Friday, March 6, 2015

Szentendre City Hall Turns Bike-Friendly

In 2014, a service road opened next the the Duna Korzó that provides for car-free cycling with a view.
Szentendre's local government has apparently turned a corner on the subject of utility cycling. City Hall wants to make the town more bike-friendly, and it's reaching out to cyclists to find out how to do it.

This is a big change from five years ago, when some local activists and I did a 'hotspot' analysis of local cycling infrastructure. We recommended some basic remedies to the then mayor, but he told us flat out that nothing could be done that cost money.

But Szentendre has a new mayor, 47-year-old Miklós Verseghi-Nagy, and the winds have changed. My company,  the Regional Enivironmental Center, recently initiated a feasibility study on introducing bike sharing here. Just a week after the study's kick off  at Szentendre City Hall, we were invited back to provide input on another bike-related matter: the installation of public bike racks around town.

Our colleague Attila Katona attended a meeting with a couple municipal officers, the owner of a local bike shop and representatives of the local chapter of the Hungarian Cyclists Club. The results were better than we'd hoped.  The main outcomes:
  • The city agreed to install large portable bike racks (14-28 bike capacity) during the 5-6 warmest months of the year on the main square (Főtér) and the northern and southern ends of the riverfront cafe and restaurant strip (Duna Korzó). These could later become locations of permanent bike-share docking stations.

  • The city will take steps to improve bike parking at the Szentendre HÉV station. Although transport operator BKK controls the property, City Hall will lobby for the changes.
  • City Hall also wants to ensure bicycle parking is provided in front of high-traffic local businesses (grocery stores, banks, restaurants, etc.) The city might encourage this by offering subsidies, but may even compel owners to provide a certain level of parking based on the size of their properties (similar to the existing codes on car parking).
In general, city leadership is enthused about making Szentendre more bike and pedestrian friendly. A big first step will be expansion of the car-free city centre by banning cars during the summer on the korzó.

It's also eager to lift the ban of cycling on Route 11, the main north-south thoroughfare through town. Until now, cycling's been prohibited on Route 11 by the national road authority, Magyar Közút. At the urging of local activists, City Hall appealed to the authority to lift the ban and the petition has apparently succeeded.

According to the information Attila received this week, the legal barrier's been lifted and now it's a matter of following through with whatever signage and infrastructure that's needed. And their may be some personal motivation here: Szentendre's Vice-Mayor Dorottya Gyürk is a cyclist, and admits to a habit of riding illegally on Route 11.

Of course, to make Szentendre truly bike friendly, investments will be needed, and this is where many politicians balk. Even so, there's been a big attitude shift toward cycling at Szentendre City Hall, and this is great news.

1 comment:

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