Showing posts with label Rákóczi út. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rákóczi út. Show all posts

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ferenciek tere project neglects the main problem

Artist's conception of the refashioned Ferenciek tere. View from the south side of Ferenciek tere
looking down Kossuth Lajos ut toward bridge. Image is taken from a 3-D montage at the project website.
Work will begin next month on a major refashioning of Ferenciek tere and Marcius 15 tér, two squares at the Pest foot of Erzsébet híd that until now have been blighted by the noise and stench of some of the city's worst traffic. Unfortunately, despite the project's many virtues, it looks to be a wasted opportunity to improve cycling conditions.

According to the description published on the website of the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK), the changes will make for "a much more livable, cleaner and more attractive downtown environment" that will make it worthy of its place along the capital's touristic and recreational belt.

Ferenciek tere today: the only way for pedestrians to cross it is to go down through the underpass.

The biggest improvements are from walkers' point of view. They'll get two zebras across Kossuth Lajos utca, enabling them to cross on the surface rather than having to go down through underpass by the Ferenciek tere metro stop. This long overdue change will enable people with disabilities to cross the street and make it more convenient for everyone else.

Ferenciek tere AFTER: The project would replace the underpass with a level crossing that's more accessible to everyone.
Although difficult to perceive in the conceptual images, pedestrian space on both sides of Kossuth Lajos utca will be widened and, together with some plantings, visual improvements and expanded "shopping opportunities", the square should be a more inviting place for residents and tourists alike.

From cyclists' point of view, though, what sticks out is the absence of any bike lanes along the Kossuth Lajos utca. It's ironic that while the project includes upgrades to all the side streets in the area, it does hardly anything to the major artery of Kossuth Lajos, the main source of the neighbourhood's environmental problems.

Four local environmental groups have therefore criticised the project because it does little to alleviate the "the terribly noisy, polluted motorway atmosphere." In a joint statement, reported on hvg.hu, the groups say that although they supported the project throughout preparatory discussions, their main concerns were always for bike accommodation on Kossuth Lajos (and Rákóczi út -- the whole length of the street between Keleti Station and Erzsébet hid) along with the realigning of bus routes down the centre of the street (this as a preliminary measure paving the way for the return of tram service).

Bike accommodation on Kossuth Lajos  has been a priority of the bicycle lobby at least since the mid-90s. Removing (some) space from cars and giving it over to cyclists and pedestrians would restore life to the street, rehabilitate local retail and make for a huge improvement in residents' lives. But at every opportunity, including a major road resurfacing about eight years ago, officials at City Hall have said no. With a straight face, they say there's no room for bicycles, despite this street being the widest arterial in the city.

This enormous urban freeway, with its six lanes of fast-moving, heavy motor traffic, now cuts downtown in two, and makes going from one side to the other a hassle -- certainly if you're on a bike. I hope the upcoming project at Ferenciek tere is a first step toward solving the problem, and not the city's final word on it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

No bloodbath afterall

Despite the new, "going-commando" style of this year's Critical Mass, it seems to have gone off without a hitch, as a crowd of several thousand entered the thick of downtown traffic and got across town without apparent mishap. Népszabadság reported that, earlier in the day, a cyclist was seriously injured in a collision with two cars but it wasn't clear if it had anything to do with Critical Mass.

Attendance was down drastically from last spring's record of 80,000. Organisers had expected a smaller turnout, perhaps 30 to 50 percent less. But it was down a lot more than that: only about 10,000 showed up at Hősök tér for the opening bike lift, and, according to an estimate on HírTV's site, only half of the participants were on hand for the concluding bike lift at Moszkva tér.

The ride started typically with a slow procession down Andrássy, which had been closed to motor traffic for European Car-Free Day. But at Oktogon things changed for me: as the greater mass of riders continued down the boulevard, I hung a right, joining car traffic on the körút. For a moment, I thought I was alone, but at the first traffic light I caught up with 20-30 other riders. Although traffic rules call for cyclists to keep to the right, some riders were too impatient to line up single file next to the curb and instead swerved in between lanes to get up to the front. 

Organisers shouted for everyone to stay to side, and a few motorists honked and at least one shouted, "Huzzatok el!" (Bugger off!). It was a mess at the Nyugati signal, with cyclists forgetting their manners and monopolising space, but as we peddled on down István körút, a thick convoy took shape and we were able to occupy the whole right lane all the way across Margit hid, with motorists having the left lane to themselves. I was thinking, "This is exactly as it should be -- all the time." Let cyclists have their lane and motorists theirs and we can all get to where we're going without these stupid chicken games.

The ride was going so well, I decided to stop at my flat near Margit híd and pick up my 4-year-old boy, who I'd left at home out of concern the ride might get ugly. I put him in his Hamax seat and we peddled up to Moszkva tér just in time to get stuck in the jam of exiting traffic. Almost immediately after the 8 p.m. final bicycle lift, everyone poured out onto the körút, evidently anxious to get out of the cold and head home -- or to the closest bar. So you had literally thousands of cyclists, as well as scores of unlucky motorists, waiting through three, four or five cycles of a traffic signal just to get started back down the körút towards Pest. Not at all pleasant -- but it seemed everyone kept their cool and waited their turn to get through.  

A cool thing about this year's event was that its aims were focused and concrete -- this in contrast to at least one past event, in which organisers unveiled a manifesto of more than 20 points, covering not only utility cycling in Budapest but recreational cycling in the countryside, access to trains, etc., etc. This time they narrowed it down to more space on Bp roads, starting with cycling lanes on Rákóczi út. The lanes woud be modelled on the recently implemented (and excellent) pilot project on Alkotmány utca

There's some history behind this, as City Hall had promised to mark bike lanes on Rákóczi when it was last resurfaced. In the end, they broke the promise, saying that despite Rákóczi's being one of the widest streets in the city (six lanes!), there wasn't space for bicycles. Maybe Mayor Demszky can finally follow through and redeem himself before he leaves office.