Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Critical Mass cometh

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Budapest's twice-annual demonstration/celebration for bicycling happens once again this Sunday (April 19), starting at 3 p.m. from the park in Tabán. To ensure a good-sized crowd by starting time, organisers encourage participants to make a day of it by bringing food and drink to the park for a picnic starting around 1 p.m. Officially, alcohol is discouraged, as boozing before biking is illegal. Probably one beer won't hurt -- but you didn't read that here!

The procession will go down Krisztina krt, across Erzsebet bridge, do a quick loop in Pest and come back across the river, back up the Tabán on Attila út, then through the Chain bridge tunnel and across the river again ... Nevermind: you can see the full route directions here. Click the first subhead: Mikor lesz a felvonulás? És hol? És mettől meddig tart majd?

As has been the custom for Earth Day Critical Masses, the event culminates with a bike lifting at City Park 2.5 hours after the starting time at 5:30 p.m.

This event won't be the in-your-face, politically-serious, rush-hour type ride as organised last fall during European Car Free Day. Instead, it will be a light-hearted, celebratory ride in which everyone is encouraged to turn out, including children. In fact, parents with prams are invited to take part in the first-annual "babakocsi" Critical Mass, which will start from Kodaly körönd at 3:30 p.m., and then proceed straight down Andrássy to join the cyclists at City Park.

It'll be interesting to see if participation in this year's Earth Day Critical Mass can beat last year's, which organisers claimed set a likely World record at 80,000. A lot will depend on the weather, which looked partly cloudy, partly sunny, but with rain on the day before and the day after. Cross your fingers.


Jelica said...

Are you going to bike with Lance? Ruslan will take Andrej this time :)

Greg Spencer said...

Yeah, we'll take Lance. In our family, there's no compact option!

Jelica said...

Hey Greg, there is no comments option on your latest post about Critical Mass so let me write here--don't you think that last year's figure of 80,000 was a little bit exaggerated? I remember that there was a great discrepancy between what the organizers said and what the news sources reported.

And 30,000 cyclists doesn't sound bad to me at all--I wonder if there are similar events in other cities in Europe and what their turnout would be.

Greg Spencer said...

ok, a friend asked me this on facebook, so I'm going to cut and paste my reply here:

I don't think they have any systematic way of estimating crowd numbers. I've asked Gabor Bihari, who writes the English-language page of, and he doesn't know where the numbers come from.

I remember the year when attendance (allegedly) hit 20,000. The main organiser, Gabor Kurti, told me that the year before it had been 10,000, and that in the lead up to to the current event, they'd received twice as many email inquiries about the ride. So they just extrapolated that attendance would also be double: 2x10,000 = 20,000.

I believe the estimates are indicative of RELATIVE attendance. Estimates were climbing year on year until Earth Day 2008 (80,000 estimate). Actual attendance was probably also climbing -- although the absolute numbers could have differed significantly from the estimates.

I agree with you, though, that 30,000 is still a lot. But there's no question in my mind that there were a lot fewer riders this year than last year.