Protesters halt traffic in central Prague in bid to reduce speed limit

Marching from Prague 7 to the National Museum, this is the last of the weekly protests before temporarily stopping for the summer.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 29.06.2023 11:09:00 (updated on 29.06.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Czech branch of the international activist group Last Generation completed its final scheduled protest in Prague on Wednesday calling for the introduction of a 30-kilometer-per-hour speed limit across the capital.

The protests, which see dozens of demonstrators holding various signs and banners march in the middle of busy roads every week, have been running since February.

The protesters begin their demonstration in Štvanice – the small island on the Vltava river near Holešovice – and typically walk down two lanes of traffic on the main road leading to Prague’s main train station Hlavní nádraži.

Last Generation claims that a lower speed limit would prevent unnecessary deaths and increase road safety. Last year, 19 people died in vehicle-related accidents in the capital.

The activists also point out that air pollution would substantially reduce with a lower speed limit, which would neatly aid the city government’s current climate pledge to reduce emissions. Noise pollution, too, would lessen. The capital would also become more bicycle-friendly.

The speed limit on most sections of Prague’s main highways is currently set at 50 km/h. 

Do you support the demonstrators?

Yes 43 %
No 49 %
I support the principle, but the protest is too disruptive 8 %
390 readers voted on this poll. Voting is open

Protesting for safety ... unsafely?

Wednesday’s march was supposed to culminate in participants having a picnic in the middle of a road opposite the National Museum, but Prague City Council and police had forbidden this prior to the protest’s beginning due to excess public disruption and safety fears.

Shortly before the beginning of the march, an angry man grabbed several of the protesters’ banners and began swearing at them. The tense atmosphere was heightened by the fact that, just last week, activists were rear-ended by two cars that were unable to bypass the demonstrators.

Last Generation warned that if the police did not supervise Wednesday’s march and protect the protesters, then demonstrators would “stop traffic across the width of the road until the police arrive.”

Is it legal?

After a prior-planned break over the summer, it is not entirely certain whether Last Generation will continue the protests in the autumn. The Prague City Council is currently awaiting the results of a legal study, iDnes writes, which may give the municipality the option to limit the activists’ activity – potentially banning future marches.

"On the one hand, there is the right to freedom of speech and protest, which we respect. On the other hand, it is not possible for a handful of people to block already complicated traffic in the very heart of Prague"

Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda

Constitutional lawyer Jan Kudrna told iDnes that the capital’s government can ask organizers to hold their demonstration at a different time or location, and that it also has the right to set tighter conditions for holding such protests. If road-traffic safety is under threat, or if participants and the public would have serious risks to their health, then Prague would have the right to outright prohibit such demonstrations. 

The City Council had earlier this year attempted to reach an agreement with the activists to quell the protests, but the talks did not lead anywhere. "We showed goodwill and the activists sat down at the negotiating table. But they decided to continue the blockades, which made further negotiations impossible," explained Svoboda.

Veronika Holcnerová, a spokeswoman for the Czech division of Last Generation, has ruled out switching to more radical strategies (such as in Germany, where protesters glue themselves to the floor). There is “no reason” for this, Holcnerová says, as Last Generation’s actions have so far provoked a sufficient reaction from the public. Other forms of protests over the summer, however, are being considered.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more