Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cycling to Sziget is no Sweat

The entrance on Thursday, six days before day 1 of the Sziget

One of Europe's largest music events, the Sziget Festival, starts next week on Hajógyari (aka Óbudai) Island.

With as many as 390,000 (2009 peak) attending the week-long event, it generates an enormous volume of traffic, particularly over the 4-5 kilometres between downtown Budapest and the festival site.

A number of public-transport options exists, including Budapest Transport Company (BKV) charter buses for inbound and outbound campers; passenger ferries on the Danube, and that old standby, the suburban train (HÉV). All these are fantastic ways to get close-up and personal with your fellow Sziget revelers before you arrive at the massive queues at the island entrance.

Riding the Szentendre HÉV to the Sziget
(Image stolen from
For those who prefer a better ventilated mode of transport, there are bicycles. Designated bike routes on both banks of Danube link downtown with the festival site. And once there, you can take advantage of a free, guarded bike parking lot.

If you want to use the service, you'll need to take your bike through the entrance onto the island, and make your way to the lot, located on some tennis courts near the caravan camping area on the island (#41 on the Sziget map). The service works like a coat check: The bike is tagged and you'll get a receipt, and the volunteers will record the number of your festival entrance wristband along with the bike's ID data: colour, type and serial number.

Check your bike, but don't lose your number!

Volunteers from the Hungarian Cyclists Club tend the lot throughout the festival. At any time, three three of them are on site while a paid festival security guard is always nearby.

The bike parking lot holds 1,000 bikes, and during last year's event, a total of 5,000 bikes were looked after during the full festival period.

The cycling club has helped organise Sziget bike parking for several years, and has been leading the effort since last year's event. According to club Communications Manager Kornél Myat, the club as well as the Sziget organisation offer the service because it's part of their philosophy to support environmentally friendly bicycle transport. The 18 volunteers who staff the lot over the course of the festival also do it because they get free entry passes.

These days, the cycling club is not only providing cycling services at the Sziget Festival, but at a host of other summer events in Hungary, including Balaton Sound, the Hegyalja Festival, the Campus Festival in Debrecen and the Bánkitó Festival.

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