30 November 2009

Hungary Amends Highway Code

Budapest Cap
I recieved this little bit of news from my friends at the Danish Embassy in Budapest. Hungary has apparently ammended its highway code.

But I'm confused and I'm hoping some of our Hungarian readers could enlighten me.

Cabinet amends traffic laws for cyclists

The cabinet yesterday approved amendments to Hungary’s highway code, effective January 1.

- A document in the possession of MTI says the changes are primarily aimed at improving the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

- Bike riders will be allowed to cycle in either direction down one-way streets, and to ignore red lights. Cyclists will also be able to take a free right turn and ride in the middle of the road.

- Motorcyclists will be authorised to use bus lanes and disregard red lights as of January 1.

That's all I have. I'm quite sure something got lost in translation but cyclists being allowed to 'ignore red lights' sounds interesting. And a 'free right turn', too. Didn't know you had to pay for it previously. And motorcyclists are not allowed to ignore red lights, they have to disregard them.

Cycling in either direction down one-streets is, of course, standard stuff if done right.

But jesting aside it is all a bit confusing. Can we clear this up, dear Hungarian readers?


WestfieldWanderer said...

Calendar malfunction alert.
Must be April 1st.

Anonymous said...


Something is happening, but I don't know what (I live in Hungary but don't understand the language). There is something on the page of the "Kerekparosklub", see:
but nothing on

I'm not sure. Usually, the Hungarian (or Budapest) gouvernment is rather cyclist-unfriendly.

Anonymous said...

The red light and "free" right turn stuff is not true. Riding in either directions in a one-way street will be enabled only if a traffic sign specifically enables it. The middle of the road thing is tricky. The current code demands that bicycles should go tightly on the right side of the road. The word tightly was removed from the new code.

Yokota Fritz said...

I suspect the 'disregard red light' thing is what U.S. cyclists and motorcyclists want -- the discretion to go through a red light after a full stop if the intersection is clear and it's safe to proceed. Motorcyclists and bicyclists lobby for this because many traffic signals do not detect the presence of bikes (motorized or not).

Anonymous said...

You did not include the original link, but here it is :

And my translation (approximate, but with no misunderstandings, skipped the intro blahblah) :
The change in law states that cars have to drive more safely when approaching pedestrian crossings and if necessary signs will be used to make sure cars are able to stop before the crossing.
The change in traffic law concerning bicycle traffic introduces 4 speed limits (?), defines the idea of "separated bike lanes" and authorizes for instance, bike to take one-way streets facing the circulation or to 'get to the front' at red lights. They will also be excluded from the 'keep right' obligation i.e. they can ride in the middle of the street.

The law should also increase bicycles and pedestrian safety by giving priority to them over turning cars. The document also enables cars stopped on the bike lane to be towed.

The MTI thinks changes will also apply to motrobikes and cars. From January motorbikes can also ride on buslanes and they get also get to the front at right lights.

Google translation sounded a better evolution, unfortunately the real thing seems the strict minimum to me...

Peter, Brussels

adamekp said...

Hi, I'm from Hungary and I've read the new highway code.

One thing you mentioned is ignoring the red light. The truth is that bikers and motorcyclists will be allowed to roll to the traffic light when it's red. So you don't have to wait between the cars and breathe the concentrated smog but you can start from the pole position.

What Anonymous said is true regarding the one-way streets and cycling tightly on the right side of the lane. So if the traffic signs allow it, we're allowed to cycle in the opposite direction - just as in other metropoles. And from now on we don't have to ride our bikes 20 centimeters away from the pavement. The 'keep right'-rule will be the same for bicycles as for cars.
New elements are the open bike lanes as well as 'cycling paths' - pictograms on the normal lane which suggest the bikers where to ride and also attract the attention of drivers.

Motorcyclists will be allowed to drive in bus lanes. Cyclists are, however, are not allowed, because 'buses are much faster'. So if you ride on a road where a bus lane exists, you have to do it in the 1st outer lane (after the bus lane). So from the right buses may come and from the left the cars. For example the Rákóczi road in Budapest, where the 7-bus-family goes. Imagine: from your right comes the 'normal' 7, and from the left the express version of it. Both buses are the long versions. Scary, huh?

About speed limits of bikes: outside of cities you may ride 50 km/h if you wear a helmet. If you don't wear it, you're allowed to ride only 40 km/h. On bike roads the limit is 30 km/h and on bike-pavements (where the pedestrians take their dogs walk) it's 20.

Is the government cyclist-friendly or -unfriendly? I think it's rather the last. There were some plans of these rules, okay. Just like everywhere in the world. But they changed it silently without saying it to anyone: there was among other rules, that a cyclist who does NOT have to give way to others, may ride in a crossing only 10 km/h. It's idiotism. Fortunately, through some channels we got these plans and so the Hungarian Cyclists' Club was able to protest against it. We got the text only one or two days before the voting in the parliament but as I said, it was unofficial. We're lucky that the Cyclists' Club had the power to remove this point from the highway code.

Adam, Budapest

Vratislav Filler said...

Hi Adam,

I am interested in some details of this new traffic law to compare it with similar rules in Czech Republic.

1. The rolling to red lights: Is it allowed in any traffic lane or only in the right one, by the curb?

2. One way streets: There was no legal way how to allow passing bicycles against the main traffic in the one way streets before (like supplement sign under the prohibition or one-way sign, saying "except cyclists")?
Or the new rule means that there is new, specific traffic sign meaning directly "one way road except cyclists"?

3. I don't understand fully the term 'Open bike lanes' - Are they the same as 'multipurpose' bike lanes known e.g. from Austria?

I appreciate that you country cancelled the dangerous rule of "curb licking", but yeah, the "Bus canyon" seems really scary. (In Prague, almost all dedicated bus lanes are being changed to bus+taxi+bicycle lanes actually).

And I have last question: Did they keep some rules, that are especially annoying for cyclists?


Helene said...

@question3: There mst have already been the possibility to allow "contrflow" cycling in one-way-streets (with small supplement sign) - but it seems that this is a) very difficult to get or b) just very unusual. In whole Budapest I know exactly 1 (one!) one-way-street where contraflow cycling is allowed (from Moskva ter to Danube river) - probably this will get something more usual in the next few years.

adamekp said...

Hi Vratislav,
1. It's allowed only in the right lane, on the right side of the cars and only if there is a painted pole position for bikes.

2. The rule was before that only with a bike lane it was allowed to ride in the opposite direction. From January, it won't be necessary to be there a bike lane, only the sign 'except bicycles'.

3. Okay, I don't know the special English terms for these infrastructural things, but I think we're talking about the same. :) On this photo (http://grimlocke.bostonbiker.org/files/2009/08/jpeg-768x1024.jpg) you can see what I called as 'open bike lane'. So the cars also can use it if they turn or - like here - change lanes.

The rule remained that we have to use all bike roads (with an exception) and all bike-pavements. (For example there is an EuroVelo road at the Danube at the Buda (west) side. This picture [http://m.blog.hu/ou/outdoor/image/post-dunakanyar-kerekpartura/01-dunakanyar-kerekpartura.JPG] shows one part of it but doesn't show the lots of tourists with their cameras. The pedestrian part is that one meter where the bikers are on this pic.) As you all know at the crossings it becomes dangerous. The exception is that a biker is allowed to ride on the road if there is a cycling path (http://www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki/door-zone/sharrow-bikelane.jpg) painted on the road. But knowing the Hungarian authorities who don't spend any money on the bike roads (no renovations, no cleaning etc.) I don't believe that they would paint those pictograms. Also because bike roads are built not to have a biker in front of the cars.

Greg Spencer said...

In the US, the term for "open bike lanes" is "sharrow." Cars can use them, as well. The first such lane in Budapest was created in 2007 on a street with relatively light traffic, Alkotmany utca, as an experiment. They've recently been rolled out on two large thoroughfares, Thokoly ut and on the small ringroad. It remains to be seen whether motorists will respect them enough to entice more cyclists onto these streets.

Greg Spencer said...

In the US, the term for "open bike lanes" is "sharrow." Cars can use them, as well. The first such lane in Budapest was created in 2007 on a street with relatively light traffic, Alkotmany utca, as an experiment. They've recently been rolled out on two large thoroughfares, Thokoly ut and on the small ringroad. It remains to be seen whether motorists will respect them enough to entice more cyclists onto these streets.

Vratislav Filler said...

Adam, thank You very much for the clearing. It seems that laws in Czech and Hungary are still poor, but each in its own way.

In CZ, the rolling to the pole position is allowed anywhere the cars leave you enough space by the curb (seems a bit better).
I am not sure about roads with bike contraflow: it depends very much on road width and especially on opinion of local transport authorities. Somwhere they allow it, somewhere not. I think that there is no need of special strip if the speed is limited to 30.
"Open" bike lanes - I see. It's a little tricky in Czech. It is allowed ( see http://www.prahounakole.cz/wp-content/gallery/fotky_mista/vf09_11_47_ckpVOlsinach1.jpg ) but not through crosses with traffic signals, where a particular direction is signalised to cars ( like here: http://www.prahounakole.cz/wp-content/gallery/fotky_mista/vf_pnk_7_09_012.jpg ). So, it is not allowed on places where it is the most needed.
Compulsory bike paths: It's even worse in CZ, we are obliged to use even paths mixed with pedestrians and even if they are regularly interrupted :-( Additional stupidity: because bike paths and sidewalks are compulsory, no local authority allow to paint a bike lane parallel to bike sidewalk anywhere. Last thing to envy is the priority of cyclists to the turning cars.
Nevertheless, there are some legislative changes in preparation too in CZ, so I hope many of these stupidities will vanish in next one, two years.