Saturday 6 November 2010

Cycling in Prague - My Top Ten Tips

Prague isn’t known for being cycle friendly. Quite the opposite - it’s a hilly city with lots of tramlines and narrow, cobbled streets. Worse still, the drivers are notoriously aggressive. But things are getting better. The city authority has invested heavily in cycling infrastructure in the past few years, and biking is booming. Here are my top ten tips for cycling in Prague. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

Prague - gorgeous, yes, but cycle friendly?

1. Get a free map
Prague City Hall publishes a very useful cycling map of the city. Copies are available free of charge from the Prague Information Centre at Prague City Hall (Mariánské náměstí 2, Prague 1), from the information desks at city municipal offices (listed here), or from Bajkazyl. Alternatively, check out the online interactive version or pdf version.

Cycling map of Prague

2. Choose the right ride
Forgo your fixie and relinquish your road bike. Most locals ride hybrids or MTBs, and with good reason. You need a machine with sturdy wheels, soft suspension and a gamut of gears to overcome the city’s many bumps and humps in comfort.

3. Take a tour
Perhaps the easiest way to see the best of Prague by bike - especially if you are here on holiday - is to go on a cycling tour of the city. City Bike, Praha Bike and Prague Experience offer various guided tours. Or if you just want to rent a bike and do your own thing, you could also try Bajkazyl or Okolo.

4. Ride the river
There’s two ways of dealing with hills as a cyclist: either learn to love them, or never go near them. If you prefer the latter option, my tip is to cycle along the river. The A2 trail runs all the way through the city from north to south along the right bank of the Vltava. Apart from a tricky section in the city centre (near Charles Bridge) it’s almost entirely away from motor traffic. And it is, most definitely, flat.

The A2 cycle trail at Modřany

5. Use public transport
Prague’s excellent public transport system is getting more cycle friendly by the year. It’s a great way to get you and your bike to the city’s cycling hotspots. Bicycles can be transported free of charge on the Metro system, on certain tram lines in certain directions, on the funicular up Petřín Hill, and even on the little ferries that cross the Vltava. Be aware, however, that there are various rules and restrictions in place. You can find basic information in English here. I plan to cover this issue in more detail in a later post

“Transporting Bicycles in the Prague Public Transport System”

6. Tear up the trails
Right, that’s the hills dealt with. But what about those pesky drivers? Again, the best way is to avoid them altogether. Prague has plenty of parks and beauty spots with off-road trails designed specifically for cyclists. Check out Stromovka, Letná, Divoká Šárka, Prokopské údolí or Kunratický les, for example. You’ll hardly know you’re in the city.

Divoká Šárka in Prague

7. Be a weekend wheeler
Another way to dodge the traffic is to ride at the weekend rather than on workdays. In the summer, Prague’s residents leave the city in droves on Friday evening and don’t return until late on Sunday. As a result, you’ll find that the roads are quieter and the drivers more relaxed at the weekend.

8. Use the facilities
The pub and cafe owners of Prague know a business opportunity when they see one and are catering more and more to the thirsty and hungry cyclist. There are now loads of bike-friendly watering holes on the main cycle routes through the town. Exploring these places is one of the fun things about cycling around the city.

 One of the many restaurants on the riverside A2 trail

9. Clear off somewhere else
If, despite all my assurances, you really can’t face city cycling, then it’s easy enough to hop on a train and head out into the lovely countryside outside Prague (check out this post for advice on trains and this one for cycling trip tips).

10. Just get out there!
I hope I’ve convinced you that Prague and bikes do mix. With a little bit of knowledge, there’s a lot of fun to be had.


Michal said...

Dear fellow cyclists,

whether you just visit Prague or you live here, at OKOLO Bike Rentals we have the right bike for you: you can rent a bike for an hour, a day, a week or if you live in Prague you might want to take the long-term option which starts at 300CZK/month for a simple MTB. We are by the Staromestska metro station, which means you can easily explore the city centre, the Prague Castle or stroll along the river on a cycle path entirely free from cars, which starts just a few hundred meters from us.

Check our website:


Wayne Kirkbride Smith said...

At the grand age of 65 I have invested (and I really mean invested) in a Kalkhoff electric bike. I got it from 50 Cycles in Richmond UK and they shipped it to Prague for 50 pounds. It has changed my life. Hills?? Ha ha - - the Kalkhoff still requires that you peddle, so you still get heart exercise, but the electrics give you graded assistance up the hills. I've found a dealer in Nurnberg and they sell for a lot less that the UK dealer that I originally bought from. I get about 60kms using full power, but a younger person could get over 100kms from the battery using the economy setting. Best 2000 pounds I ever spent! And I don't find the Prague driver's especially aggresive - now tourists, they are a bloody nightmare.In which other city do tourists simply walk down the middle of the road under the eye of a bored policeman? All led by an idiot carrying an umbrella. Am I becoming a grumpy old man?

Post a Comment