Prague, Czech Republic – An absolute bliss for some tourists, an excruciating headache for residents. We present: the beer bike.
But carelessly pedaling through the cobbled streets of Prague’s old town might soon be a thing of the past. According to local media, the Prague City Hall is considering implementing a ban on the controversial beer bikes operating in the historic city center.
Czechs might be the heaviest beer drinkers in the world, locals have long been expressing their frustration about this new phenomenon, which appeared a few years ago, arguing they consistently blocked traffic and encroached on bicycle lanes. Residents also complained about the noise and disorder created by these beer bikes, that often come with a disturbingly efficient stereo and bright LED lights.
Municipal councilors of Prague’s 1st district – which encompasses the old city center – have been advocating to regulate the beer bikes for some time, attempting to hand out fines in the open areas where alcohol consumption is legally forbidden. Nevertheless, beer bikes, that can carry from 12 to 16 people ready to pay roughly 350 euros for a one-and-a-half-hour ride, kept popping up at an increasing rate.
But Prague 1 isn’t alone anymore, and has received the support from the main municipal office of the Czech capital. Arguing that “alco-tourism doesn’t belong in Prague”, the municipal office of Prague 1 announced that it will “forbid this loud entertainment”. If passed, the ban could come into effect by the start of next summer. A new “beer bike prohibition label” would be added to existing signs prohibiting the entry of trucks and large vehicles in certain areas.
The difficulty to regulate beer bikes stemmed from the fact that they don’t fall, as non-motorized vehicles of their own kind, under a specific category of the law. But last year, beer bikes were already banned in Prague’s 7 popular Letna Park after local authorities introduced a ban for carriages of specific measurements.
Several options are considered, including a ban that would only take effect in the city center (Old Town, Josefov, Malá Strana, Hradčany) and a more ambitious alternative that would extend to other districts (Smíchov, Bubeneč, Vyšehrad). Prague would be following in the footsteps of other European cities like Amsterdam, which first introduced a ban on beer bikes in 2017.
This would not be the first time Prague, which has been facing a significant tourism boom over the last decade, takes action against such phenomenon. In 2016, a Segway ban was introduced in the historical center, with other districts soon following suit. The ban nonetheless came at a heavy cost, with authorities forced to put up hundreds of new prohibition signs in Prague streets. Other problems stemming from Prague’s increasing appeal to foreign tourists include issues relating to housing and Airbnb rentals in the Old Town, or attempts to regulate partying and drunken excesses through the establishment of a so-called ‘night-life mayor’.
Beer bike business owners are expected to take legal action if Prague authorities move to ban their activities, with one of them stating that “we will deal with our lawyers for the next steps […] The Town Hall did not show any willingness to negotiate with us”.