Police want to fell down Czech alleyways. They want to get rid of trees lining roads mainly because almost 180 drivers died after hitting a tree last year. And they have already started. Poplars from the alleyway made famous by the movie Nebeští jezdci in Budyně nad Ohří in the Ústí nad Labem region have already been cut down.
Police use statistics as their argument, claiming 66% of drivers who died after hitting a hard object had hit a tree.
It is unclear which areas will be affected. The decision will be based on an agreement with the road maintenance authority. “It is a question of negotiations and we know that it is not easy,” said Leoš Tržil, head of the traffic police. Police officers have already started to mark down dangerous sections. “We will pass these suggestions onto the road authorities,” Tržil said.
If the police plan to fell the trees in dangerous areas fails again due to opposition from environmentalists (just like it happened two years ago), they want to at least place crash barriers along some roads.
End of a legend
The poplar alleyway from Nebeští jezdci movie grew for some 80 years. “There were approximately three fatal accidents there in the last years. Originally, we were against felling, but the trees really threatened safety,” said Budyně mayor Petr Medáček.
Road authorities are replacing the felled poplars with ash trees but plant them further away from the road. “The trees do not root there easily. A third series of trees had to be planted in some places,” Medáček said.
There are other places where trees near roads have disappeared. For example, on the road from Havlíčkův Broad to Svitavy. The trees are being felled also alongside the road from Plzeň to České Budějovice. Felling near Markvartice in Děčín region has already been fined by CZK 400,000. The Environment Ministry is against the felling.
“We disagree with the mass felling. The alleyways help shape Czech landscape, serve as wind-breakers, prevent erosion and absorb the dust from traffic,” said Jakub Kašpar, ministry spokesman.
The largest felling took place in spring 2007. The Environment Ministry’s inspectorate even established a crisis phone line for people to dial in case an alleyway was cut down near their town. Some 150 people called.
Law for trees
Minister Martin Bursík’s office wants to push through a law against felling. Its content, currently in the hands of MPs, proposes strict rules. A simple announcement will no longer be enough to cut down the trees. Road authorities will need to discuss the trees with the appropriate environment department of the municipality. The public will also have to be informed in advance. But police use the law about the road traffic as a counter argument. According to the law, the tree is an obstacle. More than 24,000 cars crashed, hitting a solid obstacle last year. It is the third most common form of accident after hitting a moving or a static car.
Exactly 177 people died after hitting a tree last year while only 26 died after hitting walls, bridges or underpasses. Accidents involving billboards and road signs are similarly dangerous. But nobody is planning to cut them down, even though the exchange of the old constructions for safer soft ones is only very slow.