Friday, April 23, 2010

Critical Mass Saturday 3 p.m.!

In case anyone hasn't heard, the annual Critical Mass Earth Day ride begins tomorrow at 3 p.m. I would have posted on it earlier, but I was stuck in volcanic limbo all last week. It kind-of snuck up on me -- along with a hundred other things.

Everything you need to know about it is posted in English here. Thanks to Gábor Bihari for making this info available to the Magyar challenged.

The theme of this year's ride, in keeping with the ongoing Parliamentary elections, is to Vote for Cycling. Just by showing up, you're casting a vote. The huge crowds that participate in the twice-annual ride -- on Earth Day in spring and European Car Free Day in fall -- are largely responsible for kick-starting the whole cycling scene in Budapest. Since the first major ride in 2004, there've been several positive developments that likely wouldn't have happened otherwise, such as:
  • the approval of a new Budapest Cycling Concept by City Hall;
  • the city's application for a new bike-sharing system (like Paris's Velib) that's due to open in spring 2011;
  • new lanes and paths on such streets as Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, Alkotmány utca, Thököly út and the kiskörút;
  • installation of hundreds of public bike racks throughout the city; and
  • the contracting of the Hungarian Cyclists Club as a professional advisory body to the Mayor's Office.
The most important step forward, though, has been a huge growth in numbers of everyday cyclists. The city has not implemented a systematic means of tracking the growth, but a handful of one-off spot counts during the last five years indicate that cycling levels have been grown 5-20 percentage points on several major downtown streets.

All this is to say that participation in Critical Mass helps demonstrate the popular demand for cycling facilities in Budapest. By coming out, you really can make a difference.

This year's ride will be opened by the Dutch ambassador to Hungary, Robert Milders. Today (Friday), he was on hand at Liszt Ferenc tér to annouce a Dutch donation of new bike racks at the corner by the Music Academy.

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