The complete ban on Segways in the city center will be in force from August 9.
By BOHEMIST STAFF
PRAGUE – The City Hall ordinance that will completely ban Segways in the city center became effective today and at least some Segway companies are now considering legal action.
“The lawyers are reviewing the [ordinance] to see if all is according to the law,” said Jaroslav Endrst, a committee member on the Prague Segway Association.
“The fact that the ban was made so quickly, it will cause serious economic damages not only to Segway providers, but also to many travel agencies. Big groups are planned months in advance. All these groups we would need to cancel.”
On July 19, City Hall passed a total ban on all gyro vehicles – self balance electronic vehicles such as Segway’s and hoverboards – throughout the city center of Prague, effectively killing the existing business platform of the more than 40 Segway companies operating tours in the city.
The ban will be in force on August 9, 15 days from the passage of an ordinance distributed last week and obtained by bohemist.
Segway company owners said the ban was a result of City Hall applying a BandAid solution to an issue that had been drummed up through the media.
“The bad reputation came from politicians,” Endrst told bohemist. “Since 2013 when the first article showed up it was from one member of city government. There is a big publicity from city government against us. I think it was planned.”
In 2014 Prague 1 Mayor Oldrich Lomecký called Segways “worse than casinos or brothels.”
Endrst said this negative campaign was evident in many community meetings at City Hall.
“Prague has many problems. I was in a meeting with the Mayor and many people were raising problems, like brothels and casinos, but these were complicated problems,” he said and, ultimately, these problems were ignored by government. “When someone raised Segways as a problem the Mayor started talking for twenty minutes, they want to show they are doing something.”
“We received countless complaints and we decided to satisfy both residents and even some tourists,” Mayor Adriana Krnacova told reporters last month.
The Segway Association sees City Hall as taking the easy way out. The group has been using its own internal rules since 2011 and have had a limited number of incident and injuries among member companies. The Association consulted with the University of Infrastructure to map Segway corridors through the city in a way they say would be the least disruptive and most safe. However, these draft regulation and transport corridors were rejected by City Hall.
“Three years ago a big problem started in Prague, because there were other companies coming and all of them are basically in the past from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan,” Zuzana Eliášová, another Segway Association member, said, adding that there were many companies flocking to Prague at the time.
“We saw then that there would be a problem on the pavements.”
The Segway Association says it approached these new companies to join the Association and abide by its rules of conduct, but the offer was refused.
“Nothing happened. Completely nothing happened, they didn’t want to hear us about the situation,” Eliášová said.
In recent months, Prague locals will have noticed a police van parked in Old Town Square near to the Astronomical Clock. Praguers would likely also have noticed a dizzying number of Segways in Old Town touting their tours – a practice that is technical forbidden under Prague laws which make the soliciting of businesses outside of a registered shop front illegal.
“But the police and state government do nothing,” Eliášová said. “I am surprised that these people can do that every day.”
“There is good driver, bad driver. There is good Segwayer and bad Segwayer. It they are bad Segwayer they should be given a ticket, if this doesn’t work, then there will be problems,” Endrst said.
Most other countries in Europe are beginning to regulate the use of Segways by passing regulations as to the registration, movement corridors and licensing of the gyro vehicles. Barcelona is the only other city to have imposed a blanket ban, which the government has said will be lifted in September and replaced with the passage of a city ordinance regulating use.
The average Segway tour price is around 55 Euro, or around 1,500 Ǩc, per person, with Endrst estimating most companies would guide around 30 tourists per day during peak season. The Segway ban could represent an industry loss of up to 100,000 Euro in August alone based on peak season figures.
A note on the Prague City Council website today said Segway users in the banned areas would be fined up to 2,000Kc.
“We believe that unavailability of Segway rides in the city center will have no effect on memorable experiences whilst visiting Prague,” the message from City Hall read.
“On the contrary, you would be able to enjoy the beauty and ambiance of the Czech metropolis without the risk of potential conflict with often undisciplined users of these vehicles.”