REC staff members pitch idea to City Hall
There's some news about a new bike-sharing scheme in Szentendre - good news, and better news!
The idea germinated last fall while the REC's Smart Cities and Mobility Topic Area team was investigating ways to reduce the environmental impact of the REC's own commuting habits, as more than half of the staff live in Budapest. The HEV (suburban rail system) and Volan buses offer a sustainable transport option for Budapest-bound commuters, but at the Szentendre end there's no public transport service for the "last mile". Ad-hoc car-pooling groups appeared, but a big number still commute in single-occupancy vehicles. Even though many of them would like to come by bike, currently it's not a terribly attractive option as it's 22 kilometres each way from downtown. There is limited capacity for loading your bike on the HEV, not to mention that transporting a bike costs a full extra ticket!
Szentendre itself is a bedroom community: more than half of the town's working population of about 11,000 people work in Budapest and face exactly the same issues as REC employees. An extension to the Budapest Business School (BGF) is now under construction near the REC's offices - about two kilometres north of the HEV - further increasing the area's mobility needs.
A bike-share system could be an effective and relatively inexpensive way to solve this. If the system were cleverly integrated with the HEV and BuBi (the Budapest bike-share system launched last fall), it would allow commuters to bike at both ends of their HEV journey without having to pack their own rides, thus creating an environment-friendly, healthy transport option door to door.
But bike sharing would be good for more than commuters. Szentendre has outstanding tourist attractions and a bike-sharing system would give tourists a fun way to tour the city and its environs, including the Pap Sziget recreation area north of town and the Skanzen folkloric museum a few kilometres away in the Pilis foothills.
Based on these rough ideas, the REC applied for funding from the CIVITAS Initiative and will conduct an in-depth feasibility study by the end of June. The plan is to investigate the market potential, funding sources and operational model - including possibilities for integration with the BuBi system - and then analyse whether the proposal would be financially feasible, and under what conditions.
The interest that Szentendre City Hall has shown is very encouraging: four city experts at the kick-off meeting, supplemented by a team from the Centre for Budapest Transport (BKK/BuBi), are dedicated to supporting the project. In order to achieve the best possible results, the project team will rely not only on experts, but will actively involve the local biking community, set up an interactive Szentendre bike-share website, and conduct large-scale market research among citizens to hear their opinions.