Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Plant bike racks in your courtyard -- cheaply

This courtyard (ours, in a building on Margit körút.) became a beautiful, botanical, obstacle course
with the help of a local greening grant.
Looking for a cheap way to furnish your building's courtyard with bicycle racks?

Why not apply for a grant from the Mol Zöldövezet Program? This is a community greening initiative that gives grants of HUF 200,000-500,000 (EUR 650-1,600) for community projects that add green space on plots of urban space up to 1,500 square metres.

Since 2012, many of these grants have supported the greening of residential courtyards. Although the program mainly focuses on plants, it supports "greening" in the broader sense, as well: bicycle racks, selective waste bins, benches and tables and other environment-friendly improvements can also be covered.

A few years ago, my own building, a four-story "társasház" on Margit körút, won a grant under a similar program to improve our own courtyard. The funding source was different (in this case, the II. District Council), but our experience illustrates what a big difference such an initiative can make.
This courtyard, in a building on Pest's Rottenbiller utca, was greened with a grant from Zöldövezet Program.
Bike racks were included in the improvements.
Our project involved the installation of two flowerbeds, a small fountain, and a picnic set, and it completely transformed our courtyard. Now people sit out there during the day, chatting and having coffees, and this summer a few birds moved in. Their chirping made me feel like I was out in the woods rather than in a building next to one of the busiest roads in Buda.

Bike racks weren't part of our project, but we added some a year later. I think the continuous human presence engendered by the courtyard improvements contributes a great deal to the security of our bike parking.

Aside from courtyard greenings, the Zöldövezet Program supports projects in two other categories: community gardens and community parks. The program means to add green space to the city, but also to build communities by bringing neighbours together to improve their surroundings.

The grants generally fund investment costs while the applicants contribute their own time and labour during all facets of the project, including the concept and design at the proposal stage, as well as the installation and long-term maintenance should the project receive funding. Applicants also must co-finance the projects at 20 percent.

The Zöldövezet Program started in 2006 and was, until recent months, administered by the Ökotárs Alapítvány, an organisation that distributed Norwegian civil society grants. Ökotárs's activities were disrupted when Hungarian police raided its offices last month and seized files -- apparently for purely political reasons. Luckily, Mol has stepped into the breach to ensure that this year's application and granting process will proceed on schedule.


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