I hope that there will be more and more people on bikes, wishes the coordinator of the skolniprojekce.cz project - Do práce na kole

I hope that there will be more and more people on bikes, wishes the coordinator of the skolniprojekce.cz project

I hope that there will be more and more people on bikes, wishes the coordinator of the skolniprojekce.cz project
22. 2. 2024, 13 min. čtení

“I feel alive and happy on my bike,” says Lada Žabenská, who is in charge of screenings for schools at the Aero, Bio Oko and Světozor cinemas in Prague. He also regularly participates in the Bike to work and city cycling challenges, leading his daughter from a very young age. What does it say to people who are flirting with the May Challenge and what measures should Prague take to make life better for everyone? Read our interview.

Do you cycle to work regularly? Which way?

I go to work and before that to kindergarten with my three-year-old daughter. I drive a three-kilometer route between Žižkov, the center of Prague and Letna.

And how do you go around Prague?

I already have my tried-and-tested routes and I ride them relatively well. But when I deviate from this cycling routine and go somewhere else, it’s worse. When I go alone, it doesn’t bother me so much, but I don’t allow myself to go somewhere blind with my daughter, I always study the route beforehand. Sometimes we even resort to driving on a wider sidewalk, because it’s not safe otherwise. If I want to go on a trip, I’ll hit the bike path, and it’s no problem. But if I want to go to the climbing wall in Smíchov, for example, it’s more complicated.

Riding a bike around Prague with a small child is actually quite brave. Don’t you think so?

I come from the Beskydy foothills. I grew up in such a dead-end street, where a group of local children were always playing. We were always outside and basically riding anything that had wheels. My mom says I’ve been riding a pedal bike since I was two years old. And I haven’t gotten off it since. At the elementary school, it was trips to the mountains. As a teenager, riding every day to the high school in Frýdlant nad Ostravicí, 15 kilometers away. I enjoyed it and saved extra money that my parents gave me for the train. At the university in Brno, I practically did not use the tram, my bicycle accompanied me even in this city. I started cycling in Prague during the pandemic, like many other people. And when I was pregnant later during the epidemic, I didn’t want to take public transport. I started riding a folding bike with my daughter when she was about 2 years old and I couldn’t walk longer routes due to my back. So to answer your question – it was a natural decision for me, but I certainly perceive the risks associated with cycling very well and I try to prevent them.

Lada in the foyer of Světozor Cinema

Did you take part in the January challenge Bike to Work? What was it like?

Good. The weather in Prague is good for winter cycling this year. We just dress up and go. Only when it rains a lot, we take the tram or walk.

What makes you pay entry fees to ride a bike?

It is important to me that as many people as possible ride bicycles in the city. With every cyclist I see in Prague traffic, my hope rises that this will one day be the norm here. When I talk with my friends, they don’t ride mainly because they are afraid. I am not, so I ride and hope that maybe I inspire someone and that there will be more and more cyclists.

Registration to the May Challenge Bike to Work 

 

Why?

Because the amount of cars driving around Prague today is completely unsustainable. I live on a busy street with huge traffic and traffic jams every morning and evening. In the evening again, in the headlights of fast-moving cars, I see clouds of dust swirling in front of them. I grew up in a village on the border between pure nature and industry, where many neighbors didn’t worry about what they were heating with, and that’s where I probably developed a sensitivity to clean air. I care about the environment. Another aspect is the flow of traffic. The fact that the Municipal District of Prague 3 will cancel 5 parking spaces on Seifertova Street on a trial basis will not help the smoothness of tram traffic. There is also a highway right next to it, on which even ambulances cannot pass during peak hours. And then there is also the matter of safety. In many places, the lines marking the parking spaces are stretched right next to the crossings. Drivers have no chance of seeing an adult, let alone a small child, through the cars parked there. Fewer cars on the surface means more comfort for everyone. Because of all this, I am participating in your challenge. It is one of the few initiatives where I can make my voice heard. I find it important.

Do you ride alone or as part of a team?

We have a team founded by a colleague Hedvika from Bio Oko. We compete with each other in the teams of individual Aero cinemas and distribution company Aerofilms. We usually make 4 teams.

Biking to nursery and on trips as well

You are in charge of the program for schools in the cinemas. How does it work?

Schools go to the cinema fairly regularly. Either for fun or for education. This is nothing new. However, I have a new position where I can focus exclusively on programs for schools and communication with them. I therefore pay more attention to the selection of films and the preparation of accompanying programs. In my work, I try to build on Linda Arbanová, who devoted herself to film education in the Aeroškola organization for many years.

What do you roughly offer them?

That is very wide. Our offer is really broad and the needs and requirements of schools are quite different. I always try to listen to each teacher and help him choose a film that will be ideal for his students. We screen blockbusters, independent, animated, documentary films, theatrical recordings, or classics of world and Czech cinematography. Films often serve as a springboard for students to further discuss a topic. That’s why we regularly prepare discussions with experts or lecturers from Aeroškola for them.

I didn’t even know you were offering something like this…

This is not a public program. These are closed morning screenings, so this information will not leak out to the general public. However, we recently launched a new website, skolniprojekce.cz, where we are trying to communicate the offer more. Fortunately, the teachers know about our activities, so we manage to do great events, like a screening of Wim Wenders’ film Perfect Days, which is set entirely in Tokyo, after which the students get to talk to a person who lived in Tokyo, and taste Japanese delicacies. Such a slightly different geography…

Do you have any cycling experience from abroad? Any comparisons of conditions?

I can compare it to Paris, where I lived for several months and I return there regularly. I was there for the first time in 2011, and even then shared bikes were operating there for very friendly money. So I tried it too. Despite the fact that there is more traffic than in Prague, cycling there is relatively safe. Drivers perceive and respect you.

Do you perceive the change that Paris has undergone since then?

Certainly! Two-lane streets have become one-way streets with a wide cycle lane, and the whole city is very passable for bicycles and is starting to resemble Copenhagen in this respect. The mayor of Paris has long-term and systematically promoted relaxation zones, cycling infrastructure and pedestrian zones. Today, Parisians ride bicycles quite normally. On folding bikes and family longtails with two children.

Lada´s daugher before the biking age on Charles Bridge

What would you like Prague to look like in five years? What specific things should happen in order for you to travel better in Prague?

It is essential to reduce the number of parking spaces on the streets. Reduce the speed throughout the center to 30 km per hour, whether with regard to safety, traffic flow, or environmental friendliness. And finally, a safe and interconnected cycling infrastructure, including bicycle parking, must be ensured. These are three basic things that would greatly improve the situation.

Do you have a message for people who are considering participating in the May Challenge but aren’t sure whether to go for it?

I think it makes sense to at least try. You should walk the route in advance, plan it on a map and perhaps ask someone what to watch out for. I can confirm that there are indeed a lot more people cycling in May, so they definitely won’t be alone.

What’s the best thing about getting around town by bike?

It definitely makes me feel more alive than riding the tram. It’s a great kick to the day. My daughter and I experience such a conspiracy – before each ride and when we finish, we slap each other that we finished well. To my surprise, she already signals when we turn and recognizes basic road signs. In short, every trip by bike is an experience and I feel happy that way.

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