Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
BikeOne might be of interest to local cycling professionals, as Budapest City Hall is currently carrying out a feasibility study on a bike sharing scheme.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Held (almost) annually since 1980, it would bring cycling's top experts from around Europe and the world to examine what's on offer in Budapest. By so doing, it may help shame city burghurs into implementing some cycling facilities that are up to international standards.
The local NGO Hungarian Cycling Club (MKK) with the support of City Hall, spearheaded the application for the event, which was conceived and still owned by the European Cyclists Federation. The document, available on the Internet in English, explains how Budapest would manage to put on a four-day event (slated for May 31-June 3 at the Millináris), including conference and an exhibition, and how it would cover the EUR 400,000 expense through participation fees and sponsorship.
Part of criteria for the host city is to have exemplary local cycling facilities that conference participants can inspect and learn from. On this score, Budapest is wanting (guaranteed, there is no bike lane or parking centre or rental scheme in Budapest that isn't done 10 times better in several cities in Northern Europe). However, the application pledges that such facilities will be in place in time for the conference. These would include new cycling lanes on Margit híd (to be included in a refurbishment slated for 2009); bidirectional lanes on the Kiskörút (to be built in connection with construction of the Metro 4); and new lanes on Kossuth Lajos út.
Two of the most convincing arguments, in my opinion, are one, that Budapest has perhaps the biggest Critical Mass ride in the world, which demonstrates a huge potential for cycling here; and two, that there's never been Velo-City conference in Eastern Europe. The second point might appeal to ECF's charitable side, as there's no denying that this region lags behind Western Europe in transport cycling, even more so than in other aspects of urban development. It could be argued that holding a conference in Budapest, as opposed to a typical cycling paradise in Northern Europe (like Münich, host of the last Velo-City in 2007), stands to benefit more than just one city, but a whole region that's at a similar stage of development and confronting similar challenges on the path to bike friendliness.
One difficulty, though, is that one of the other shortlisted cities (along with Seville) is an Eastern European neighbour: Prague. They have better beer, but we have cheaper hotels. We'll see what wins the day.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
- Background information about the Cycling Hungary Programme
- European perspectives on national cycling politics from Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain and Belgium
- Progress reports on the programme's different priority areas (infrastructure, transport, tourism, recreation and sport)
- The role of civil society in the next phase of the programme (2009-2010)
Thursday, December 4, 2008
My co-worker, Rachel, who saw the show, wondered if this could be construed as bicycle promotion. I'm sure the intention was for dramatic or comedic effect, but I think, sure, the use of bicycles in entertainment can only be good for the cause. OK, now I'm going to date myself to the Stone Ages: the connection that comes to mind is the Blue Öyster Cult concerts I saw as a teenager. Everytime they played the Steppenwolf cover Born to Be Wild, the lead singer, Eric Bloom, would roll out onstage revving up a big Harley-Davidson chopper. I don't know if this is true, but I wouldn't be surprised if the band would borrow a bike before each show from a local Harley dealership, and probably at no charge, because Harley would just be happy that BÖC were perpetuating the brand's rock-'n'-roll mythos.
I've often thought that the cycling movement could use similar help from the entertainment industry, and it turns out it does! There's some bike blogger in New York who gets occasional gigs as a consultant for bicycle product placements in Hollywood movies. Amazing.
And by the way, if you're Andrew Vajna or some other Hollywood honcho and you need advice on plugging bikes at your next Budapest shoot, you know who to contact.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
OK, I could be. It's a plastic cover that you can put on your bike seat if you park in the rain. I won't use it. My bike seat's made of vinyl so it sheds water by itself. If it gets rained on, I swipe off the water with my hand and go.
I prefer the prize from the last time, a reflective velcro band that you can put on your arm or ankle. That seems more useful. Of course, I could also use the bike seat cover as a bathing cap, which is required attire at most Budapest medicinal baths. With this get up, I would fit right in with the arthritis sufferers doing laps at my neighborhood baths, the Lukács fürdô.
Monday, December 1, 2008
|From Cycling Solution|
Sunday, November 30, 2008
in the event of a smog alert, vehicles with license plates with even numbers at the end may only drive in Budapest on even-numbered dates and those ending with odd numbers on the other days.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Despite the fact that more people bike in Budapest, Prague seems to be doing a better job at cycling development.
A few tidbits from the article:
- Budapest has about 160 km of paths and routes while Prague has 135 km of bike paths and 360 of signed routes.
- Prague's long-term plan calls for the completion of more than 670 km of routes. Budapest is shooting no higher than 500.
- Prague has a new bike-share system (see photo). Budapest has none.
- Prague City Hall has a monitoring system in place to follow trends in cycling traffic (cycling trips are up 47% over the last three years). Budapest has no such system. And with no data on cycling levels, what rational basis is there for developing infrastructure and other services?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The few paths that were cleared were on sidewalks which had been swept by property owners. In Hungary, it is the individual property owner who is responsible for removing snow from the sidewalks (pavements) in front of his or her building.
The photo at left shows the riverside path just north of Margit híd on the Buda side at 8 a.m. As you can see, it is very tracked up, which shows you I wasn't alone out there. I think it's fair to say there'd be more winter riders if bike paths were swept in winter.
This second picture shows the path just north of the Filitorigát HÉV stop. The section that also serves as the HÉV platform was cleared (presumably by BKV) but beyond the platform area, the path turns back into winter wonderland.
This third photo shows the path in Szentendre -- the worst example of the bunch. The path here is just the shoulder of the road and marked as a bike path. A snow plow had been through, pushing all the accumulation onto the bike path, making it unrideable.
Not surprisingly, poor snow removal practices provoke perennial complaints in many cities situated in temperate zones. Check out this post for some good and bad practices. A transport officer in the U.S. State of Oregon initiated an interesting conversation thread about different approaches to the problem. From the replies she received, it seems that many communities take this challenge very seriously.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
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Here's some postive news -- a story that shows how good cycling initiatives can start from the ground up, with a bit a vision and teamwork and a network of well-placed friends.
Friday, November 7, 2008
According to the latest reports, the project, scheduled to start in early 2009, would include a bi-directional cycling path on the north side (island-facing) of the bridge. A waist-high guard rail would separate it from from motor traffic while coloured paving tiles would visually distinguish it from the adjacent footpath. However, no physical barrier would separate pedestrians and cyclists. The Hungarian Cycling Club had argued that the path should be 2.5 m wide to safely accommodate two directions of bike traffic, but this has been pared down to 1.8 metres.
On the opposite (south) side of the bridge would be a more basic shared-use path for both cyclists and pedestrians -- basically the same as the existing set up except that it would be signed as one-way for cyclists.
In fact, the whole scheme is sounding quite a lot like the existing set-up, with the main difference being the addition of coloured paving to mark cycling territory on the north side foot/cycling facility. I have to say I'm skeptical whether this is enough to impose order on the current free-for-all on the bridge's two walkways.
From a transport cycling point of view, the best solution would be to have one-way cycling lanes on both shoulders of the bridge, physically separated from the pedestrian traffic. I've extolled the virtues of such solutions before, with the best local example being on Alkotmány utca. It's another question how much they should be separated from motor traffic. Some users would prefer a physical barrier -- like the guard rail now proposed -- while others would just as soon have no barrier and only a marked lane. The latter solution would take up less space, while the former may better serve recreational riders, including children, who use the bridge to access Margit Island.
Including a two-way path on the island-facing side of the bridge was also seen as a way to ease island access, as, under the current set up, the only way to get to the island from the south-side path is to go down through the underpass below the tram stop. I would argue, why not create a level crossing there? The main argument against it, I imagine, would be that this would interrupt the flow of car traffic. This, of course, is the main thing blocking development of non-motorised transport and better traffic safety in Budapest -- the idea that the road system has to be designed everywhere to foster fast-moving, high-volume car traffic.
In Budapest, major cycling infrastructure rarely happens as a stand-along project. It generally can only be justified as part of a larger road reconstruction. The renovation of Margit Bridge, therefore, is a rare opportunity to get things right where cycling is concerned. It could be the first step of a first-class cycling accommodation around the whole körút, one that's modelled on the best examples from Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen. Instead, it's so far looking like business as usual, with a staunch refusal to do anything that would challenge the supremacy of cars.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
This is quite old news, happened in July, but still relevant, I believe, as it gives an insight to behind-the-scene problems that undermine the development of cycling in Budapest. Basically, Budapest had an opportunity to collect several million forints of FREE EU MONEY to improve cycling infrastructure but muffed the necessary paperwork and instead got much less than it could have.
I sent and resent an email four or five times seeking an explanation from City Hall, but never got a reply. That's partly why it's taken so long to post this entry. I'd wanted to include the city's side of the story but finally had to give up.
The following information was given to me by Ádám Bodor, the cycling affairs coordinator with the national government who's overseeing the distribution of this money to municipalities.
The money originates from a programme called the Cycling Hungary Programme that allocates HUF 56,000 million (EUR 250 million) in EU sudsidies from the Road Fund of the European Regional Development Fund. The money is for municipalities only, and targets bicycle road planning and construction between 2007-2013. Three quarters of it is for commuter cycling, not recreation. Already EUR 53 million has been allocated, with Budapest having won approximately EUR 5 million.
In the last round of applications, Budapest applied for funds for:
- commuting facilities, including lanes and separate paths,
- a recreational path, and
- a bike-and-ride parking facility.
There was enough funds for all of this, but the application for the bike and ride facility was not ready for evaluation (with compulsory anexxes missing and a lack of consultation with the national development agency). Applications for the first two elements were submitted in "very poor condition," according to Bodor, but thanks to the good graces of evaluators, accepted. For these path and lane projects, the evaluators asked that, as a minimum, before contracting be done, that at least the most important annexes be submitted. But the city missed the deadline and lost approximately HUF 650 million (EUR 2.7 million).
As partial consolution, several district governments (II, XI, XXI, XIII) submitted some successful applications for some 35-40 smaller projects.
When the mayor is asked why cycling development doesn't advance more quickly in Budapest, the stock answer is a lack of money and competing priorities. But here you have EUR 250 million in FREE MONEY that is earmarked for cycling. What's the problem?
I don't think it's incompetence. The city has employed a dedicated cycling affairs officer for more than a decade. However, it's a fact that his cycling duties were curtailed a few years ago so that he could contribute to transport projects the mayor deemed more important. I can only guess that there simply isn't enough dedicated staff at City Hall to submit quality applications for Cycling Hungary funds. What a waste. The city spares a few thousand euros in payroll expenses -- and ends up sacrificing millions of euros in bicycling subsidies.
Anyone who could shed some light on this is more than welcome to submit a comment.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
- Flats, stand-alone houses: 1 space
- Stores, markets (under 1,000 sq m): 2/150 sq m floor space*
- Stores, markets (above 1,000 sq m): 2/500 sq m floor space*
- Hotels: 2/15 rooms
- Restaurants: 2/75 sq m dining space*
- Universities, high schools and other educational facilities: 2/ 50 sq m space*
- Cinemas, theaters and other entertainment facilities: 5/50 seats
- Museums and other cultural institutions: 5/500 sq m with a maximum of 50*
- Sport facilities and strands: 2/20 people
- Hospitals: 1/50 beds
- Factories: 1/10 workplaces
- Storage facilities: 1/10,000 sq m storage
- Tram and local bus end stops: plan for 5 percent of riders to use bikes
- Train stations and long-distance bus stops: 5
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
For those with Magyar Deficiency Syndrome, here are the very basics: There will be a bike lifting at Hôsök tér at 6:30 p.m. and another one at Moszkva tér at 8p.m. You're invited to either one or both, at your pleasure. There's no designated, closed route from Hôsök to Moszkva -- participants can choose their own route, but are asked to obey traffic rules as they go. Conveniently, Andrásssy is closed to motor traffic for Car-Free Day, so this will be the favoured way to begin the journey for most participants. From Octogon, the procession will likely split up. Some will go down the körút toward Margit híd and, from there, on up to Moszkva. Others will follow Andrássy to its terminus and then continue down Atilla út, across the Lanc híd, north down the Buda embankment and perhaps up the bike trail or the körút to the end point.
There will be traffic police and Critical Mass organisers at the largest intersections, so this would be a point in favour of riding on main roads with the main flow of bicycles. Whatever you do, however, organisers ask that you:
- stop at red lights
- don't hold up public transit
- don't ride on the 4-6 tram tracks
- keep in mind that crosswalks and sidewalks/pavements are for pedestrians
- go on sidestreets rather than sidewalks/pavements if you're averse to busy streets
- turn the other cheek when it comes to shouting motorists
- mind organisers' directions
- help each other out
- bring your bike lamps (it'll get dark around 8)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The idea for the demonstration came up just a week prior to the event, so with the short notice and crappy weather, it wasn't surprising that the chain was missing quite a few links. An organiser walked from one end to the other, counting 200 participants. I snapped this badly focussed picture about midway along the chain.
I had an interesting chat with Virág Bence-Kovács, a staff engineer with the organising group, the Hungarian Cycling Club (Magyar Kérékparosklub -- MK). At present, MK is assisting City Hall in the drafting of a five-year work programme for bicycle-route development in Budapest. Discussion amongst traffic engineers has foundered on basic disagreement over what's most suitable for Budapest -- facilities that segregate cyclists from motor traffic or lanes that integrate them with traffic.
I am solidly in favour of the latter, as I've said in this blog before. In downtown Bp, segregated facilities mean, in almost every instance, sharedüuse facilities like the Buda korzó -- tedious, maddening and even dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians alike. To me, this is the past -- it may have been appropriate when there were only a few cyclists in the city, but now that they're becoming a more significant part of urban traffic, they have to be mainstreamed onto the streets, where, due to their speed, they more properly belong. Check out the city's first and best integrated lanes on Alkotmány utca, a new project that could serve as a model for future path development througout the city.
If you agree with me on this, you should consider making your voice heard at this pivitol time, perhaps by joining, or just contacting, a lobbying group like MK. This group has been working closely with the city in transport decision making, trying to ensure that cyclists' interests are considered in the city's transport development. Those who are content in the sidewalk ghetto of Budapest's current segregated bike paths don't need to bother. But if you'd like to see cycling here develop along the lines of the best European examples (Amsterdam, Copenhaggen, etc.), then make yourselves heard.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Although it seems that crap weather has driven most of Bp's cyclists back to wherever they came from, this coming week -- at least officially -- is a week to celebrate cycling and all other non-car modes of transport. The main events will happen this weekend (Sept 20-21) with booths and activities set up on Andrássy út for Mobility Week.
Of course, there's Critical Mass on Monday, Sept. 22. But as a teaser to that, some demonstrator types are getting together tomorrow (Sept. 17 from 6 p.m.) to form a bicycle chain on the Buda korzó between Batthyanyi ter and the Chain Bridge. Check the Hungarian announcement.
The point is to protest shared-use paths as a dangerous and inconvenient type of bicycle infrastructure. It's been estimated that at least two thirds of Budapest's bicycle infrastructure are this kind of path -- where cyclists and pedestrians (and baby strollers, roller bladers, dogs, ferrets, etc.) vie for the same space, and end up getting to their destinations late and full of contempt for one another.
This is the main drawback with Budapest cycling infrastructure, and the Buda korzó, which is popular with both weekend strollers and speeding cyclists, is a prime example of why shared-use paths don't work.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Some new cycling lanes on Alkotmány utca in District V are the best facilities that have been implemented in Budapest, perhaps showing the city is finally taking bicycles seriously as transport. The lanes are good for a number of reasons. First, they're on the street, rather than the sidewalk, and thus integrate cyclists with motor traffic, which, in an urban context, moves at roughly the same speed. Second, there's a separate lane on both sides of the street, allowing the cyclists to move in the same direction as other road users in adjacent lanes. This is in contrast to the shared-use paths that constitute most Budapest cycling facilities (as on nearby Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út) where a single, bidirectional track runs along only one side of the street).
The closest thing we've seen to this type of facility to date is Andrássy út. But the lanes on that street are flawed because they run down a narrow gap between parked cars and the sidewalk, putting cyclists in danger of getting "doored" by passengers exiting vehicles. Check out this video (Nine Reasons Why It's Great to Bicycle in Budapest). Reason No. 8 illustrates the problem nicely. (http://www.hirszerzo.hu/patroview.1.23)
The Alkotmány lanes are of a type referred to in some quarters as "share rows" because they can also be driven on by ("shared" with) motorists. It's a popular solution among many road departments because they provide accommodation for cyclists without taking space from motorists. Of course, Budapest City Hall has always feared the political backlash of taking space from motorists. But there's now an emerging, quickly growing constituency of city cyclists. So some compromise is needed. The NGO MKK (kerekparosklub.hu), which is partly funded by Budapest City Hall, successfully lobbied for share rows on a trial basis.
I have mixed feelings about share rows. I can understand that on very narrow streets, it's impossible to provide separate lanes for both motorists and cyclists. But when share rows are used out of simple political timidity, it is running the risk that motorists won't give the lanes any respect, at all. In the 1980s, the city of Paris installed share rows on a similar trial basis, and the experiment failed for this very reason. These days, Paris is building a combination of lanes as well as facilities that are separated with physical barriers such as curbs, posts and speed dots. Cyclists are now an accepted part of traffic there, but this can be credited, at least partly, to city's firm steps to stake out cycling territory.
Perhaps share rows will work better in Budapest. I say this because, in contrast to Paris in the 1980s, cyclists in Budapest have already insinuated themselves into traffic -- with virtually no help from the city. It's my feeling that if and when the city starts building decent infrastructure, cyclists will fill it up quickly and motorists won't be able to ignore them.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
If you're quick, you can still get a copy of the current copy of HVG (http://hvg.hu/default.aspx) with a 17-page special section on Hungary's bicycling phenomenon. The section leads off with some antedotes about a couple Budapest enthusiasts who put on crazy numbers of kilometers on their bikes week-in and week out, and then mentions the Critical Mass successes (60-80,000 riders last spring, the article recalls) and the frequent weekend traffic jams of cyclists entering and leaving Margit Sziget.
The section includes an article on the domestic bicycle manufacturing market, the annual bike race around the Balaton, and -- one of my favorite topics -- the example of Paris's cycling "Velorution." The focus of this last is on Velib, the massive bike-sharing scheme of Paris. I've written lots about Paris as a good example for Budapest in terms of cycling development. Check my master's thesis (http://www.greenmedia.hu/gspencer/) or an article in Hungarian that had a more narrow focus on Paris (http://epiteszforum.hu/node/9672.
I don't think there's much information in the article that hasn't already been widely circulated through Hungary's cycling blogosphere, but the fact that the subject merited such extensive treatment in Hungary's most prestigious news weekly (HVG is often said to be Hungary's version of the Economist) is just one more sign that cycling is becoming a popular movement. Now if we can get Budapest City Hall to give it the support that it deserves.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Cicloteque is the name of Europe's latest municipal city-bike scheme, launched the first part of August in Bucharest. With just 100 bikes, it's much more modest in scale than the widely publicised schemes of cities such as Paris, Barcelona and Lyon -- yet it's encouraging to see a progressive step taken in a fellow new member state of the EU.
I wrote an earlier post on the possibility of Budapest getting a similar scheme rolling. http://cyclingsolution.blogspot.com/2008/07/free-bikes-in-budapest.html
The service is marketed as a means of transport, providing an alternative to cars and public transportation. It was created by the NGO Mai Mult Verde http://www.maimultverde.ro (director Dragos Bucurenci pictured left at Cicloteque's launch event) and UniCredit Tiriac bank. The first batch of 100 bikes was installed at the campus of the University of Bucharest. To use the bikes, you have to first pay an annual registration fee of 100 Lei (EUR 30) and an hourly 2 Lei (EUR 0.50) or daily 20 Lei (EUR 5) usage fee.
Mai Mult Verde's stated purpose was to improve urban mobility in the congested capital and to protect the environment. Bucharest has 1.2 private cars, which emit an estimated 125 tonnes of lead every year.
Just as Paris's Velib is financially backed by a commercial partner (JC Decaux advertising firm) Cicloteque got its money from a commercial partner who saw the venture as a good publicity tool. The local branch of Unicredit bank put up 100% of the initial investment of EUR 150,000, which covered the purchase of 100 bikes, the cost of the launch event, as well as the installation of 20 bike racks throughout Bucharest (The racks are just for short stops -- so far, the only place you can pick up and drop off bikes is at Cicloteque's single depot on the university campus.)
Just three weeks after the system's launch, there are 200 subscribers, according to Miruna Cugler, communications manager at Mai Mult Verde. Plans for the future include more bikes and more depots around the city.
In addition, Mai Mult Verde plans to lobby for more bike paths and routes around the city. At present, Bucharest has just a few bike paths, most of which are swarming with pedestrians and other users. The poor quality and quantity of paths mean that urban bike users have to jostle with motor traffic to get anywhere, a situation familiar to cyclists in Budapest.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
This month marked the release of a new cycling plan for Budapest. An English-language, thumbnail sketch of it can be found at http://www.eltis.org/show_news.phtml?newsid=1245&mainID=461.
The complete document (in Hungarian only) can be downloaded here http://kerekparosklub.hu/vitaanyag.
I haven't had time to give it a close look, but can say that it's an attractive, professional-looking document. And from my conversations with the people who put it together (staff at the Hungarian Cycling Club and experts from the Budapest Technical University and the COWI consulting company), it will no doubt represent a positive turn towards state-of-the-art planning, with several references to good international examples.
For example, the plan encourages a move away from segregated facilities toward lanes that integrate cyclists with motor traffic. On two-way streets, it encourages bike lanes on both sides of the street for both directions of traffic (with the exception of Andrassy, facilities in Budapest are generally single-track, shared-use, segregated facilities). And it stresses the importance of integrating cycling planning with general urban planning rather than introducing it as a retrofit or afterthought.
So, it'll be several days before I can read through the whole document, but it's already clear the underlying philosophy is a good one -- more enlightened than what we've seen before and one that treats cycling not just as a form of recreation but as a means of everyday transport.