Thursday, May 29, 2014

Szentendre City Hall takes a stand for cyclists

Incredibly, this awkward underpass is part of the Eurovelo 6 bike touristic route. The public road authority forbids cyclists from crossing the road on the surface. Photo stolen from here.
The Szentendre local government is taking a stand against Hungary's public road authority in order to allow bicycling on the main road through town.

If you want to lend  personal support to this cause, you can sign a petition posted by a Szentendre subgroup of the Hungarian Cyclists Club.

This has a bit of history. Szentendre hasn't been terribly bike friendly over the years, and as someone who works and bikes there on a daily basis, I have ongoing issues with local cycling policy.

However, the local authorities in this case are trying to do something good for cyclists. For many years, the public road manager -- Közútkezelő Kft -- has banned bicycling on Route 11, despite it being the only option for many people to cross the town north to south. On the southern part, there's a shared bike/pedestrian path that cyclists are required to use. It's old and broken up, and not pleasant to ride on. And in order to get from this path to the dedicated bike path leading to Budakalász and Békésmegyer, you have to cross Route 11 through a horrible little underpass. Crossing on the surface is illegal.

From Szentendre's public transport junction (HÉV and Volan bus stop) to the north, there's no designated bikeway at all -- yet you're still banned from riding Route 11. One  local cyclist I've met has been cited by police for riding here -- and he successfully fought the ticket in court. Hungary's traffic code expressly permits cycling on public roads unless there's an adjacent bikeway provided. So Közútkezelő Kft.'s ban on cycling on the northern stretch of  Route 11 doesn't even accord with the law.

For years, Route 11 has not served as a local road at all, only as a high-volume, high-speed highway between Budapest and Visegrad (despite a posted speed limit of 50 km/hr in town). The local authorities are now wondering if maybe they can claim the Szentendre section for their own citizens, so that people can use it and cross it, by car, foot or bike, without cowering in fear of torrential through traffic. Allowing cycling here would be a good first step.

According to my local cycling contacts, the Route 11 initiative is part of a larger plan to prioritise cycling around the town. A couple years ago, a university student from Szentendre who had researched cycling in Denmark drafted a few relevant proposals for Szentendre. Apparently some of his ideas have caught on at City Hall. I think this is great. I have nothing against the use of cars for longer distance journeys between cities. But for local travel, cycling has an important role to play, and in Szentendre, there's huge untapped potential.


Jerome Simpson said...

Thanks for lending awareness to this issue (in English). As a Szentendre local I can only applaud the petition. Hopefully the next step will be to dedicate some of that road space to cyclists.

Anonymous said...

Why the initiative is not for having parallel to the road bicycle road/infrastructure but putting the cars and bicycle together on this heavy traffic road? As it is mentioned in the text above this is not local road but heavy traffic road. To go together on this road is extremely dangerous and will create lots of issues for all type of traffic – including the public one. Considering the traffic, it is irresponsible to go with children cycling on that road even if it is permitted. The idea is useless for the normal cyclists as it is not safe enough.