Thursday, September 11, 2014

Critical Mass Reunion Tour??

She deserves better than a gutter!
The Budapest cycling movement is back! An open invitation is up on Facebook for a cycling demonstration around the Nagykörút at 5:30 p.m. September 22, i.e. evening rush hour on European Car-Free Day. As a bonus, sunny weather's predicted.

It sounds an awful lot like the fall Critical Mass rides or yore, which were held at the same time on the same date. But the head honchos of the former Critical Mass, Sinya and Kuku of Hajtas Pajtas, don't appear to be spearheading this one -- nor is anyone else. The Facebook page doesn't identify anyone as organiser or leader. It's just a page declaring: "Let the Nagykörút be bikeable!" A text below reads:
It's been five years since the Nagykörút Critical Mass, but the situation is still the same. Instead of plans and promises, we want concrete steps! Therefore, we call for a common Car-free Day ride to re-draw attention to the matter of the Nagykörút!
It's actually been four years since the Nagykörút Critical Mass: the one that had no route, where we just went down to occupy the street, riding back and forth between the Szabadság bridge and Margit bridge on the Pest side. But the need for bikeways on the Nagykörút is an evergreen issue, and it's made especially timely this fall with the roll-out of Budapest's new bike-share system

In anticipation of a new wave of novice urban cyclists flooding downtown on bright green Bubi bikes, the city carried out a big programme of bike-friendly improvements to downtown streets in the system coverage area. The improvements included new bike racks, new contraflow cycling lanes and new signage. But the most needed improvement of all was left out -- bikeways for the Nagykörút.

For many trips to and from and around downtown, the Nagykörút offers the most convenient route. But the road space is mainly taken up by cars -- four lanes for moving ones, and a lane on each side for parked ones. It's legal to ride your bike on the Nagykörút but often the traffic is going so fast you feel like you're risking your life. (For a short while last year, car speeds on the Nagykörút were reduced slightly in order to prioritise tram traffic. Mayor Tarlos put the kibash on that last fall and restored the Formula 1 flavour of things.

It's insanity to have  a beautiful new bike-sharing system with several docking points on a road that feels (and smells!) like a high-speed expressway. Car traffic on the Nagykörút should be cut down to one lane going in each direction with the speed limit reduced to 30 kph. In this way, the Nagykörút would not only be bikeable, it'd be shoppable, walkable, pram-able and dine-able. 

When Critical Mass came to an end more than a year ago, organisers said it was because its mission had been fulfilled. They said they needed to turn their attention to more targetted, behind-the-scenes lobbying. But in the absence of Critical Mass, we're missing a sense of community and solidarity among cyclists and wish-to-be cyclists. And when we're dealt with setbacks, like the never-ending postponement of the congestion charge, the cancellation of priority bus lanes or the sweeping under the rug of brilliant cycling plans for the Margit körút  -- there needs to be a loud, visible response. A big turnout on September 22 will be just the thing.

What: Bike demonstration for cycling accommodation on the Nagykörút
When: Starts 5:30 p.m. September 22
Where: Jászai Mari tér
 

1 comment:

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