Sunday, November 16, 2008

Local Cycling Gets Dutch Boost

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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.

Some parents and staff at the American International School of Budapest, which has a spectacular but fairly remote new campus some 15 km northwest of Budapest, in the village of Nagykovácsi, decided they needed a bike path. Such a path would not only allow students and staff to bike to and from school, it would also provide a new recreational route for weekend cyclists and enable bike commuting for those who have made Nagykovácsi a budding bedroom community.

It's probably no coincidence that the impetus behind the path was the Dutch. The idea came from a Dutch member of AISB's building committee, Jaap Scholten, a writer who lives here with his Hungarian wife and who has three children enrolled in the school.

The original concept was to make a 4 km path from Nagykovácsi to Petneházy, which would almost connect to the Hűvösvölgy path. Scholten enlisted the help of the Dutch ambassador to Hungary, and through him, got hold of Hungary's Deputy Minister for Cycling Adam Bodor and the local office of the Dutch engineering firm Grondmij.

During the planning, the AISB group discovered that several of the surrounding villages were championing a 17 km path that would intersect with theirs. The two projects were merged and are now in a brainstorming phase. The village councils have taken the reins of the project, with AISB and the Dutch Embassy reverting to advisory roles and helping with contacts.

Timing was fortuitous: 90% of the project will be paid for with EU money (presumably through the Cycling Hungary Programme, a EUR 250 million pot of money that's up for grabs to municipalities that can put together well-considered proposals. In addition, Grondmij has offered to do the feasibility study free of charge. That leaves only 10 percent to be picked up by the local councils and Hungarian government.

Of course, this project is a long ways from being a done deal, and the fact that so many parties are involved adds to the complications. But the prospects look quite good for an idea that started with a parent who wanted a bike path for his kids.


james said...

thanks for the story - i'm always interested in how other cities integrate cycling transportation.

all the best - james...

Anonymous said...

how has this bike path been coming along, when is it supposed to be finished?