Thursday, November 28, 2013

BKV checker refuses to fold on folding bike

Csaba was very pleased with his new folding bike -- the BKV ticket inspector  not so much.
This year, Budapest public transport operator BKV clarified a long-standing ambiguity in its rules, so that now, folding bikes -- and children's bikes, as well -- are expressly allowed on vehicles for no extra fee.

Previously, these types of bikes could be carried on as hand baggage only if they were packaged. Otherwise you couldn't carry them onto BKV vehicles with the two exceptions of the cogwheel railway (fogaskerekű) and HÉV trains. But even on these lines, if they bikes weren't packaged up, you would be charged an extra ticket (személyjegy). At HUF 350 (EUR 1.17), that was a pretty big fee for a small carry on.

At the initiative of the Budapest Transport Center (BKK), a modification was proposed, and then accepted by the City Assembly, to settle the issue in favour of cyclists. In fact, I played a small part in this as one of a few "stakeholders" who BKK consulted beforehand. BKK's cycling affairs officer, Virág, asked for my opinion on it because she'd seen a blog post I did about getting fined on the No. 6 tram for carrying my then-5-year-old son's bike. Naturally, I was happy to give my opinion, and I urged that BKV give broad allowance to anyone carrying a folding bike or children's bike.

The new rule states that children's bikes with wheel diametres up to 16 inches (basically the mid-size toddlers' bike, one step up from the 12-inch, which is the smallest) can be carried on without an extra fee. Folding bikes are allowed without size restriction. The only qualification is that they shouldn't be so grimy that they smudge the seats or the clothing of other passengers.

Here's the relevant excerpt from passenger rules effective from July 2013:

A kisméretű, legfeljebb 41 cm (16”, azaz hüvelyk, illetve inch, vagy coll) külső kerékátmérőjű kerékpár valamint a roller, továbbá méretkorlát nélkül az összecsukott kerékpár kézipoggyászként díjtalanul szállítható valamennyi járművön, amennyiben az utasok ruházatát, a jármű berendezéseit nem rongálja meg, illetve nem szennyezi be.

Since the modification came into force, I've carried my 3-year-old daughter's bike on the 6 tram a few times and haven't had any trouble -- knock on wood. This past week, though, my co-worker Csaba carried his new folding bike on the Szentendre HÉV, and he had a different experience. It was all folded up and didn't occupy any more space that a shopping trolley -- the kind you see on the HÉV every day. Despite this, when the ticket checker came by to collect his fare, she told him he'd have to buy another ticket for the bike. Csaba objected and cited the new rule allowing folding bikes on BKV vehicles. The ticket checker replied that it was allowed only if it was packaged ("be kell csomagolva"). This was a verbatim quotation from the old rule -- she obviously wasn't up to date. Csaba asked her if BKV checkers get in-house training and she retorted that they have sessions once a month. She added that in addition to the extra fare, she would fine Csaba for being impertinent ("szemtelen"). But Csaba was confident. He knew the new rule practically by heart -- it was one of the reasons he bought his folding bike in the first place. He held firm and the checker eventually just stomped off in a huff. A good result for him, but not a pleasant experience.
Unfolded and ready to go.
I hope this is just a matter of teething problems with the new rules. At the policy level, BKV has become more bike friendly in recent years. In addition to the new allowance for children's and folding bikes, there have been new shared lanes for bikes and buses, and BKV is now doing a pilot project in which even full-size bikes are allowed on select trams and buses. But the new approach doesn't seem to trickle down to workers. BKV needs to improve its internal communications -- otherwise, it's high-level initiatives will be lost on the public.

1 comment:

Csaba Mezei said...

Thanks Greg for posting it. Bests. Csaba