather than the natural bustle of a big city, it resembles unbridled chaos. Van after van comes here. One for laundry, another for packages, eggs or fruits.
Motorists park illegally in cycle lanes and the police do not notice. | Photo: Jakub Blihal
A particularly important situation is at the main entrance of Florentino. From there, drivers, often carrying fragile or heavy loads, are logically closest to the building. But they have no place. Cars with blue zone permit will park near the entrance. Behind them there is a free space for greenery, but now there is only mud.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have anywhere else to put it,” says Nasser, a young driver, as he carries groceries, including several trays of eggs, into one of the buildings. He chose a solution that, while illegal, was not unique to this street. Stop for “flashing lights” on the bicycle lanes on the sides of the road.
Aktuálně.cz editors watched the situation for about an hour and a half. The entire time, the cycle path could not be completely passed – it was always blocked by at least one car. Not just products, but also ordinary car drivers. They got away with it and the whole time not a single police patrol showed up at the scene. At the same time, the street is part of the main cycle path connecting the center with Carlin. Before the reconstruction, according to municipal data, 400 cyclists a day passed through this route during the season, which is not very welcome.
It is far away from places and garages
There are places for delivery on the street. But there are only a few of them, and they are far from the gateways needed by couriers. “Usually they’re full. They’re a long way from us anyway, and you see what I’m getting at,” Nasser points to a tray of eggs. In some locations, the same cars were parked throughout the observation period, although the sign only allowed parking for fifteen minutes.
Other locations for delivery are in underground garages where few vans actually enter. According to other interviewed drivers, they have to cover long distances with loads and they don’t have time for that.
When the couriers find a place on the street, they face another problem. There is no continuous road leading to the new building, only separate blocks. You can’t drive them in a wheelchair, and walking requires caution. “This is nonsense,” says one of the drivers, pushing a cart with cargo into the building. Back on the cycle path.
Meanwhile, a little further on, the street begins to fill with something else – garbage cans. A man comes out of Florentina’s compound and leads them out of the building in pairs. And putting them back on track for cyclists. At one point, a situation arises where a cyclist has to pass not only five cars in a row, but also 16 garbage cans. So some cyclists prefer to ride on the pavement and continue on.
When cars are not parked in the bike lane, there is a long line of garbage bins that are obstructed. | Photo: Jakub Blihal
“minimum” cycle path
Narrow or interrupted cycle lanes are typically a problem on previously constructed streets that do not yet allow cyclists. But Na Florenci Street is only a few days from being completely reconstructed. It cost 214 million crowns and lasted more than a year.
The fundamental problem is that poorly designed buildings leave insufficient space for pedestrians, cyclists, goods and greenery. At the same time, the street is 20 meters wide, which is not very common in the center of Prague. Renderings of the project show satisfied pedestrians and cyclists and calmer traffic, but so far the reality looks different.
Visualization. The appearance of the street and its actual function differ significantly from the original plans. | Photo: Penta Real Estate
This is a typical example of an ill-conceived solution, according to Tomasz Kačin, a transport urban planner who has collaborated with the Prague municipality several times in the past. “It doesn’t matter how successful or not the architecture and aesthetics of the building in general is, or how strong or weak the PR of a particular implementation or its author is. It says nothing about how sensitively and carefully the project is placed. The environment of the area,” he commented.
Although the street is practically “newly” built, there is no high-quality bicycle lane or at least a dedicated lane. “Cycle lanes on the road here are treated very sparingly. First, there should be an alternative to having a dedicated lane physically separated from cars. It’s not happening, even if it’s a cycle across the city. The lane,” he adds.
According to Cache, the supply points are not fulfilling their function because people stop at them for a long time, the police do not comply with the rules, and any fines are ridiculous.
Michal Vojtíšek from CTU’s Center for Sustainable Vehicles agrees. He considers the missing drivable area to be “an architectural problem, as well as a solution for waste collection and disposal.”
The number of cars parked on the cycle path also encourages cyclists to use the sidewalks. | Photo: Jakub Blihal
“We would have done it differently”
Even the responsible authorities recognize that the street is not working according to the original ideas. “The situation is not good,” Prague 1 transport councilor Vojtěch Ryvola (ANO) told Aktuálně.cz. He said he is convening a meeting of city district representatives with Penta and the Planning and Development Agency about possible changes to the street’s traffic solution. “It should happen in December,” he said.
The shape of the new street was already approved by the previous administration of Prague 1, and then the reconstruction was carried out by the Technical Administration of Communications. “Although this is a new implementation, we would like to point out that the project is several years old and was prepared according to the requirements of the then administration of Prague 1. Today, these things will be handled differently,” Barbora said. Liskova, a spokeswoman for the Communications Administration.
“We can imagine that as part of the general reconstruction of the street, there will be partial changes that take into account the experience of the first weeks of operation, and this will facilitate and speed up the delivery,” said Penta spokesman Martin Lansky. He adds that compared to the past, the street has calmed down since the reconstruction and despite the problems, it is still one of the friendliest places for bicycle traffic.
The city district sees the main culprit in unruly drivers. According to spokeswoman Karolina Snejdarova, the underground parking lots of Masaryka and Florentina have enough places to buy goods. “The underground supply yard is further connected through internal distribution channels for transfer of goods and materials to all operating units. There is no technical reason for distribution from the ground floor of the street,” he said.
Benda sees it the same way. “The main cause of the problems are drivers who don’t follow the rules of the road and insufficient activity of the police, who should enforce these rules, as well as in other exposed places in the city center,” added Lansky. However, city police spokeswoman Irena Seifert said that although the street is not yet approved, patrols monitor compliance in the area every day.
According to Cach, replacing the current paid parking zones with strictly short-term parking would help the situation. “There are hundreds of spaces in garages on this street alone to park for a few tens of minutes, hours or days. And hundreds more in the immediate vicinity, with similar surface parking a few minutes’ walk away,” he says.
“The best thing would be to design and implement everything again, which will definitely not happen. However, it is good to learn from this and not repeat the same mistakes in the further development of the area in the east or elsewhere. Some parts of the city, like Pabni, are developing others and there is a real threat of similar things.” says transport urbanist Cache.