Beer bikes can return to central Prague this weekend as court overturns ban

The municipal court said Prague City Hall lacks the authority to regulate traffic on minor streets

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 13.08.2020 11:14 (updated on 13.08.2020)

The ban on beer bikes in the center of Prague will end on Saturday, August 15. The city’s original ban was overturned by the Municipal Court and a 60-day temporary ban imposed by the city will expire. The city has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court and is awaiting a decision, but the ban will not be in effect in the meantime.

The beer bikes have multiple people, usually tourists, peddling while drinking beer from a small bar in the vehicle’s center. A non-drinking person steers the bike so that it does not violate drunken driving laws, which also apply to non-motorized vehicles.

The current City Hall administration sought to ban the bikes in an effort to clean up the touristy center from “visual smog” and other distractions that detract from the quality of life. The city also wants to move Prague beyond its image of a city for cheap “alcotourism” and instead promote its culture and history.

The ban was imposed in November 2019, and traffic signs enforcing the ban went up in the city center in February. Those signs will now have to come down.

beer bike
Beer bike in Old Town. via Raymond Johnston

Six companies affected by the ban, including bike operators and brewers, took legal action against he ban. The court ruled in May that the city lacked the authority to issue on the ban. According to the municipal laws, the city can only to issue traffic measures only for first-class roads, while the ban on beer bicycles mainly concerned lower category roads.

The court said the while the city can regulate traffic on first-class roads, the beer bikes mainly operate on second- through fourth-class roads and publicly accessible special-purpose roads, and those roads are overseen by the individual city districts.

“The Municipal Court is aware that this interpretation is to some extent formalistic, however, in this respect there is a legislative gap in the law that cannot be bridged by judicial interpretation,” the court’s judgment said.

Prague 4 also disagreed with the measure according to the document. The court also stated that “argumentation of the suitability, culture or aesthetics of a given means of transport” does not stand as a reason for similar regulation under the Road Act. According to the court, the city did not even sufficiently prove that the carts are noisy and disturb the locals.

The city took a temporary measure after the verdict, which kept the ban in force for another 60 days, but this is not a permanent solution.

Prague, June 2019 - people pedal through the city on a Beer Bike (via iStock.com / Photoservice)
Prague, June 2019 – people pedal through the city on a Beer Bike (via iStock.com / Photoservice)

Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě), responsible for transport, sent a letter to the city district informing them of the expiration of the measure. He cited the “negative attitude of some city districts” as the reason for lifting the ban, but did not mention the court ruling.

Scheinherr recommended that the districts agree in advance with the individual operators of these beer bikes on the measures they are planning in order to eliminate possible future litigation.

The Prague 1 district, which includes touristy Old Town and Malá Strana, has had most of the problems with beer bikes. District Councilor Richard Bureš (ODS) said that the Town Hall has had its own plan prepared for months. It does not ban the bikes flatly, but places the markers in strategic places so that it prevents them from crossing the main routes and effectively prevents their operation.

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“If the beer bikes reappear and start to cause problems, we are ready to immediately protect the center of Prague,” Bureš said, adding that no one from the city informed him about the court ruling and that he learned about it from the beer bike operators.

The ban was approved by the city last year, after which its validity was delayed by an unsuccessful complaint to the Czech Transport Ministry from the Czech family mini-brewery Gwern, which supplies a number of beer bicycles. This company is also one of those that has successfully filed a lawsuit against the measure.

Prague 7 was the first city district to take action against been bikes, banning them from Letná park based on their size.

Beer bikes are among the tourist attractions that residents of the city center have long been complaining about. In the past, the city was able to ban Segways through a change in the law, and has been able to restrict electric scooters and bicycles in some pedestrian zones. Beggars in large animal costumes, people blowing bubbles and many forms of busking also have been heavily restricted or banned.

Other European cities including Amsterdam have banned the bikes.