|Hungarian Cyclist Club President János László straddles a freshly painted pictogram.|
I went out there last night to witness the painting, and I had plenty of company. RTL Club and Hír TV had cameras out, Hungarian Cycle Chic was snapping photos and -- no surprise -- Hungarian Cyclist Club President János László (pictured) was there to see the implementation of the traffic compromise he helped broker.
I asked him about the pictogram, whether it's really an acceptable substitute for a proper bike lane. "You know why I like it? It's a symbol of cooperation between the drivers of cars and the drivers of bicycles. It's the first example of this in Budapest."
The carriageway solution won't take away from the planned cycling accommodation on the bridge's sidewalks. On the northern (island side) sidewalk, a bright red lane will soon open as a dual-direction bikeway. On both ends of the bridge, the red lane will have ramps down to the road to facilitate entrance and exit for cyclists riding on the körút from Pest to Buda.
The south-side sidewalk will have no separate lane, but will be open to cyclists nonetheless as a shared-use path with pedestrians.
The arrangement at least tries to serve and respect everyone's needs, including cyclists of many persuasions. I can see reasonable options for everyone here, from professional riders with their courier bags to children with training wheels.
|With the sidewalks still under works, a sign remains on the south side telling cyclists to walk their bikes. Not many do.|
|Accompanying the pictograms will be signs at both bridgeheads featuring a car and cyclist being all lovey-dovey. The still partially shrouded signs were designed by Peter Kukorelli, the same guy who came up with Budapest's "P" shaped bike racks.|
About three years ago, when the renovation was in the planning stage, City Hall agreed to proposals by the Hungarian Cycling Club to include cycling accommodation on both the north and south sides of the bridge.
Then, just weeks before the work was due to start in the summer of 2009, it was learned that the City had unilaterally scratched the south-side bikeway. This provoked a demonstration of some 500 cyclists and then some effective reporting by Hungarian bike blogger András Földes (my summary here) about how the city could lose EU project funding because its grant contract was based on plans that included bikeways on both sides of the bridge.
The City recanted, and then recanted on its recant, and then a new mayor came in, and then the Hungarian Cyclists Club broadcast a YouTube protest saying that the evolving work appeared to short change cyclists ... . Which is all to say that it's been a long road.
But it seems now that this chapter is finally coming to a close. And it seems the pictogram was crucial in wrapping things up. Hard-core advocates had long wanted proper bike lanes on the bridge, but this was legally impossible without sacrificing car lanes. And, naturally, no city administration wants to go there.
The pictograms, a traffic management tool introduced in 2010's modification of the traffic code (KRESZ), raised the possibility of a compromise. They create quasi-bike lanes that fit into, rather than displace, car lanes. They're something along the lines of shared space and it will be interesting to see how many cyclists make use of them.
Without a doubt, though, the whole exercise demonstrated, yet again, that lobbying and political activism can bear fruit. And if advocates have an appetite for more, they might even get the big banana: bikeways around the whole körút. Afterall, what sense does it make to have them on just the Margit Bridge section of this street? In the interest of formal harmony, the bikeways on the bridge need to extend in both directions of the ring road and complete the circle.