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Image for Budapest: between bicycle polo and bicycle bars

Budapest: between bicycle polo and bicycle bars

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Cafebabel ENG (NS)


In Budapest cyclists pedal together to fight 'two-wheeler' discrimination and the damage that vehicles are causing to the environment. The Hungarian branch of Critical Mass hold one of the most important events in the world, counting 80, 000 participants during Earth Day in April 2008. Iranian photographer Ehsan Maleki got on his own bike to meet them in late 2010 

Working for their rights

Just before the parliamentary elections in March 2006, activists organised a Tour de Voks ('Tour de Voices') in Budapest, stopping off at the various headquarters of the main political parties with a petition on improving cyclist conditions in the country. The move was successful, with the parties including the propositions in their political programmes. On 2 July 2010 a cyclist counter was installed in one of the streets of the capital, to educate residents and local authorities about bicycles as a worthy alternative to cars. 'You're lucky, we rarely see them as a group,' says a member of the local team in Budapest, congratulating me as we pass the parliament. The white stone neo-gothic building is one of the architectural icons of the Hungarian landscape but is permanently under construction (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Bike polo

Air pollution is one of the main complaints of the bicycle activists, and they have managed to get their concerns across. In 2008 the Hungarian capital even scooped the European Mobility Week Award for raising awareness about 'clean air for all'. Despite their notable successes, the activists maintain their stance on the lack of reactivity of the local authorities. They could do more to stop cyclists constantly having to get off their bikes. In the meanwhile, they encourage different kinds of bicycle activities, such as bicycle polo (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Oldest velodrome in Europe

Once or twice a week a group of fervent cycle supporters meet for a polo match; the players pictured are in an underground passage. Matches also take place in the oldest velodrome in Europe. The Millenaris was inaugurated in 1896 (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)


According to the organisers of Critical Mass, the number of daily bicycle users has doubled in the past three years and constantly since 2004. Figures from August 2010 reveal that at least 981 cyclists use their bikes everday during the week and 479 do so at the weekend (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Bike Kitchen

The Bike Kitchen organisation was created to provide the necessary support to those who wanted to repair their own bikes. It also distributes and collects parts (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Hajtas Pajtas

Hajtas Pajtas is a bike workshop and serves as headquarters for Critical Mass (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

European Cycle Messenger Championships

Inside Hajtas Pajtas, a poster shows the participants of the European cycle messenger championships hosted by the city in 2010 (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

A lifestyle

'Cycling is a lifestyle,' says Sinya, the main organiser of Critical Mass events. The famous activist is emulated in Iran as well as in Hungary (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Nothing but the bike

City centre: an original bicycle parking sign (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Less is more

The first parking space for cyclists in Budapest is rented by the cyclists from the local authorities and can hold twenty-five bikes; the space covers that of two cars (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Kiadó Kocsma

The bar Kiadó Kocsma is a popular meeting point for the cyclist community (Jókai tér 3, Budapest, Hungary, 1061) (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Save Mili!

Steerio, 30, and Kristza, 26, two cyclist activists at Kiadó Kocsma. The couple met at an awareness campaign at Mili, which is the affectionate nickname given to the velodrome Millenaris. The authorities had wanted to tear down the velodrome for another investment to highlight the historical value of the complex. The events of 2006 allowed Mili to be classed as a historical monument instead, protecting it instead of seeing it destroying (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

In the good times and bad

The big freeze isn't enough to deter this cyclist leaving Kiadó Kocsma (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Sound of the police

The Hungarian police are though. We catch them shutting down this underground polo match in Budapest (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Whistle blown

The 'players' leave the 'stadium' (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

The end

Back to the city streets (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)'s only half-time though

The cyclists have been hardened in body as well as soul and seem to have the cojones to deal with the authorities well. There are many cities within the city like in this scene; it's up to each individual to find their own (Image: © Ehsan Maleki)

Translated from Rowerzyści torują sobie drogę przez Budapeszt