Wednesday, August 19, 2009

500-Plus Demonstrate for Both-Side Bikeways

This was the scene shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday as a reported 500-plus fed-up Budapest bicyclists came out to demonstrate their rage at the Demszky administration for breaking promises on the renovation of Margit híd.

I was there to lend my support and, as you can see from these pictures, I got lots of pictures of the backsides of the few dozen bicyclists ahead of me in the procession. (I find it impossible to capture the enormity of bike demonstrations with a camera. Whether it's a few hundred people or 80,000, my photo record of the event consists almost entirely of blurry images of the back ends of the dozen or so people who were in my immediate vicinity.)

Kristin joined me as did Lance, he for the first time on his own two wheels. We were a bit concerned whether his riding skills were up for the tire-to-mudguard riggor of a Critical Mass-type bike demonstration. But his pokey pace was perfectly in step with the halting progression of the ride, and he didn't have -- and didn't cause, as far as I could tell -- any accidents.

I was happy to see that we weren't the only parents exploiting our children for political purposes. As you can see in some of the photos, there were lots of cute kids on hand as photo fodder for journalists willing to give us some sympathetic coverage.


After the demonstration, guys with bullhorns -- presumably with the the organising groups Hungarian Cycling Club and/or criticalmass.hu -- advised us to streer off the bridge on the Pest side and gather at Olympic Park, where I got my only decent (sort-of) crowd shot.

We sat there on the grass for 10 minutes or so and then one of the bullhorn guys thanked everyone for participating and said a few other words I couldn't make out. That was pretty much it.

Who knows what the postscript might be. This was a demo about the Mayor backtracking on a promise made last year that the soon-to-start bridge renovation would include cycling accommodation on BOTH sides of the bridge for both directions of traffic. Then this past week -- with the bridge closure scheduled for August 22 -- it is revealed that accommodation on the south side of the bridge has been erased from the plans.

The mayor's office gave multiple excuses for the reversal, but the way it was revealed -- at the last minute, and only after the cycling lobby had called out the mayor on some contradictory PR materials -- it speaks volumes about his (tepid) commitment to everyday cycling.

A recent post on criticalmass.hu lists dozens of supportive media reports that have come out in recent days. We can only hope that the public will respond and spur the mayor to make good on his pledge.

4 comments:

GABOR said...

Greg, it's great that you made it, sorry I couldn't. (Of course, it all took place a lot closer to your home than to mine ...)

Tell Lance that I'm really proud of him :)

Greg Spencer said...

Hey Gábor,

Thanks for the mssg. You can see L's putting Ana's old bike to good use. He's riding the wheels off the thing, but by now, he's almost outgrown it anyway.

Cheers!

GABOR said...

That's great news. I don't know if I told you about this, but Anna learned how to ride on two wheels just days after I last spoke with you about this at Vittula. So we've been riding all over the lake's vicinity now. It's quite an experience to see your kid as an individual "vehicle" on the streets.

Anyway, you guys should come down here more often--and with bikes too.

Greg Spencer said...

Kudos to Anna! Naturally, we're always up for visiting you at Velence. Family biking is a lot less hair-raising down there, I'm sure.