Traffic regulations

Czech politicians have been quite tense during the recent month. There were many reasons, one of them being traffic. The Green Party pushed for a restriction of truck traffic during the weekend and, more importantly, on Fridays. The result is that throughout the whole year, Friday 15- 18 hours local time, all trucks must get off the road. The transport companies are enraged. They say there is an estimate of thirty thousand trucks moving around the republic during Friday afternoon- and around a thousand parking slots. Where is the rest supposed to go?

It’s easy to say the Green chairman Martin Bursík simply had to score some points before the party convention, which took place a week ago. But the fact remains the trucks are a soaring problem in the CR. As a participant in one Net discussion sensibly remarked: OK, we don’t know what to do with the plastic bottles and wrappings, so let’s just keep throwing them all over the planet, right?

Right, we all know something has to be done. There are many villages and small towns in the CR that are desperate because of the amount of trucks that pass through them every day. The roads are often narrow, the towns were not built for such a use, obviously, so there are dwelling all along the roads, which were supposed to be peaceful. Now that these become small highways, the people around are forced to breathe toxic air, their houses are becoming less stable, there is relentless noise. And, of course, there many more accidents, collisions and casualties. There are small towns in the country that seem completely destroyed by this tidal wave.

The problem is, to great extent, a result of the conditions, under which we joined the EU. The system was not ready, we had no restrictions regarding the traffic when we joined and we didn’t even have the toll system ready, it took many more months for the government to prepare. In consequence, the transport companies stormed the Czech infrastructure and when the toll finally did come into place, it was too late.

The capital didn’t feel that much of a change. Prague has been having problems with traffic for many years, especially on the main roads, the highway that goes through the city. Some minor problems were solved by restrictions: the riverbank under Vysehrad used to be blocked because cars and trams were struggling to get through the narrow tunnel under the rock. On such a small scale it’s easy to deal with: traffic lights were set before the tunnel. But in case of small towns, the results are often opposite: they make the traffic even slower.

Not that Prague would be perfect in comparison: many (me included) are waiting for more car- free zones in the centre and some of the major roads are almost permanently overflowing with vehicles. But it’s nowhere near a collapse and the prospects can make us optimistic.

An alternate highway is to be built around Prague, the works are actually going on. Similarly, many other towns need these by- pass operations. But they’re expensive, they take time to be built, they don’t always solve the problem- and they are often halted by the property- owners, whose land would have to be used.

The current decision may be unrealistic, but it seems some restrictions are unavoidable. It’s the tactics that makes it unpleasant. Bursík was facing a rebel group within his party and he needed something “green” to be passed, him being accused of being too “blue” (ODS-friendly, rightist). Surely, it wasn’t the main point when the votes were cast, but it’s probably did contribute to the great success he had, wiping out his opposition from the tope levels of the party.

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