Sunday, April 6, 2008
The Most Dangerous Road In Prague
The road in question is elevated one to three meters from the surrounding farmer's fields, with no guardrails to prevent cars from plowing through the fields themselves.
I love to drive.
I'm very comfortable behind the wheel. I once drove a BMW 850i 240 kph (150 mph) on the German autobahn outside Munich. I've driven on the dizzying roundabouts of London and the chaotic city streets of Rome, on the dramatic highway that hugs the cliffs of the Amalfi coast, south of Naples, and the similarly spectacular road that twists and turns high above the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic on Croatia's Makarska Riviera.
The point is, I'm not intimidated by challenging drives.
So what I'm about to say I don't say lightly.
The scariest, most dangerous driving I've ever done may just be outside the western Prague suburb of Horoměřice.
The road in question starts in Horoměřice and passes between the villages of Nebušice and Přední Kopanina, before connecting with the highway that heads out to the Prague airport. On the map, this road doesn't really have a name, other than Do Horoměřic and, closer to Horoměřice, Hrdinů. (See map at bottom.) I'd say the whole section of road is about three kilometers or so.
What's so scary about a country road?
For one, it's elevated -- why, I don't know.
Many sections of this twisting, turning highway are raised one or two or even three meters above the farmer's fields it passes through. There's no shoulder to the road, and no guardrails, so you have the edge of the paved surface, and then ... space.
If your tire strays a few centimeters, you're flying through the air into the field.
To make matters worse, there is no center line painted onto the road, and vast stretches of the highway also do not have white lines to help drivers discern the edge of the road.
You can't take your eyes off the road long enough to blink.
And what's pretty scary during the daytime becomes absolutely terrifying at night.
Staring into the beams of oncoming headlights, keeping your car on the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic is a wild guessing game. You have no clue where the side of the road ends and the inky blackness of night begins. You're driving by instinct, and there's no room for error.
And forget about it if it's raining at night. You feel lucky to make it home in one piece.
In the rain, especially at night, keeping your car on the road becomes a guessing game. At least this particular stretch has white lines on the edges of the pavement. Hard to tell from this perspective, but that two-meter drop-off begins just on the other side of the white line.
And with no center line to keep drivers in check, oncoming cars and trucks often stray much too far into the opposite lane.
Of course, people drive much too fast on this road, and many have the temerity to pass slower cars or trucks. Czechs are among the worst, if not the worst, drivers in the world (why the aggression?), which is bad enough if you're encountering them on normal roads. Put them on this stretch of pavement and it's a disaster waiting to happen.
(As if to prove my point, this morning (April 7) -- a particularly foggy, rainy morning -- I passed an accident that had just happened. A car had plowed into the rear of a piece of slow-moving farm machinery.)
I've seen a few accidents on this highway, but not nearly as many as I would think, given the circumstances.
Incredibly, drivers also will encounter cyclists and pedestrians on this winding highway of fear. As a cyclist myself, I'd rather take my chances on the Prague-Brno highway than ride on this road.
View Larger Map
The Prague ring road is going to be built right through this area, and once that happens, this ugly stretch of pavement will likely be abandoned. That can't come soon enough for me.
In the meantime, perhaps the city of Prague or one of the surrounding villages could see fit to allocate a little money to paint some white lines on the pavement, at the very least. A guardrail would be too much to ask.
I simply can't understand why this road is allowed to exist in its current state.
A cyclist rides down the most dangerous road in Prague -- either foolhardy or unaware of what lies ahead.