Arriving back to Budapest from summer vacation, I was pleased to see that the Buda-side korzó, after months of being ripped up due to road work, was again open for cycling. I was down there with my four-year-old boy, Lance, who started riding without training wheels just this spring. As Lance is still a little wobbly on his pint-sized one-speed, the korzó is the safest place for him to ride in our neighbourhood.
During the road work (involving a reconstruction of the No. 19 tram line which runs alongside the korzó), we'd limited our ride from Margit híd to Batthyányi tér. But this morning, seeing that the mess along the tram line was cleared up, we ventured on past Batthyányi toward the Chain Bridge.
I immediately noticed that the patchwork they'd done following the construction was awful. During the project, they'd dug a trench about 30-40 cm wide right down the middle of the korzó to install a rain gutter. After filling it in, they capped it not with tarmac, which is what the path is surfaced with, but with concrete. Not everywhere, though. In scattered segments, for some reason, they filled it with asphalt.
At any rate, the job was incredibly shoddy, the worst part being the deep grooves along the seam between the old surface and the patchwork. As any cyclist knows, these kinds of longitudinal grooves are a major hazard, as bike tires are prone to slide into them and throw you off balance. In the 8 years I've been riding in Budapest, I've had three fairly nasty falls, two of them because of these sorts of patches.
No sooner did I take note of this crappy patch job than Lance goes tumbling over his handlebars after getting his tire caught in one of these grooves. Luckily, his injuries were only a scraped knee and scuffed-up palms. He cried a little bit but dusted himself off and got back on his bike. Even so, it's hard
to overstate how angry I got that the city thinks so little of its cycling (and walking and skating) citizens, that they would do such a half-assed patch job on one of our main promenades.
Hundreds, and on summer weekends, thousands, of citizens use this path each day, not just for recreation, but increasingly for daily transportation. With all the cracks, tree-root bumps and poorly done patches, the korzó is long overdue for a complete resurfacing. The work on the adjacent tram track provided a prime opportunity for such a renewal. Instead, the work finished with the path in an even more degraded state.
I keep reading about City Hall's progressive plans to double cycling's modal share and launch a world-class bike sharing system. Meanwhile, it can't manage such a basic task as bike-path maintenance. It seems to me that the cycling movement goes forward in Budapest not because of City Hall's efforts but despite them.