Prague - Crosswalks safety in the Czech capital is being tested this week by a team of experts from the Automobile Club of Italy (ACI).
Last year, Prague did not do very well in the same test - out of 31 European cities, Prague was rated the eighth worst in terms of pedestrian crossing safety. Prague's crosswalks were not rated as openly dangerous, but neither were considered very good. The best crosswalk, the group ruled, was in Bratislava.
This year, the test is made in 18 cities including Munich, Belgrade, London and, of course, some Italian cities, which fared the worst last year.
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The final report of the group is to be completed at the end of 2010.
15 crosswalks in 3 zones
"In every city, they choose zones with different level of car and pedestrian traffic. In total, they closely examine roughly 15 crosswalks in the city," said Libor Kousal from a Czech automobile club UAMK whose members participate in the testing.
In Prague, the group has decided to focus on the Wenceslas Square zone, the Old Town, and Smíchov. While the first two zones are in the city center on the right bank of the Vltava river, Smíchov is a busy district on the left bank.
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"Not bad, not bad at all"
Aktuálně.cz reporter was allowed to join the group when it was testing a crosswalk in Smíchov.
Elke Schmett, a leader of the Italian team, explained that they look for many things, for example how long does the green light flash (length of the crossing phase), whether the sidewalk is wide enough so that pedestrians can stand in a safe distance from the traffic, or whether there are some objects blocking pedestrians' view. They do not need any expensive apparatus, only a mobile phone, laser distance measurer and stopwatch. And a pen to fill the data into complicated-looking forms.
"These forms have developed in time, it is our know-how," said Schmett.
Judging from the expressions in the faces of the team, the crosswalk will have quite good ranking - it has traffic lights, is situated in a one-way street which makes it easy for pedestrians to observe and predict the traffic, it even has an access for wheelchairs.
However, for example, the line that indicates to drivers where to stop their cars is situated too close to the zebra crossing.