Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bike-friendly towns and employers get their due

Just completed this past fall with HUF 1.5 billion in EU support, a 27.7 km path now runs from Romania across the Hungarian border to Békéscsaba, officially the most bike-friendly large settlement in Hungary.
Twenty-three Hungarian towns and 28 employers were officially recognised as “bicycle friendly” on Wednesday at an annual awards ceremony sponsored by the National Development Ministry.

The awards were handed out at the Regional Environmental Center in Szentendre, with Pál Völner, state secretary for infrastructure, presiding.

To be considered for the award, the towns and companies must submit reams of data and documents proving their commitment to bike-friendly transport. Infrastructure and promotional efforts are the main criteria for communities; bike parking and other types of encouragement are top criteria for employers.

For companies, the payoff is prestige and fulfillment of corporate social responsibility. For municipalities, there's also material motivation: "Bike-Friendly Settlement" status gives them bonus points in applications for EU development subsidies.

The awards scheme is a joint effort of the ministry and the Cycling Hungary Association. This year’s award ceremony was hosted by the Regional Environmental Center and co-financed by the EU-supported Mobile 2020 cycling project, to which REC is a contributing partner.

At the event, Völner underscored that the ministry sponsors the scheme for the same reason it backs Hungary’s Bike to Work campaigns and events connected to European Mobility Week and Car Free Day. The goal is to promote bicycling as transport. He boasted that one fruit of these efforts is that Hungary is now, according to a survey commissioned by the European Cyclists Federation, number eight in Europe in terms of its cycling levels and conditions.

Applicants for the awards have good cycling kudos. On the bike-friendly settlement side, the nine new designees had an average cycling modal share of 45 percent (Granted, these are mostly relatively small settlements, typically with a couple 10s of thousands of residents.). These towns are also spending a growing share of their transport investments on cycling. In 2011, the average share was 11 percent while in 2012 it was up to 14 percent.

The 14 towns that renewed existing bike-friendly designations had even better numbers. Their average bike modal share was 52 percent, while they dedicated on average 30 percent of transport investments to cycling infrastructure.

Among the recognized bike-friendly workplaces, cycling is a favoured mode of transport among managers as well as workers. Among newly designated companies, 35 percent of CEOs cycle regularly to work, while 20 percent of middle managers do and 44 percent of junior managers.

Among companies that have renewed their designations, 14 percent of CEOs cycle regularly, 20 percent of middle managers do and 37 percent of junior managers.

And the winners are …
Bike Friendly Settlements
  • Large cities/county seats: Békéscsaba 
  • Midsize cities: Tata 
  • Small cities: Rábapatona 

Bike Friendly Workplaces
  • Large companies: Budapest Bank Zrt. Budapest Headquarters
  • Mid-size companies: Trenecon-Cowi Kft. 
  • Small companies: Mondolat Iroda Kft 
  • Public institutions and non-profits: Szeged Technical and Environmental Protection School

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