08 October 2009

Budapest Bike Ride with 20,000 Friends

Finally got around to editing a little film about riding in the Budapest Critical Mass a few weeks ago, in September 09.

It was quite an experience. I have heard much of the critical mass rides in the city and was looking forward to it. The whole friendly, festival atmosphere reputation precedes the Budapest version of these rides.

The evening started with the Danish embassy hosting an open house of the Dreams on Wheels exhbition and then a 'kidical mass' rolled past and we handed out croissants, EU balloons and juice to the kids from a Christiania cargo bike. Then the ride began. The declared goal of this specific ride was to raise awareness for the need for safe, separated bike lanes on specific streets.

There is a ride each spring which is organised and registered as a demonstration and the streets are closed accordingly. This fall event was not considered a demonstration. "We just going for a bike ride" was the message sent to city hall. As a result, we all stopped at red lights and rode casually around the city.

There were 20,000 participants, not riding en masse but rather in countless groups, large and small. Everywhere you looked there were bicycles and the night air was filled with bike bells ringing. The police were out in force but they just hung about chatting with each other since there was no civil disobedience to speak of. Just a bunch of people going for a bike ride.

Everyone ended up gathering in one place. It took awhile, as 20,000 people on bicycles pedalling happily about the city take time to end up at the end station. Then there was suddenly a countdown and everyone lifted their bikes. I was with two friends from the Danish embassy and we agreed that the lifting of the bikes was quite moving.

Then we considered the fact that it would probably still be moving if everyone just lifted vacuum cleaners above their heads. 20,000 people doing something en masse and cheering as they do it would always be moving.

Cycling about Budapest during the day there were many, many cyclists. Mostly just regular people in regular clothes. By and large on European style city bikes and without 'safety' gear. At the bike ride, many 'cyclists' were present with all the gear and helmets and what have you. Which was, of course, brilliant. I couldn't help thinking of the impact on the city these hobby cyclists would have if they all chose to ride to work Monday to Friday and not just at events like this one.

Whatever the case, I'm glad I was a part of it. It was impressive. It was civilised and enjoyable. Interestingly, Budapest sticks to calling it Critical Mass, where in other cities like Prague, for example, they have changed the name to avoid the negative branding from rides in other countries.

Afterwards there was a Cycle Chic party, which rounded off the mainstream feel of the whole evening.


Daniel M. Perez said...

Interesting. Today we had a small Twitter back-n-forth over the whole Critical Mass thing. If they all could be like the Budapest one (i.e. a big bike ride that does obey and follow the laws), then there wouldn't be such a stink. This is a joy to behold.

anna said...

Lovely video, I particularly enjoy the beginning. Like a light rain cyclists start slowly to flood the whole city. An amazing experience.

I totally agree to what you say. I saw a lot of hobby cyclists myself and wish they would use the bicycle on a regular basis. Here's my review about the CM in Budapest: http://cyclingisgoodforyou.blogspot.com/2009/09/more-than-critical-mass-of-cyclists-in.html

Unfortunately I missed the Cycle Chic Party afterwards. Too many things have been going on Budapest in that week :).

Mark said...

Nice music Mikael, made me feel very relaxed when I got to my desk this morning - what is it?

I think your point about translating 'mass bike ride' cyclists into everyday out-on-the-streets 'ordinary' cyclists is the most valid point here. We recently had 65000 cyclists out on the streets of London for the Mayor's Skyride - I wonder how many of these now cycle regularly? Still, every little helps I guess.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Love Budapest too and can't wait to go back and cycle this great city. If only Americans knew what they are missing...

craig said...

The editing and vootage in this video is incredible! a tear in my eye for sure by the end!
What a story you were able to tell!

Liam said...

Beautiful little film. Loved the last couple 0f minutes. you captured something that makes me want to lift my bike high in the air because of the power it gives me. love ya work

down in Hobart, tasmania Australia we are chipping away at making a huge law abiding critical mass. its been happening for over a year now and no confrontations yet. the peaceful method really does work.