Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cyclists to Encircle City Hall

It seems as if this is the year the gloves come off at Budapest Critical Mass. Having just been kicked in the teeth by City Hall over the Margit Bridge affair, organisers of the September 22 demonstration (English-language programme here) plan to kick things off by surrounding City Hall in a circle of chained-together bicycles, and then do the customary bike lift. It'll happen at 5:30 p.m., well after our weak-kneed city leaders have gone home for the night -- but I love the symbolism.

It'll be an excellent photo op. I'm hoping a few international journalists will be hand to cover the story, which is really about a local government abusing the largesse of the European Union. Sadly, it's one of many instances in which East European public officials are playing fast and loose with Cohesion Funds -- which mainly come from West European coffers. Decision makers in Brussels -- and elsewhere around in Europe -- have a right to hold the Budapest administration, as an EU grant recipient, to certain standards.

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Unlike the Earth Day Critical Mass in the spring, which is a celebratory, weekend parade for the whole family, the ride on Car Free Day is more of a hard-nosed, politically-pointed affair. It takes place during a weekday rush hour, and only parts of the route are cordoned off from other road users. For the most part, participants ride in traffic as they would during a normal evening commute. It's in the spirit of the original Critical Masses in San Francisco, which were spontaneously organised rides to show that cyclists are part of the traffic.

Naturally, participants are asked to remain civilised and adhere to traffic rules, according to well-kept Budapest tradition. (There will even be a chaperoned side ride for children, "Kidical Mass", also starting at 5:30.) That said, we want to make a big enough noise so that Budapest City Hall will finally come to its senses, and make good on its promises to local cyclists and its contractual agreements with the EU, and give the city its first proper cycling accomodation on a Danube bridge.

1 comment:

anna said...

I'm already looking forward to that. Will be an interesting experience to see so many cyclists for me.