Monday, November 3, 2008

Finders, Keepers!

City Hall should've known better than to let people roam freely on the Buda quay while it's being reconstructed. Just months after the riverside road was closed to traffic this summer for a massive sewerage project, a political movement sprang up urging City Hall to make the Buda bank a permanent open public space, with a bike path, jogging trail, park and so on -- and to not return it to motorists.

Great idea! I've been riding my bike on the car-free quay ever since August, when the crowds at the Sziget Festival started obstructing the bike path near Filitorigat. After that, on my evening ride home from Szentendre, I'd get off the circuitous designated bike route at Auchan and get on the quay. With two wide lanes of asphalt and hardly a car in sight, it felt like entering a cycling autobahn. Wonderful. The further south you go, the more other users you see -- not only cyclists, but runners, walkers, parents pushing prams, people walking dogs, even people stretching and doing tai chi. It's all happening in the middle of a road that until this summer had been clogged daily with rush-hour traffic jams. It's easy to imagine how much more it would be used if properly developed with paths, benches, landscaping and the rest (i.e. beer gardens). It'd probably become like an extension of Margit Sziget, with some choice jogging and cycling circuits formed via Margit and Arpad bridges.

An open letter from someone named Aron was posted on the site urging Mayor Demszky to make the de-motorisation of the quay his major legacy. You can cut and paste the Hungarian text and send it to Or surprise him with something original in English or Sanskrit.

Another article about the "rakpark," comeplete with an artist's rendering of what it would look like, is here. And then there's a blog posting about how Vienna did something like this with one of its riverside arterials. For that matter, check out what the city of Seattle did recently with its waterfront. Seems like lots of cities are realising that embankments are too precious to waste on roads.


Jelica said...

My guess is that people driving to and from Szentendre every day don't share your enthusiasm :)

Greg Spencer said...

But check out this EU survey. Budapest rates in the top category in terms of ease of commuting (short duration) but only in the second category in terms of green space per resident. If you consider just the downtown area, the green space quotient is quite poor -- less than half of Paris's.

Naturally, some will object. But the Buda bank already has a high-capacity arterial in Arpad fejdelem. In the big picture, Bp is in more need of green space than roads.

So there!

Jelica said...

But even if you make Rakpart a green area it's not going to help the "green quotient of the downtown area@ since it is not technically downtown (not in my definition at least). So that's just more green for Buda people and nothing for poor Pesti. Maybe we need a redistribution of green? :)

Greg Spencer said...

It's true that downtown Pest is even more bereft of green space. But the Buda embankment is no pastoral paradise. It's densely built up and the air stinks because of the traffic. A riverside park would be a huge boon to the neighbourhood and would be a giant step forward for the city.

Good Lord, what have you got against parks, Lady??

Jelica said...

Nothing against parks at all, just like to have a good argument :) Btw, a new study in Britain shows that green spaces reduce the "health gap" between the rich and the poor, and that even a little gren helps. See here