Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Days

Not even a month has passed since the "last" Critical Mass, and they've already announced the reunion tour.

To be fair, the occasion isn't a proper Critical Mass, but rather a one-off celebration of a welcome addition to Budapest's cycling network: the new bi-directional bike lanes on the kiskörút (Little Ring Road). The whole reconfiguration of this busy thoroughfare looks to be a big improvement for downtown, and the bike lanes -- one on each side of the street next to the curbs -- were included in the plans thanks to vigorous lobbying by the local cycling movement.

Now there are bike lanes on both sides of the kiskörút running from the Szabadság Bridge all the way to Déak tér. I can't recall exactly how much car parking this path has displaced, but it's quite a few spaces, and that fact alone makes this bit of infrastructure ground-breaking by Budapest standards.

Compare that to the bike path that runs north from there down Bajcsy-Zsilinszky to Alkotmány utca. It's on one side of the street only, making it inconvenient for northbound travellers. And the designers, rather than taking away a centimetre of space from this rather capacious urban motorway, decided instead to run it down the the sidewalk -- taking space from pedestrians. It was a wasted opportunity for sustainable mobility, but hopefully, the more enlightened approach on the kiskörút will set an example that future traffic planners will follow.

Now that the kiskörút paths have actually been completed -- and in a fashion conforming to the promised design -- the guys at Hajtas Pajtas bike couriers want to celebrate and give due credit to the city leaders, planners and contractors who brought it to fruition.

The demonstration, dubbed "Happy Mass," will happen Tuesday, May 24. Participants are asked to come down to Károly körút and mass on both sides of the Madach tér crosswalk between 5:45 and 6 p.m. You're supposed to line up along with bike paths along the sidewalks, and then at 6 p.m. there will be a traditional bike lift. After that, for 45 minutes cyclists will ride up and down the new bike paths, with no explicit instructions on how and when to turn and cross the street to double back the other way. The idea is just to occupy the path for awhile, much as last fall's Critical Mass was about occupying the nagykörút.

At 6:45 p.m. Hajtas Pajtas head Gábor Kürti will lead a public discussion about the path and cycling matters in the small auditorium of the Merlin Theatre.

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