There's not too much that's more exciting than seeing a pretty girl leaning up against a nice bike maybe an old steel Peugeot or a flashy fixie. Budapest is full of sites like these. But as with any city the question must be asked, is it really a good place for cycling. I took to the streets, the only way to find out. For maximum ease, I used the Bubi bike, Budapest's bike sharing system. It is not as extensive as the vélib in Paris, but it has many bikes and frequent stations. My time in Budapest was too busy for proper cycling, so it was relieving and exhilarating to be back on a bike.
My urban cycling experience is not vast. I've been through a bit of San Francisco, Tacoma is hardly urban. Most of my time riding in a city was on Paris. It terrified me at first. But the lesson I was left with was that while a city may not look bike friendly from a pedestrian point of view, it may not actually be so bad once you get saddled up.
Pre test run, I thought this: that it looked bad because of all the major boulevards and tram tracks, but must not be because so many people cycle. I'm just going to lay pros and cons out one at a time and see where I wind up.
Is Budapest a city for bikes?
Yes It is mostly flat, and the few hills aren't step.
No The infrastructure of large streets favors cars. You see a lot of riding on the sidewalk where people obviously don't feel safe in the street.
Yes There are numerous marked bike lanes and routes. I think ideas 130km somewhere. I just know that I saw a lot.
No Bikes are not allowed on public transit. This makes bike commuting longer distances difficult.
Yes Cars seem to drive considerately. Share the road. Nuff said.
No Tram tracks are dangerous for bikes. Trams are great for public transit, but chaos for bikes. The tracks are easily to fall on, especially because trams make sweeping turns.
Yes Bikes are readily available. The Bubi bikes aren't great but cheap and do the trick. I like bike sharing systems for their convenience. No worrying about storage or maintenance necessary.
No The summer is super hot. Bike to a meeting and arrive covered in sweat. Yum
Yes Pretty girls on bikes.
Overall, it is not bad and you can tell by the number of bikes on the road that for many it is worth putting up with. But the system of roads heavily favors cars and trams and in order to get somewhere quickly you must take major roads. The bridges and area along the river (which crosses the whole city) are very poorly thought out when it comes to bikes.
That said, I didn't feel uncomfortable or worried, it was just not ideal. But hey, it gave me a new look at Budapest, one from my favorite vantage point, a bicycle.