John Westmore has posted a new episode in his great Perils for Pedestrians series, this time focusing on walking and biking in the City of Bratislava, Slovakia.
While pedestrian and bicycle advocacy is relatively new to Slovakia, there seems to be a strong and growing group of advocates who are working to make public spaces more accessible on foot and by bike. They've created some ad-hoc sharrows and DIY crossings to help provide safer and more direct routes to people using active transportation in the city.
I actually spent a day in Bratislava several years ago, and found it to be fairly walkable (as compared to most cities in the US, that is). You can see that there are many spaces in the central part of the city where pedestrians have full reign in the street space.
There's also a nice pedestrian path along the waterfront, where you'll also find restaurants and shops below (undoubtedly expensive) residential development that takes advantage of the riverfront views.
Of course, there are also the same problems that plague many older (and not so old) cities that were designed prior to the automobile. Sidewalks have been squeezed to the edge of the street and narrowed to unreasonable widths to make room for vehicle traffic, and parked cars block the pedestrian travel way to the extent that people are forced to walk in the street itself.
Given this, it's encouraging to hear local advocates talking about creating more walkable and bikeable streets. I was especially struck by one of the first people interviewed in the segment, who described public space as, "A space where you can see democracy on the sidewalk." I've written before about the idea of sidewalks as democratic spaces, but I think that view is especially poignant when you're talking about sidewalks in a country where most people still remember a time when no place in the country--certainly not the sidewalks--was democratic.