Important: for the most recent events please visit I Bike Budapest or the Hungarian Cyclists' Club. You can also visit the Cycling Solution blog or Budapest Inc for recent entries in English.
The Goals of CM Budapest
Much like in other parts of the world, the goals of Critical Mass Budapest are to raise awareness on the benefits of bicycling and other alternative means of transportation, to assert cyclists' right to the road, and to celebrate cycling in general.
Critical Mass Budapest is a mass demonstration aimed at bringing the public's attention to the crisis caused by motor vehicles, e.g. traffic jams and environmental pollution. It promotes the bicycle as a healthy, fast, cheap and environmentally friendly alternative mode of transport. The organisers of this event would like to encourage the local population to use their bicycles for transportation whenever possible, and not just for recreation or sports.
Lobbying and Advocacy
Critical Mass Budapest is also meant to influence decision makers and city planners toward creating more bicycle paths, designing better and safer bicycle lanes, and providing facilities for bicycle storage and transport. These are meant to result in reduced smog and traffic, thereby improving the quality of life in the city.
Critical Mass is completely independent of any political parties, organisations or movements. It is not a registered organisation, but rather an "organised coincidence" (as it is often called in other places).
While offering an opportunity for cyclists to make a statement, socialise, and celebrate cycling, Critical Mass is non-confrontational toward motorists and attempts to minimise the level of inconvenience the rides cause for all those who are not involved: pedestrians, public transportation, and individual drivers.
The Origin of Critical Mass and the Story Behind the Name
Critical Mass originated in 1992 in San Francisco and quickly spread to many other cities. Its name comes from Ted White's 1992 documentary film Return of the Scorcher. The film covers a typical scene in China, where cyclists need to congregate in large and dense groups - a critical mass - to be able to cross certain high-volume streets where there are no traffic lights. For more info please visit: http://critical-mass.info/origin.html
Critical Mass Budapest
The first Critical Mass ride in Budapest was organised on Car Free Day, September 22, 2004, though it was preceded by at least 50 similar bicycle events initiated either by organisations, groups of bicycle couriers, or other pockets of non-affiliated individuals. The September 2004 ride, however, was significant in that it combined almost every previous organiser into one mass of cycle enthusiasts and concerned citizens. That event drew a surprising 4000 participants. By Earth Day 2005, the number of Critical Mass participants reached 10,000, and doubled again for the September 2005 event, reaching 20,000. On Earth Day 2006 an international record of 32,000 participants was reached, to be topped only by next year's similar event, with a turnout of 50,000, reaching as many 80,000 by April 2008.
The 2005 Critical Mass rides constituted a real breakthrough for they directed continued media attention toward the events and related issues, and several other Hungarian cities and municipalities began organising their own rides.
Negotiations began with the Budapest City Council, resulting in an increase in the length of bicycle lanes and paths constructed (going from an average of 1-2 km/year to 30 km/year). The planning process now incorporates consultation with experts involved in Critical Mass. Similarly, the Hungarian Ministry of Economy and Transport has appropriated a substantial budget for establishing bicycle routes nationwide.
In a March 2006 ride organised in light of upcoming Hungarian Parliamentary elections, Critical Mass participants stopped by each of the four parliamentary party headquarters, lifted their bikes above their heads, and delivered a petition containing recommendations for improving bicycle transportation in Hungary. The event was called "Tour de Voks" ("Tour de Votes"), and each party responded to the petition with its own bicycle program. Critical Mass held the winners to their promises on 2 December 2006, when - despite cold weather - some 2000 bicycle demonstrators protested the government's budget and development plans, which fell short of earlier promises made for bicycle-friendly transportation projects. Government officials later corrected their plans; the Hungarian Parliament established a "Bicycle" committee and unanimously approved separate line items for bicycle-related projects. For the first time in Hungarian history, Critical Mass was mentioned in Parliament.
The largest ride so far was the April 22, 2008 Critical Mass / Earth Day demonstration, which attracted an estimated 80,000 cyclists, and was officially launched by the Dutch ambassador to Hungary, Ronald A. Mollinger, symbolising the popularity of cycling in the Netherlands now spreading to Hungary. László Sólyom, president of the Republic of Hungary also participated on two occasions (in 2006 and 2007), and rode along with the participants, rendering - at that time - unprecedented esteem to an unprecedented turnout in Hungarian as well as international terms. Other prominent individuals among participants included government ministers, the Mayor of Budapest, and many celebrities.
Critical Mass was also a constructive partner in government programs that supported cycling, and played an important role in promoting the successful Bike to work campaign, initiated by the Transportation Ministry.
Though initially at odds with them, the Budapest City Council eventually gave Critical Mass organisers a Pro Budapest award for their efforts in promoting cycling as an alternative mode of urban transport and improving the transportation culture in the capital city.
Possibly the greatest accomplishment is the fact that the number of people using their bicycles on a daily basis in Budapest had doubled for three years in a row after 2004, a growth rate unmatched anywhere else in the world, and it is still on the rise. We believe that we are slowly building a cleaner, more liveable, and bicycle-friendly Budapest.
Gabor B. Bihari | gaborbihari(a)gmail.com
Critical Mass in Other Hungarian Cities
Baja, Berettyóújfalu, Debrecen, Eger, Érd, Gyöngyös, Gyor, Kaposvár, Miskolc, Orosháza, Pécs, Sopron, Százhalombatta, Szeged, Székesfehérvár, Szombathely
News Articles, Blogs, References, Photos, Videos:
Cycling Solution (Making the World a Better Place for Bicycling, Starting in Budapest), by Greg Spencer
September 15, 2008 - Critical Pressure - by Gábor Bihari
April 21, 2008 - Critical Mass on Earth Day in Budapest - by Antal Dániel
April 19, 2008 - Revolutionary Bike Rides
April 16, 2008 - Two Wheels Good - Radio interview with popular TV host Attila Till on Budacast.hu. Download at:
September 22, 2007 - Again Criticalmass in Budapest
April 30, 2007 - In Budapest, the President rides in Critical Mass
April 23, 2007 - Huge bicycle ride in Budapest supports Earth Day
April 23, 2007 - Budapest sees record long bicycle procession
April 27, 2006 - A critical mass critique - By Greg Spencer
April 27, 2006 - It's critical
April 21, 2006 - Critical Mass: Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad
September 29, 2005 - Critical time for City Hall - By Eszter Balázs
September 29, 2005 - Budapest Critical Mass with up to 30,000 people
September 22, 2005 - It's critical: On your bike, please.
April 19, 2005 - Pestiside PSA: Critial Mass Budapest 2005
Wikipedia article mentions Critical Mass Budapest
Challenges to Making Cycling a Key Element of Budapest's Transport System
By Greg Spencer, 2005
Recent Posts on the Cycling Solution Blog
Monday, August 15, 2011
An Open-and-Shut Case
The new bicycle tunnel under the Buda bridgehead of Margit híd was closed shortly after opening last week due to an apparent signage screw-up, reports the index.hu news portal.
The signs on the new tunnel indicated that pedestrians, as well as cyclists, are permitted through the tunnel. And according to the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK), that isn't correct. The contractor for the long overdue bridge renovation needs to correct the mistake before the tunnel can reopen, and BKK is certain this will happen "rövidesen", meaning "shortly".
Saturday, August 14, 2010
If you're planning on seeing Iron Maiden at the Sziget Festival Saturday, you might consider heading out early to catch the world's first bicycle-powered rock tour.
A collection of musical acts from San Francisco have banded together for a European tour that's entirely human powered. Riding under the banner "The Pleasant Revolution Bicycle Music Festival," they transport themselves, their gear and their stuff by bicycle.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Bilking the Public for Bike Lanes
With deadly riots engulfing Greece and right-wing scapegoat artists stealing into parliaments in Hungary and elsewhere, the economic recession is a regular font of bad news. However, in Bulgaria, a glimmer of light has beamed through the clouds.
The economic situation is so dire that Finance Minister Simeon Djankov (pictured), said that he'll leave his government car in the garage and start commuting by bike.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Authorities racking their brains over theft problem
A post yesterday in Kerékagy (Wheel hub) featured a shot of some P-shaped racks whose two companions had been stolen within a couple days of installation in District VI. The make of the racks, the mode of installation (with nothing but a shallow, single brick to moor them in place) mirrored precisely what I saw a week ago on Margit körút in District II. It defies belief.