The Budapest City Council has voted to go ahead with a bike-sharing system -- like the Velíb system in Paris -- in downtown.
According to the English-language article on Caboodle.com, implementation would depend on getting EU funding. But if the application is successful, the system would put 800 to 1,200 bikes in downtown parked at stations placed every 300-600 metres.
The system would come on line in 2011 covering about 6 square kilometres between the Danube and the Nagy körút. After that, it could be expanded across the river, including up Bartok Béla út, to cover an area of up to 20 square kilometres.
Contrary to my earlier impressions from when the city started its feasibility study, this seems quite ambitious. Barcelona's Bicing system (pictured), for instance, is one of the biggest systems implemented in Europe and it has 3,000 bikes and stations placed every 300-400 metres.
In Central and Eastern Europe, there's been nothing on this scale. The systems in Prague, Krakow and Bucharest have no more than 200-300 bikes a piece. And the system is envisioned as a high-end, automated type in which bikes can be taken out with swipe cards, whereas some systems in this region -- as in Bucharest and Ploiesti, Romania -- are low-tech systems in which cyclists must check out bikes from a human vendor.
As I've said before, the city will have to improve cycling conditions downtown with a more comprehensive lane and path network, good bridge crossings, priority traffic signals, etc., etc. before public bikes will be attractive. But maybe the fact that the city has commited to this will give that added incentive to make this improvements.