Should cyclists be allowed to zip about in the Old Town? Are they an accident just waiting to happen and what does it take before action is taken?
Every day the two-wheel terrors whizz and skim through the tourists, families and business people alike, missing them by mere centimetres. Many seem more interested in anything else but safety. Last week I saw a scruffy cyclist almost T-bone a young mother’s pram.
Should the police address this before someone is seriously hurt, given that 80 kg or so travelling at 20-30 Kph can cause quite a lot of damage? It’s difficult enough navigating through tourists and pram-pushing mothers on foot, let alone while on a high-speed bike ride. Cyclists should be required to dismount in pedestrian zones.
Now, in Bratislava at least, in addition to the daredevil cyclists people how have to contend also with inexperienced Segway riders or the electric scooter gang. These vehicles are capable of up to 20 kph, although many are restricted to 13.5 kph.
In the UK, for example, the Segway is classified as a powered vehicle and subject to Road Traffic law, with the effect that because the Segway is not deemed to meet the required safety standards, it is unlawful to use a Segway anywhere other than on private property with the owner’s permission.
While in opposition, the political parties forming the current coalition government lobbied to change the law to allow the use of Segways on public cycling lanes. In July 2010, a man was charged in Barnsley under the Highway Code of 1835 for riding his Segway on the pavement, which led to his prosecution and a fine of £75.
In Germany, cycling lanes must be used if they are present. Riding a Segway on sidewalks and in pedestrian zones for city tours requires a special permit. In 2002 the City of San Francisco banned the Segway PT from sidewalks, citing safety concerns as the reason. However, a number of Segway Tour operations use them in cycle lanes and designated trails.
In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the use of a Segway is permitted wherever pedestrians and bicycles are allowed. Segways can be rented for city tours, for example in the Old Town squares of Bratislava and Prague, by enthusiastic tourists who have never been on one before.
So, until the law or bylaws are changed, keep an eye also on what’s happening behind you as you stroll unaware of the dangers in the pedestrian zones of your city.