Monday, October 18, 2010

Bike Asylum; from grass roots to glamour

Cracked cobblestones, hurried drivers and a dearth of bike lanes make cycling in the center of Prague a perilous affair. The self-proclaimed bike activist Martin Kontra wants this to change. Mr. Kontra created Bike Asylum (Rasinovo nabrezi;, a repair and rental shop, to help build a community among cyclists and persuade legislators to improve conditions. The shop opened in July beneath the Palacky Bridge on the A2, an 18.5-mile cycling route between Zbraslav in southern Prague and Zámky on the city’s northern edge. An avid cyclist for the past 15 years, Mr. Kontra discovered Berlin’s bike culture while living there in 2007, and was inspired to create something similar back home. He is also an editor for the weekly newspaper Respekt, and has reported on alternative transportation options in Prague. “I believe biking could make life in the city center much better,” he said. Bike Asylum, which also offers a small bar, is modeled after Les Lanternes Rouges, a repair shop and cafe in Berlin, as well as like-minded Bike Kitchens, with outposts in several European and North American cities. Called “Bajkazyl” in Czech, the shop hosts free do-it-yourself repair workshops. Read more here.