Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ciclovia numero uno!

Adam Kobrizsa and Lance make a football pitch of Szechenyi rakpart.
Been offline for a few days and unable to post this. But here's a rundown of Budapest's first Ciclovia, this past Sunday:

On the closing weekend of European Mobility Week, we normally go to Andrassy ut, where there's a long-running annual festival with food, games, exhibition stands and tens of thousands of people. But yesterday, we wanted to see the first Budapest Ciclovia.

Ciclovia is a periodic closing of streets to motor traffic in order to give free rein to cyclists, skaters, walkers and others going under their own power. It's supposed to have started in Bogota in the early 1980s, but by now it's spread to cities all over the world. Budapest has experimented with similar open-street events in summers past, including on Margit Bridge, pre-renovation days, when one of the island-side lanes would be closed on weekends to handle the heavy bike and foot traffic. There have also been weekend closures of the Chain Bridge.

But this was the first such event to go by the name Ciclovia, and it was organised on Szechenyi rakpart between the Chain Bridge and Margit Bridge. It was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., but when we got down there at about 11, cars were still running on the road. I asked a traffic cop about it, and he said there weren't enough people for it, that there would just be a little press conference and no Ciclovia, at all.

Sequoia scoots.
Frustrated, we were about to leave, but then the police DID put up a road block, and suddenly some cyclists started shuttling down the entrance ramps to the riverside road. We followed and soon enough, ran into Adam Kobrizsa, who had set up a park bench with a dozen other people in the middle of the road just north of the Chain Bridge.

Kobrizsa, a structural engineer and partner at Mindspace, explained that he had organised the event, and it was Adam who gave the press conference from atop the park bench. He said a few words to reporters, posed for some photos, and then he came over and chatted with us and kicked a soccer ball around with my son Lance. I'd brought scooter along for my daughter Sequoia, and she took it on a few runs up and down the rakpart..

Unfortunately, we didn't have nearly a big enough crowd to fill a kilometre-long section of road, and police said although they would respect the group's right to hold a demonstration, they could not justify keeping the road closed for long, when there were far more people who wanted to drive on it. Kobrizsa didn't object. "The police are being kind," he said.

At about 1:30 p.m., a half hour ahead of schedule, police reopened the road to car traffic, and we got out of there. It was nice while it lasted.

For future events, Kobrizsa said they'll have to get the local municipality involved along with several NGOs and others. It'll take a few thousand people to fill the roadspace between those bridges.

It'll take aggressive publicity to compete with the hugely popular festivities on Andrassy ut. However, in time, I reckon many people will be happy to escape the shoulder to shoulder traffic on Andrassy to enjoy the open space at the Ciclovia. The panorama of the Danube and Castle Hill are even better when you're not harried by car traffic.

Traffic police have some words with a couple motorists who got around the barricades.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can this be? I've never heard of the Andrassy event, let alone Ciclovia. No wonder there wasn't a crowd. Sounds like it would have been fun. We would have bulked up the football team numbers, at least. Where was it advertised?

Greg Spencer said...

There was a facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ciclovia-Budapest/666961650052398

I don't think there was much besides that, though. I didn't notice the facebook page until about a week beforehand. Definitely a need for better publicity.

Anonymous said...

Yes. People who don't do Facebook should actually read their Cycle Club newsletters more carefully. I realised after I wrote my comment that it was in fact mentioned there. Still sad I missed it.

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