If Prague was a hospital, Bohuslav Svoboda’s colleagues would never allow him to undergo an operation.

Imagine the following situation: A person applies for the position of director of the nation’s largest teaching hospital, unfamiliar with the professional medical debates of decades past. For example, he is unaware of his use of X-rays. Additionally, this past doctor is uncertain if he will be able to devote himself to primary care work. He has another job and wants to keep it. Last but not least, this doctor claims that smoking does not affect human health, but smoking should be banned in hospitals as it was 50 years ago. I don’t understand why. “Tobacco smoking is not essential to human health,” he waved at the argument, brightening up cheerfully in the hall.

Under normal circumstances, such applicants would not even pass the first round – but a high-ranking selection procedure requiring knowledge and orientation on a given issue is not politics. Few industries can tolerate this level of admitted ignorance. So a coalition of his three right-wing parties, currently the most powerful, could emerge as a candidate for one of his most important political positions: mayor of Prague. A city count needs an exaggerated confidence, a fixed ideology, and a little bit of fake news. That’s all.

prisoner of one’s own ideology

We learned a lot from our interviews with Deník N’s Prokop Vodrážky and the right-wing candidate for Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda. For example, the deputy and former mayor of Prague confessed his love of cars and his hatred of bicycles and cyclists. He wants to limit that movement according to the value of personal freedom he emphasizes in the interview itself. A recent analysis by German insurer Luko, which surveyed 90 of the world’s largest cities, showed Prague to be the worst European city in terms of cycling conditions. For example, according to Svoboda, cyclists should not ride on rails or cobblestones. He probably doesn’t care or doesn’t know that it’s not talked about in other European cities or big cities.

Svoboda is politically almost unmanageable. Most likely, they ridicule the need to build a city ring road, wanting to smash through the corpses, constantly emphasizing the uniqueness of Prague’s public transport system.

If I had to cite one of the most bizarre culture wars witnessed in the field of urban politics in recent years, it would be the unreasonable promotion of motor transport in Czech cities. Most cities are trying to abandon car traffic, ban cars from their centers, pay more attention to pedestrian and cyclist traffic, and cut emissions from cars, but the right-wing The mayoral candidate denies these things. Emissions should not affect people’s health at all. By spreading misinformation like this, Svoboda is taking the side of other doctors who haven’t taken a napkin in recent years and are openly lying. A: Remind Pirko, Pollato, or Schmuckler. But no one wants to be the mayor of a big European city yet.

deny the facts

To say that car emissions have no impact on the health of the population is to deny the fact.The results of air quality monitoring in the Czech Republic show that dust particles and nitrogen dioxide are the main sources of urban air pollution. We confirm that traffic remains an important cause. The National Institutes of Health reported that concentration limits were exceeded in high-traffic urban areas, and with further developments in transportation, the number of exposed locations is expected to increase under current conditions, resulting in significant In the city, not only in the immediate vicinity of the road. The National Institutes of Health estimates that this contamination may contribute to an average 2% increase in premature mortality. Moreover, Prague has long been criticized for having excessive emissions. A study in the international journal Atmosphere, based on emissions measurements in Prague in 2019, warns that the capital’s nitrogen dioxide emissions exceed World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union recommendations. Unfortunately, the lack of a doctor running for mayor of Prague understands professional medical recommendations.

The majority of urban dwellers in the European Union are exposed to levels of air pollutants considered harmful by the WHO. About 70% of the EU population lives in urban areas, and an estimated 379,000 people in the European Union died prematurely from air pollution in 2018. At the same time, even lower concentrations of emissions can affect the development of the nervous system in children and contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases in the elderly. The UK, for example, has restricted car traffic around schools to prevent health impacts on children. But according to Svoboda, these do not actually exist, so nothing of the kind will be done in Prague if Svoboda is elected.

What has changed with the new coronavirus?

How changing access to motorized transport in cities can change the quality of life can be seen in the Western or It’s not only visible in many Nordic cities. In most of Europe’s big cities, drastic restrictions on motor vehicle traffic are a component of urban policy. Where they hesitated to take more drastic measures, the coronavirus pandemic has helped. In the meantime, many residents have realized how good it is to live in a city that is cleaner and less car-intrusive.The change in the shape of roads closed to motor vehicles, the increased support for bicycle transport, or the emphasis on pedestrian movement. started rapidly and often remained so long after the pandemic subsided.

Already in 2019, so-called superblocks began to be introduced in Barcelona. A place where an intersection suddenly turned into a pedestrian zone with high-quality urban furniture. What was once a crossroads has become a place for kids to run around happily while parents and grandparents sip coffee. In the evening, these places transform into comfortable places accessible to almost everyone, regardless of class, gender or age. In this way, public space finally fulfills its social function.

Barcelona superblock photo by Apolena Rychlíková

One of the main arguments of Barcelona politicians was how the measure would save the lives of locals. The city is currently planning 500 superblocks and other large cities have decided to be inspired by this progressive approach. The emergence of superblocks has also helped local services and small entrepreneurs. This is a commonly described phenomenon in the long term. It’s a pity that the party leadership candidate who prides himself on supporting business doesn’t know about him.

French “trendy”

Paris recently announced that by 2024 it will be a largely ‘car-free’ city. After defending current mayor Anne Hidalgo’s orders, the French metropolis aims to become one of Europe’s greenest cities. The mayor announced last year that the city will invest €250 million in cycling infrastructure over the next few years. Much of the facility will be built on the site of an existing parking lot that the city plans to decommission. Cars are taking up too much public space, according to the city hall. In addition to its large-scale support for bicycle transport, Paris has also decided to set the maximum speed for cars in the city at 30 km/h. The latest “fad” in France is the idea that if the owner buys an electric bike, the state will pay him €4,000 for each polluted car. But our right-wing mayoral candidate doesn’t want to “catch up with the West,” so he shouldn’t be shaken by similar fads around the world.

But big changes are happening in many other parts of Europe as well. It’s not just the mythical West that ODS refers to (but only in theory). The trend to reduce car traffic is a pan-European one, and it has become especially intense in recent years, as cities have been heavily burdened by the effects of the climate crisis. Educated politicians who understand the data, have an overview, consult experts, and know the right research are aware of the increased risks associated with living in cities and can protect citizens. , because it takes seriously the challenges we already face today.

Mr. Bohuslav Svoboda is not. He can get away with very little politically. He mocks the need to build a city ring road, perhaps even over the corpses he wants to get through, always emphasizing the uniqueness of Prague’s public transport system. At the same time, no matter how good it is so far, it deserves modernization.

Paris without cars. Photo by Maxime Lathuilière, Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

urban eco friendly

In 2020, the Green City Accord was enacted. This is a European Commission initiative aimed at making cities healthier and more attractive to residents. Mayors of European cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants can participate in this initiative. 70 cities signed the agreement, but, naturally, he did not have a single Czech city. The first Slovak city to participate was Kosice. This is his one of the most exciting cities in the region in terms of progressive environmental themes and instruments.

Ljubljana is an example of the progressive and democratic transformation of the city from huge parking lots and autodrome to livable metropolis. The Slovenian capital has undergone a major transformation. In the beginning, residents did not understand the concept of a car-free city and even opposed it, but today they love it. Mayor Zoran Jankovic put forward a proposal to make Ljubljana a better place to live in 2004 and set the goal of radically transforming the Slovenian capital by 2025. Among the former Yugoslavia, Ljubljana became the first city with such ambitious plans.

Today, the large center of Ljubljana is almost car-free. Instead, people walk, walk their dogs, ride bikes, and socialize. Besides the fact that the air quality has improved radically (Bohuslav Svoboda probably doesn’t believe in car pollution, so it probably doesn’t interest you at all), local businesses have started to flourish here. Ten years from now, I can’t imagine cars running through the streets with mature trees, bike paths, pedestrian malls, cafes, small shops and communities with his life. At the same time, when Jankovic came up with an ambitious plan, the majority of the population opposed it. Without experiencing that change, it is hard to imagine a city without cars. Then most people don’t want to go back.

Ljubljana is an example of the gradual transformation of the city.Pictures of Ljubljana City Hall

Doctor Past

Of course, the list of foreign inspirations can be continued. The topic of sustainable living in big cities is one of the most fundamental topics in urban planning and urban politics today. But this does not excite the doctor of the past, Bohuslav Svoboda. As the mayoral candidate for the largest right-wing coalition, he’s comfortable with impressions and ideology. Ideological norms and arrogance are decisive. It is hard to find a field other than politics where illiteracy, illiteracy, and near-zero direction to the issues you want to decide are so tolerated. If Prague were a hospital, his colleagues wouldn’t allow Bohuslav Svoboda to perform a single operation, but Prague is a city. And there’s the threat that Dr. Pasto will soon take over that leadership, ordering us all to lobotomies performed with ice picks instead of the latest drugs.

The author is the editor of Alarm.

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