Cycling as a mode of transport:
Travelling in Prague on bicycles has many positives and negatives which need to be considered. First of all, Prague, unlike other European cities, does not have a fully developed cycling infrastructure. Efforts to improve this are relatively recent and it will be some time before Prague offers comparable possibilities to Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen and other bike-friendly European locales.
London’s mayor Boris Johnson, for one, is a perfect example of a cyclist who uses a bicycle to travel to and from work and is an advocate of alternative bicycle transport. In London and other cities, the ideal infrastructure is already there and has been actively developed over extensive periods of time; drivers have learned to expect cyclists, and essentially, bicycles are considered an integral part of the city transport system.
This is often not the case in Prague. Luckily, however, there are numerous benefits to traveling on bicycles here aside from the beautiful scenery and unique architectural wonders.
With the morning and afternoon peak hours often paralyzing Prague’s transport on the roads, cycling to and from work offers a more direct, healthy, refreshing, and fun way of spending your travels in contrast to the often not so rosy (literally) public transport system. It is, of course, a much cheaper mode of transport and requires very little financial input following the purchase of a bicycle.
Various organizations exist to improve, among other things, the conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. The Auto*Mat initiative, as an example, is well-known for aiming for sustainable modes of transport, for better conditions for pedestrians/cyclists, and for ensuring a reasonable future transport policy. Prague’s recent public transport strike demonstrated just how much a city can change without so many cars on the roads. Thousands upon thousands of cyclists (549% more than usual) took to the streets. Many traveled to work on bicycles, while others took the opportunity to see the capital city reborn and quiet. So quiet indeed that it was hard to believe this really was happening.
Cycling as a sport:
Transport aside, cycling for recreational and sport purposes is by far the more popular of the two. Many of us own bicycles and are happy to cycle around the city over the weekends or in the afternoons after work. But where can you go to cycle? This is where the biggest problem could surface when planning possible trips or locations to travel to. Luckily, there are numerous resources available for people to use for reference. Prahounakole.cz is one of the most popular maps to be used for cyclists in and around Prague. It offers color-marked routes including current disruptions and construction work so characteristic of Prague’s summers. A similar and perhaps more graphically pleasing alternative can be found on Cykloserver.cz.
Alternatively, you can travel by the Vltava River to the South, going as far down as Zbraslav. This route goes through Podolí, by the Žluté Lázně resort, and offers an amazing scenery along the way. What’s even better is the fact that for a considerable amount of journey, you are surrounded by trees and nature, which further enriches the already rich experience.
One important detail to mention is that bicycles can be brought into the Prague metro (last carriage) or onto trains. The Czech Railways have strengthened their support for cycling and have become a popular method of transporting bicycles for a price as low as 30 CZK – 60 CZK for the entire day depending on whether you use the oversized storage space or a dedicated carriage with bike “hooks” to hang your bike during transport. Finally, Czech Railways also offer a bike rental option at select train stations, bringing us closer to the next topic of rentals, subsequent servicing, and DIY maintenance.
Rentals, Servicing, DIY maintenance:
Regardless of where and how you use your bicycle, you need to have one in the first place. Not all of us have a bicycle or have the space to store it. For others, the seldom use of bicycles makes renting a bicycle a more appealing option. There are, yet again, many options available. Praha Bike and Okolo Bike Rental are some of the expat-friendly bike rental agencies; the company Czexplorer arranges day-long bike trips through areas outside of Prague, from Krkonoše to Southern Bohemia. By renting, you usually have the comfort and benefit of having a well-serviced transport/sport bicycle.
A well-serviced bicycle is essential in terms of safety, reliability and functionality. Old bicycles and worn-out components surely do not make the journeys a pleasure that they could be and could jeopardize an otherwise amazing day for you. Prague offers numerous servicing options. If you are looking for an expat-friendly bicycle service company, one to definitely consider may well be Hot Dog Cycles. It is operated by an American who is a bike enthusiast and himself an avid bicycle fan. When the bicycle is tuned and oiled, it will run smoothly and make a difference during your travels, be they for transport purposes or for sport. A short mention of the Auto*Mat and Bajkazyl DIY workshops is also necessary. Bajkazyl, situated, for example, at MeetFactory’s complex, offers a unique opportunity to fix your bicycle on the spot, talk to other cyclists when doing so, and a chance to learn how to better understand your bicycle with all the technical bits most of us leave to others to fix when complications occur. Who knows, maybe you too will become a DIY guru.
Regardless of your preference, Prague and its surrounding areas offer countless options for cyclists. With the season still very alive, there is no better time to grab a bicycle, plan a trip and enjoy the speed and freedom that a bicycle ride can offer. As John F. Kennedy once said, ““Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” To conclude, wear a helmet to stay safe, gather some energy and head out to discover the world around you from a different and exciting perspective.