Friday, August 28, 2009

Bike-Path Removal Violates Aid Contract

By removing the south-side bikeway from the Margit híd renovation plans, Budapest City Hall has violated conditions of HUF 6 billion (EUR 22 million at today's rate) in EU assistance for the project, according to a report on by bike blogger András Földes.

When City Hall applied for the support via the National Development Agency (NFÜ), the plans included three paths for bikes. These comprised two side-by-side paths for two directions of traffic on the north side of the bridge -- primarily for those accessing Margit Island for recreational purposes. On the south side was a single, one-way path for cyclists going from Buda to Pest for transportation purposes.

On the basis of a renovation plan that included this cycling plan, the NFÜ awarded the City an EU grant of HUF 6 billion, which would cover almost a third of the total project price of HUF 20.8 billion (EUR 77.1 million).

However, in recent weeks it came to light that the plan had been amended to remove the south side lane altogether. This provoked letters of protest from the Hungarian Cyclists Club and a hastily organised demonstration of more than 500 cyclists on the bridge August 18. The cyclists' problem with the new plan is that for Buda-to-Pest bike traffic, a one-side-only path will mean going through eight stop lights, getting off and back on your bike at least twice along the way, and riding about twice the distance as would be necessary with a south-side bikeway.

Not only did the city violate its promise to cyclists, but it has also broken its signed agreement with the NFÜ. This states that if the objective of the aid is jeapardised in whole or in part, details, documents and facts of plan amendments must be sent immediately to the NFÜ. The deadline for such a notice is eight calendar days from the change. More than that time has already lapsed since the changes were revealed, and no notice has been sent.

For its part, City Hall spokeswoman Dora Czuk said the removal of the bike line was not a type of change that the city would have to agree with NFÜ.

But the NFÜ seemed to think differently. According to the Index report, when NFÜ Director Tamás Lukovich was asked about the matter, he said, "In the data sheet of the project contract, a south side lane is also included, and to date we have not received a request for amendment."

Here's hoping that the sight of HUF 6 billion swirling down the drain will finally stir Mayor Demszky into fulfilling his pledge on Margit híd.

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