Szeged Is Hungary’s Amsterdam
- these were the opening words of János Árva, a member of the Bikers’ Club in Szeged, at the sixth online workshop of this year’s campaign of the Hungarian Bikers’ Club’ named Bike To Work! These events, which are key elements of this year’s campaign, are organised for companies and municipal governments open to supporting bicycle use.
Each of the monthly online workshops, which are free but have a registration obligation, is held in a different city and is tailored to local needs. The first one was held in Budapest in April, the second in Székesfehérvár in May, then one was in Győr, the next in Kecskemét in July, one in Miskolc in early September, the next in Szeged at the end of the same month, and there will be one more, in Debrecen, in October.
In his introduction, János Árva briefly outlined the advantages of cycling to society, the environment and companies. The next speaker was Áron Halász, Vice President of the Bikers’ Club, who spoke about the situation of bicycle use, with a special focus on the South Hungary Region, where, according to an earlier survey of the Club, 35 percent of the population use the bicycle as the primary means of transport, and Szeged takes the lead, which makes the Amsterdam comparison valid.
The Regional Unit of the Bikers’ Club plays a significant role in bikers’ public life: among its decade-long activities, it has organised Critical Mass events, group biking on Fridays, the distribution of lights, joint actions with the police, information supply, presentations at schools, bikers’ breakfasts and afternoon meals, and is making educational videos. These were mentioned by Imre Csüllög, the leader of the organisation, who highlighted the fact that at one of their bike light counting actions, they found 75 percent light use among bikers in Szeged.
If needed, they provide guarded bike shelters for large events. In cooperation with the municipal government and construction companies, they also take part in the preparation of the bike infrastructure with suggestions and ideas and examine plans and completed projects through the eyes of the biker. Imre Csüllög mentioned he would be glad if they were earlier involved in the preparation of such projects and that their proposals include the improvement of bike storage places in condominiums, the better integration of community transport and cycling and the introduction of community bike services in Hungary.
City Certificates for the Best
One of their partners is the municipal government of Szeged. According to the presentation of Vice Mayor for City Development Sándor Nagy, Szeged – which he thinks is the most biking city among those with a population over 100 thousand – is open to promoting sustainable means of transport, which the municipal government is trying to support, for example in the form of funding the installation of ticket vending machines and bike stands at company sites.
The vice mayor reminded that the infrastructure needed for these goals had continuously been developed for 20 years, and awareness raising and cooperation with employers were also part of their work – the latter in the framework of the SASMob campaign.
He also enumerated a number of projects, including the installation of bike stands in major traffic nodes, the establishment of a 570-m2 driving park for children, a photo contest on sustainable transport, the organisation of bikers’ breakfasts and the possibility to carry bicycles on some trams in Szeged.
Among ongoing projects, he mentioned the reconstruction of Szeged’s always busy Stefánia, Oskola Street and the bridgehead of the City Centre Bridge (for a design plan, click here), cycle track development projects between Szeged-Sándorfalva and Szeged-Tarján-Baktó and the bike bridge over the Algyő Canal. He also stated that the new projects are generating new traffic:
Between Deszk and Szeged, the increase of bike use in suburban transport can be statistically identified.
Sándor Nagy said thanks to the many enthusiastic participants of the SASMob project, people and companies alike. He handed over virtual certificates to three of the companies mentioned, evosoft Kft., Pick Szeged Zrt. Szegedi Környezetgazdálkodási Kht., in recognition of their efforts made to popularise cycling and sustainable means of transport. These companies support biking to work by installing bike shelters, service points, establishing company bike fleets, sidewalk modernisation and even extra holidays for bikers.
Better for the entire society
These development projects are not only for bikers: by increasing throughput, reducing air pollution, shortening travel times and making the city more liveable, they serve the entire society – reminded the audience János Árva, the next speaker, who highlighted details of some of the projects. For example, that the carbon-monoxide emission of a car is thirteen times higher than that of a bicycle, or that every citizen loses HUF 600 thousand annually (1 666,84 Euro) because of the treatment or early death of people who get ill or die due to air pollution.
He used a well-presented map application to show how far one could get in the city in 10 minutes by bicycle, and reminded that companies would get significant tax reductions after the establishment of bicycle fleets.
One of the aims of the latter is to make it easier for companies open to this solution to create bicycle fleets, making it a tangible fact that cargo bikes are a potential and real alternative in the transportation of goods within the city.
Corporate good practices were mentioned by Ágnes Erdei, Szeged Site Manager of evosoft Hungary Kft., who said that 80 percent of their 108 staff use sustainable transport and 40 percent use bicycles.
This receives support: bike shelters have been built for 91 bicycles, 20 company bikes and e-scooters have been purchased, a compact service station has been installed, and spare parts are available for bikes. They also regularly take part in the Bike To Work! campaign. According to the results of a survey, the majority of the company’s employees consider financial support of bike purchases as the most important form of support the company could provide. The management want to use their experience in the firm’s Miskolc and Budapest offices.
Tips for Companies
János Árva then listed some items of advice as to how a company can become more biker-friendly by taking some minor and inexpensive measures:
Make things easier for bicycle users – even if only by providing a few bike stands, route plans, joint cycling to help the less experienced or providing financial support for employees’ bike purchases. The purchase of company bicycles will soon be tax-free.
Talk about it – use internal channels to call attention to biking events, organise or participate in these;
Lobby – for example, for infrastructure at the municipal government (the Hungarian Bikers’ Club can help with these efforts with professional advice);
Set an example – leaders to employees, other companies, municipal governments, partners,
Contact the Hungarian Bikers’ Club – for professional support, ideas, educational materials and programmes for bicycle users.
At the end of the workshop, the participants discussed the most significant challenges of the introduction of the programmes. A representative of evosoft said it was difficult to decide what bicycles to buy and what the terms of fleet use should be. Evosoft is ready to share this experience with others, as they have already done with some other companies.
Only the beginning is difficult as it seems to be an unknown area, but once one has started, positive feedback starts to come
- said Ágnes Erdei. János Majsa from Pick Szeged Zrt. said surveying employee needs and setting realistic goals were very important. In addition, a smaller group of supportive employees should be identified, who set an example. However, he thought the most important thing was to make children get used to cycling at a young age: they will then make their parents and grandparents follow them.
About this resource
The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.