Monday, June 10, 2013

Bike Study Commissioned for Margit Körút

I'd say this cyclist is enjoying a wider than average berth -- yet she's still forced to ride in the rain gutter.
The City has just commissioned a feasibility study on creating a bikeway on Margit körút. The local engineering firm Trenecon-COWI (working on the Bubi bike-share project among other cycling projects) recently got the assignment from the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK).

No particular design or approach has been proposed. Instead, Trenecon has been asked to look at all the possibilities, including:
  • bike lanes (as on the kiskörút)
  • bike tracks, grade-separated lanes between the sidewalks and the carriageway (these are common in Denmark and the Netherlands, but they've never been implemented in Budapest)
  • sharrows, bike ways that motorists could legally ride over when they're not occupied by cyclists. (The chevrons on the outside lanes across Margit híd are sharrows.)
The study will look into other possibilities to make the street more bike-friendly, including ways to reduce motor traffic, ways to make intersections safer and more convenient for cyclists and the feasibility of reducing speeds.

This is typical körút-style riding. With cars crowding him out on the curb, he chooses instead to ride between the first and second lanes. Technically illegal, I believe, certainly risky, but faster and more pleasant than waiting behind a car and sucking up exhaust.

Margit körút is a busy main road with two lanes for cars going in either direction. In order to create proper, comfortably-wide bike lanes, car lanes would have to be sacrificed. You can imagine how eager the mayor would be to eliminate two car lanes from Margit körút. However, given the volume and speed of motor traffic, sharrows or advisory bike lanes, in my opinion, would not cut the mustard. Like the ones on Margit bridge -- they wouldn't encourage many new cyclists to use them. They'd be used by messengers and other road-savvy cyclists -- basically the ones who already ride on the körút. They wouldn't boost cycle traffic and would likely wear off and be forgotten.

BKK might find there's just enough space to squeeze in exclusive bike lanes that just meet the minimum legal width. But this would be far from ideal on such a busy street. With taxis rushing by at 50-60 kph, you want a comfortable distance between them and your left handlegrip.

Unavoidably, the best possible solution would be to sacrifice car lanes. With the freed space, there'd not only be room for adequately wide, exclusive bike ways, but also expanded space for walking, restaurant and cafe seating, benches, greenery -- maybe even a fountain somewhere. This would not only be a major boon for cycling, it would calm the street, revive retail and recreation and generally improve neighbourhood livability. A good reference would be Oktober 6 utca -- Petofi Sandor utca, the once congested through street in District V that is now a destination in its own right.

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