Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mayor Kicks the Hornets' Nest

What was he thinking?
The April 23 cycling demonstration (formerly Critical Mass, now I Bike Budapest) is shaping up into a political showdown with Mayor István Tarlós.
Tarlós declared back in February that he believed cycling development in downtown had gone too far (while also claiming Budapest had become an "extremely public-transport oriented" city). In recent days, activists circulated an official document showing Tarlós's point-by-point plan of paring back pro-cycling measures. In it, the mayor declares he would:
  1. no longer prioritise the creation of bike routes that offer the shortest path from points A to B;
  2. no longer paint yellow bicycle pictograms on streets that also have separate sidewalk bike paths;
  3. revisit recently created bike contraflow lanes on one-way streets (about 120 such lanes in the city) and remove them except in exceptional circumstances;
  4. not allow bicycle traffic in bus lanes unless the lanes are at least 4.5 metres wide;
  5. on streets with bike lanes, prohibit cyclists from riding in bus lanes (undoubtedly, this applies to Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, although the bike accommodation there is technically a "bike path" not a lane)
Afterwards, Index.hu published a point-by-point response to the proposals, explaining how all of them have improved the bikeability of the city, and how Tarlós's proposals would reverse this progress. The Index article follows a more exhaustive set of recommendations concerning the next 10 years of cycling development from the Hungarian Cyclists Club. Both documents were written with care, with all propositions backed with evidence and reasoned arguments.

The mayor's response could not be described as reasonable. It was rather hysterical. The short communiqué signed by the mayor's communications director called the backlash to Tarlós's proposals:
"... a mysterious defamation campaign instigated by the tabloid press whose claims nearly violate the criminal code and border on slander."
The statement goes on to say that the mayor has "never called for the ending of cycling development" and that over the past  20 years, cycling development has never been as good as it has been during Tarlós's term.

And then it claims that "rational cycling development" is not the same as "the unrestrained terror of a minority of radical cyclists".

It seems to me that the one guilty of slander is Tarlós. The people he's calling a radical minority are the organisers and participants of the city's most popular civil movement since the founding of the democratic state. The Critical Mass ride (now re-branded as I Bike Budapest) has always drawn tens of thousands of participants -- in 2013 it drew an estimated 100,000. It's mainstream. The Hungarian Cyclists Club is a well-established NGO -- the biggest cycling lobbying group in the country, not a radical fringe group. And Index.hu, although obviously differing with the mayor politically, is one of the most visited news portals in Hungary.

Tarlós has really kicked a hornets' nest with this one. And his timing couldn't be better. Expect a big turned out for I Bike Budapest.

3 comments:

Anna said...

Had I still dared to visit Budapest as a foreign tourist, this would have settled the matter. Coming as they do on the heels of cutbacks in funds for public transport, these measures will mean a lower quality of life for city-dwellers and visitors alike. Hasn't the same mayor announced that congestion charges will soon be inevitable? He's helping that come true.

Greg Spencer said...

He's just terribly old-fashioned and doesn't understand the viewpoint of people who use bikes for transport. I think there's also the lame-duck syndrome -- he won't stand for another election, so he doesn't care as much about currying cyclists' support. This would explain why he's actually undoing bike-friendly measure undertaken during his own tenure. As for the congestion charge, the city is bound by legal agreement with the EC to implement it. However, Tarlos is kicking that down the road until after he's out of office.

عبده العمراوى said...

شركة قمة الدقة للخدمات المنزلية
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة تنظيف واجهات حجروزجاج بالقطيف