Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Protest highlights hot controversy over segregated paths

I'm not sure how much was accomplished at Wednesday's hastily organised demonstration down on the Buda korzó. The aim of the event, dubbed "BringaLance" (Bike Chain), was to create a chain of bikes (and bicyclists) from Batthyányi tér to the Chain Bridge along the shared-use path on the Buda embankment, and in so doing, protest the common practice of putting bike paths on footpaths.

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.

1 comment:

dalos said...