Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Budapest Vies for International Recognition

Budapest is one of three cities shortlisted to hold the 2011 Velo-City international cycling conference. This would be quite a big deal, as it's regarded as the premier international cycling planning conference in the world. It brings together hundreds of people from various fields who are involved in cycling policy and promotion. Check out the description here.

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.

1 comment:

Greg Spencer said...

I got an update on this post. Prague has decided NOT to apply to host the 2011 Velo-City conference. According to Prague-based cycling activist Daniel Mourek, 2011 would be too early for important cycling improvements to be realised. Prague will probably apply to host the 2013