Friday, August 21, 2009

Margit Híd Closed -- Awesome!

From noon today, Margit híd is closed to car traffic. This is the busiest of Budapest's six car bridges and it's been a favourite subject of water-cooler talk for months. Budapest somehow got through the Szabadság híd closure, but this one -- some people are wondering if it'll just lead to the collapse of the economy and a permanent re-division of Buda from Pest.

My perspective is somewhat different. We live in a building on Margit körút less than 200 metres from the Buda bridgehead (pretty much just upstairs from the Bem cinema, for locals). We're anticipating that traffic out front will drop dramatically, which will bring relative tranquility to a neighbourhood whose traffic levels are not a big selling point. Our view is also coloured by our lack of a car. The planned traffic changes would only seem to benefit us.

One thing that isn't clear is how the closure will affect bike and pedestrian traffic. We've heard so many contradictory rumours about it. The latest news on City Hall's website doesn't mention  this aspect although a May article in quoted Mayor Demszky promising that bike and pedestrian passage will be ensured throughout the project. I hope he hasn't reversed himself, as he's prone to do concerning important cycling and pedestrian issues. Living so close to the bridge, it'll be easy for me to follow how it really plays out.


Mike said...

You should check out the final results on Szabadság híd as there are now bicycles signs painted on the pavement. I don't know if this is good or not, but I biked across the bridge today and had one car pass me driving on the tram tracks and the road. Overall, in this example at least they've separated the bicyclists from the pedestrians, but I'm not sure the cars are going to slow down enough to make me feel all that safe on such a narrow road. Nonetheless, it can be viewed as progress.

Greg Spencer said...

I haven't crossed Szabadsád since they've done that. This is an example of a "sharrow," a non-exclusive lane that motorists can drive on when it's not occupied by a cyclist. It's a compromise solution that's used in cases where the road is too narrow for a strictly separated lane.

The problem with these is that they don't offer cyclists much of a sense of security -- as you noticed -- and may not result in much of an uptick in cycling levels. Sharrows were tried in Paris in the '80s and motorists just ignored them. Eventually the markings just wore off and washed away.

Perhaps, there's no other solution on Szabadság hid, but certainly, a lot of exclusive cycling lanes could be created on major city roads if some parking and/or car lanes were sacrificed. The city has NEVER taken a step like that. When and if it does, that'll be progress.