Driving Home A Point
An article in this week's "Prague Post" has me a little worked up. It's titled "Accidents Rise Amid Bicycle Boom."
In the article, Czech police say the number of traffic accidents caused by cyclists rose nearly one-third, to 1,209, in the first half of 2007, compared with 982 during the same period in 2006.
That's certainly a strange way of characterizing accidents involving cyclists and automobiles. Do they keep separate statistics for the number of cycling accidents caused by drivers?
The police blame reckless or careless cyclists and an increase in the number of riders as being responsible, and recommend more bike paths be built to get cyclists off the roads.
Aggressive Czech drivers somehow escape blame.
I have been deliberately sideswiped, verbally abused, and honked at by Czech drivers while cycling, for absolutely no reason. In one instance, a driver tried to back his car at high speed into Stewart and me after we yelled at him for almost hitting us as he rounded a corner too fast.
I have heard about and personally witnessed countless instances of Czech drivers behaving dangerously toward cyclists, whose only crime is that we were sharing the same road and perhaps delaying their journeys by a few seconds because they had to slow down a bit to go around us.
In my experience, Czech drivers are the worst in the world when it comes to respecting the rights of cyclists. Statistics prove Czechs are some of the world's worst drivers, period.
"I am Czech, a driver and cyclist as well, so the Czech crazy drivers (usually male drivers) make me mad quite often," said one cyclist in a recent comment on this blog. "It seems like some people here turn into total idiots when holding the wheel. Especially the Prague ones are known across the Czech Republic for their aggressiveness ..."
Another cyclist and blog reader simply described Czech drivers as "mental ... Being a cyclist I am scared of them to the point that I almost never drive in Prague."
Yet another reader wrote me and said: "I see also you have quite a few incidents with drivers. I have to say it is a sad and true part of cycling, so I completely agree with you when you say that (hopefully) things will change. ... I have to say out of my personal experience Czechs are one of the worst. ... Many Czech drivers just cannot drive a car decently."
Cyclists who do not obey the rules of the road cannot be excused. And of course, more bike paths would be welcomed, but such routes will not keep cyclists entirely off the roads.
The simple fact is that Czech drivers need to chill out, slow down and realize that the roads belong to cyclists, too.