As part of the ARTS programme in the Hungarian capital,…
In my first post I wrote about the history of the Budapest bicycle movement and its role in changing the life of the Hungarian capital to a more sustainable way. Now I have some good news: the bike movement is still alive and it looks more powerful than ever.
Ten years ago cycling was not popular in Budapest at all. It was viewed as sport or a subculture activity and not a means of transport. In ten years it became part of our daily lives, thousands choose the bike everyday to go to work, to schools, to cinemas, theatres, restaurants, bars, cafes, to do their shopping or to go anywhere one would go in a buzzing city. The change of citizen behaviour that brought this once popular then forgot mode of transport back to the city’s landscape is so unique that activists, urbanists and journalists are constantly quoting this example. The main actor of this change was a movement called Critical Mass which grew out from a small subcultural core to create a fruitful environment for initiatives which had the same goal, the renessaince of urban cycling.
The organisers of Budapest Critical Mass – which had a slightly different ‘style’ than in other major cities around the world – had to face a huge question some years ago. As they reached their goal – cycling became popular and accepted – they felt that its no more time for a mass that is critical, so decided to stop the CM rides and organise a big, last Critical Mass. That was in 2013.
The environment has changed and the movement had to look for new weapons to fight for a more cycle-friendly city. The last Critical Mass was held in Budapest in 2013 with emphasizing the role of the professional representative of cyclists, the Hungarian Cyclists’ Club.
Hungarian Cyclists’ Club is a nonprofit NGO which is based on the work of professional urban-planners and campaigners and which has a strong volunteer-based background. The club runs on the support and donations of those who they are working for.
Although the club became more successful in raising funds, lobbying and campainging, it became clear since 2013 that bicycle users still need a yearly gathering which is a demonstration but looks more like a festive spring event when bicycle-users flood the streets of Budapest. Reacting to this need the Hungarian Cyclists’ Club decided to organise a new event, based on the traditions of the Critical Mass.
The new bike ride is called I Bike Budapest.
From the time that it was announced it had a huge attention within citizens and the media. Positive reactions flooded the new facebook page the club has created, and the facebook event had more RSVPs, than any previous mass rides .It looked like something is happening.
The goal of I Bike Budapest is to create a bicycle-friendly city from Budapest. I Bike Budapest will be held every spring, but community-building and local events, including demonstrations are in the plans if needed.
The first I Bike Budapest bike ride was held on 25th April and was opened by the Dutch Ambassador, Gajus Scheltema. I have to tell you, that this was the biggest mass bike ride in Budapest ever with tens of thousands of participants, and around 600 volunteers who helped the promotion and the organisation of the event. A massive 20 kilometres long route in the city was flooded by cyclists for 3 hours. As a city-friendly event, they let the pedestrians, major public transport lines and in bigger intersections the cars to cross the ride so the city was not blocked like on other big events. The ride ended on Margaret-island, where thousands lifted their bikes in the air.
The event was covered by the biggest media outlets of the country and by newspapers from The Guardian to an Australian daily.
Check out the crowd-sourced video of I Bike Budapest!