Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Children on Bikes Don't Count

I saw something that just broke my heart on my way home tonight. There was a guy about my age on a bike trying to cross rush-hour traffic on Route 11 on the south entrance to town. It's a crossing that, in high season, hundreds of people make every day, both locals and tourists on the Eurovelo 6 route. On the west side of the street is the purpose built bike path to Budapest. On the east side is the bike path into downtown Szentendre.

Despite the high bike traffic at this intersection, the only legal way to get across is via an inexplicably hard-to-find underpass that's accessible only by steep sets of stairs on both ends.

This poor father might not even have known where the underpass is -- it was dusk and there are NO signs pointing the way. And even if he knew, it wasn't a realistic option: he had a little boy on board -- couldn't have been more than two years old. He might have accomplished it by taking the little guy off the bike, carrying him through the bike tunnel, leaving him at the other end for a moment, then rushing back to get the bike. But what parent wants to leave his little child unattended along a traffic-choked roadside for even a minute?

So this father was trying to cross the road as best he could. When I saw him, he was pushing his bike through weeds on the side of the road, and coming up onto the tarmac through a gap in the metal guardrail. The father had an anxious look on his face as he was contemplating traversing four lanes of speeding traffic while ensuring the safety of the most precious thing in his life.

I'm a father of a boy just a couple years older. I empathised with this stranger. It made me want to tear someone's head off. Why in the hell isn't there a safe bicycle crossing at this intersection? Do Szentendre's transport managers have so little regard for people that they can't offer a simple and obvious street crossing for a father and his two year old boy? Unbelievable.


Sgran said...

Not to mention children riding their own bikes. I'm completely stumped as to how to get my kids to Margit Island without going down stairs or riding excessive amounts of narrow sidewalks. Besides the Liget, our only reasonable destination is Szepliget, which involves crossing right in front of a McDonald's and the inevitable pleading for fatty, salty crap.

Greg Spencer said...

Yeah, kids on bikes need a wide swath. Lance is getting quite good on his bike, but he does a lot of zigzagging in his effort to stay balanced.

Enrique Penalosa, the mayor of Bogota who became famous for his sustainable transport initiatives, said, "If an 8 year old can't safely use a bikeway, then it is not a good bikeway."

anna said...

That sounds very bad. I have seen such things myself, and get similar feelings with old people that have to carry their purchases up and down stairs whereas cars always have the easy and fast way. Very unfair and just so wrong.

Greg Spencer said...

Yep, somebody pointed out a website about "universal access" that gives a concise, persuasive argument for a fair, humane approach to transport facility design. Every decision maker and technician involved in this work should know it by heart.