It's been more than a month since my last post and, not coincidentally, several weeks since my last bike ride. In early December, during the single spell of truly wintry weather that we've had this season, I made an ill-advised ride down an ice-encrusted bike path and had a painful fall. I ended up re-injuring a knee that was not entirely recovered from a ski accident several years ago and so, for the past several weeks, I've been hobbling around on foot and experiencing winter cycling culture vicariously from the sidewalks.
When I had the crack up, I knew straightaway what reaction to expect from friends and colleagues: "What the Hell were you doing riding a bike in a sub-freezing temperatures on an icy path?" The short answer was, "going to work". Of course, I also have the option of taking BKV, but relying on BKV for my entire commute adds approximately 30 minutes to the journey each way. That's why I use my bike for commuting when it's at all possible.
I recognise that snow and ice can make cycling dangerous and that we all have individual responsibility to protect ourselves. However, it's also true that cities are responsible for ensuring the safety of their roads. In northern Europe, where snow and slush confront millions of urban cyclists all winter long and not for just a few weeks each season, cities don't discriminate between bike tracks and roads -- they keep everything clear. In some cities (allegedly) the bike paths are cleared BEFORE the motor routes. I know that in Göteborg, Sweden, city policy calls for the plowing of all bike paths within 12 hours of snowfall.
Not to sell Budapest entirely short: some of the shared bike/pedestrian paths get cleared and/or salted after snowfall. But the path I was on, on the Buda quay north of Margit Bridge, there's never any attempt to clear it, whether of snow, dirt or, lately, with the Csepel Sziget sewerage project going on, of construction detritus. A prime example of the path's neglect happened this past fall when a tree fell across it during a windstorm. I was riding around the tree for a week or so and at one point contemplated removing it myself. I thought the fastest way to get a street crew onto the job would be to drag it onto the adjacent roadway. Unfortunately, it was too heavy to budge and the tree remained for a few weeks longer.
One hopeful development for this path is that it will soon be connected to the portion south of the bridge via a new tunnel under the renovated Margit Bridge. Once it becomes a contiguous extension of Buda korzó, perhaps maintenance crews will also begin treating it with the same care as the rest of the path.