Hungarian Critical Mass Cyclists Back With New Name 'I Bike Budapest'

  • 15 Apr 2015 11:00 AM
Hungarian Critical Mass Cyclists Back With New Name 'I Bike Budapest'
After a two-year hiatus, Budapest Critical Mass will return this April 25. It sounds nearly identical to the spring CMs of yore - except for the proposed name: "I Bike Budapest." There's a new face behind it, as well: Áron Halász, who has published the Hungarian Cycle Chic blog since 2009. He takes on the job as a member of the executive board of the Hungarian Cyclists Club, and he has the support of CM's former organisers, Sinya and Kükü, who are also involved with the club.

In a post on the Kerékagy blog, Halász explains that the ride's envisioned as a once-a-year "fiesta" as opposed to "demonstration".

In other words, it won't be like the old autumn Critical Masses in which participants rode in traffic in order to make a statement about their right to the road. Instead it follows the celebratory MO of the old Earth Day Critical Masses. It's being planned in cooperation with City Hall, it will follow a predetermined parade route patrolled by police, and every effort is being made to minimise inconvenience to other road users.

Public announcements and press interviews are being held well in advance to 'warn' those who won't take part. During the event, provision is made to ensure that the parade doesn't obstruct public transport or pedestrian traffic. Even motorists will be allowed to cross the ride route at larger, police-controlled intersections.

Although they were firm about closing down Critical Mass two years ago, original organisers Sinya és Kükü (Kükü is also a cyclists club board member) of the Hajtas Pajtas bike courier company have pledged their support.

In 2013, they had argued Critical Mass had become obsolete, and that in order to take the next step, the cycling movement needed to refocus on professional lobbying.

However, as Sinya és Kükü explain in a jointly signed open letter, many cyclists felt CM played a big role in inspiring and sustaining the cycling community. Apart from the question of whether CM was an effective lobbying tool, it had spiritual value.

Sinya és Kükü agreed as long ago as early 2014 to support the ride's resurrection. But they had conditions: It should follow CM's basic ethos of being independent (no commercial underwriters, no political party bias), and it should steer clear of overt political statements. They didn't want it to interfere with or obscure the lobbying done by the Hungarian Cyclists Club (Kükü is a member of its executive board).

Even so, this spring's 19 km ride will cross three bridges (Szabadság, Chain and Margit) for the express purpose of highlighting the need for better cycling accommodations over all the city's Danube crossings. So it hasn't been completely defanged.

Sinya's és Kükü's post adds that the return of CM appeared inevitable with or without their support. They say some companies have been looking into creating a more commercial event to make money off the cycling community. The former organisers decided to beat the competition to the punch by backing a version more to their liking.

I'd argued back in 2013 that a more commercial-oriented event might have been a good thing provided that a good share of the proceeds were donated to the Cyclists Club or other worthy non-profit.

That doesn't appear to be happening. Even so, I'm happy the Cyclists Club has taken up the mantle so that we can ride again on April 25.

By Greg Spencer, an American expat, who has used a bike to get around Budapest since 2002. He rants about cars and raves about cycling and other alternatives at

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