Monday, May 25, 2009

Novel Cycling Accommodation a Step Forward

The rather novel cycling accommodation on Buda's Varsányi Irén utca is nearly complete, and I have to say it is a step forward. Prior to the reconfiguration, the bike facility here was of a typically lame Budapest design (or East European -- I hear the same complaints from friends in Poland and the Czech Republic): there was one narrow path, marked out in yellow paint, on one side of the street on the sidewalk for both directions of bike traffic.

At the behest of cycling advocates, District II agreed to make a better accommodation, although the result was a compromise. According to a helpful reader of my earlier post on the subject
, the Hungarian Cyclists Club had recommended traffic calming measures and the posting of signage allowing cyclists to ride in the carriageway in both directions on this one-way street. This solution would have eliminated cyclist-pedestrian conflicts on the sidewalk, but would have required taking away curbside car parking to make room for the contraflow biking lane. But of course, the district wasn't about to mess with parking (free parking being a God-given right in Hungary).

So instead, only cyclists going with the direction of traffic are allowed to ride in the carriageway. This has been made safer thanks to the calming of motor traffic by speed tables at all the street crossings. Meanwhile, contraflow riders are still on the old sidewalk lane -- but now have it to themselves.

Now that the two directions of bike traffic have been separated and given their own space, it feels more safe to ride at normals speeds -- to me at least.

At the bottom of the hill at the stop light on Fazekas utca, cyclists going with traffic and needing to turn left can get out of their curbside lane and pull ahead of motorists into the middle of the lane into a red bike box. Popular in places such as Portland, Oregon, and New York City, bike boxes allow cyclists to get in front of cars at traffic signals so as to avoid getting cut off -- or run over -- by turning vehicles.
It would be nice if the same separate-lane design could be continued over the whole course of the street. Alas, after the Fazekas crossing, both directions of bike traffic are again merged onto a single narrow lane on the sidewalk.


anna said...

I've seen one (and only one) bike box in Vienna so far, but it was not colored. I think they should have something like that at every junction which is regulated by traffic lights. It's a very good idea.

I like your bike symbols on the road.

josh said...

For what it's worth, pretty much all intersections in London have bike boxes (many with bike lanes leading up to them, many rely on cyclists to filter to the front on their own) and drivers are almost all habituated to having bikes in front of them when starting off from lights.

It's a big help.