Traffic calming and public space reallocation in Budapest

Site visit on the 27th Magyar CIVINET meeting in the 8th District of Budapest

Earlier this year, a meeting was organised in Budapest by Magyar CIVINET with a focus on traffic calming and reallocation of public space. The meeting was organised with the support of Griffsoft IT company, and was hosted by the Municipality of Józsefváros, in cooperation with H13 Integrated Community and Service Space.

The event kicked off with a welcome from Antal Gertheis, CEO of Mobilissimus and representative of Magyar CIVINET, and was followed by a presentation of the CIVINET.

The Mayor of Józsefváros, András Pikógave, gave a welcome speech in which he also expressed pride in the event being hosted in Józsefváros, explaining that the municipality's efforts related to housing, high-quality community services, and green and fairer transport deserve attention. It was pointed out that the debate on urban mobility in Józsefváros has begun, with the municipality taking the first important step by putting in place a new parking regime to tackle overuse.

The Deputy Mayor Józsefváros, Dániel Rádai, provided a more detailed presentation on traffic calming and street livability projects. The Municipality of Józsefváros has published its Mobility Charter, which advocates for sustainability and safety for vulnerable road users, the development of the bicycle network, the temporary implementation of improvements in case of limited resources, and the step-by-step rationalisation of public parking. A number of projects were reported on, including major investments that were successfully implemented and added more green space than originally planned, community planning projects, and smaller pilot interventions. In addition to traffic calming and parking rationalisation, there have been significant changes in the number of residential parking permits. The district is focusing on the development of mobility alternatives, including a new trolleybus link, storage of micromobility devices that is being facilitated through mobility points, and all developments are exploring, and where possible implementing, the expansion of cycling infrastructure.

Colleagues from BKK Budapest Transport Centre continued the series of presentations, with Gabriella Borboláné Kovács focusing on Budapest's road safety strategy and László Szőke on introducing the EU-funded REALLOCATE project. The road safety statistics of Budapest show a worsening trend when it comes to the number of accidents, and the strategy aims to reverse this trend. The key elements of road safety were discussed, such as road users' knowledge and compliance with the rules, the condition of vehicles, the underlying institutional system, and infrastructure. A fundamental condition for transport infrastructure is the development of self-explanatory roads and a forgiving environment. Since the vast majority of accidents occur at intersections, clearly-designed intersections are also critical. The greatest trade-offs are needed for arterial roads in Budapest, where, in addition to heavy vehicular traffic, public transport functions, as well as active and micromobility needs are as much a part of the design as other public space functions. In addition to managing conflicts on main roads, the aim is to double the size of residential and recreational zones and restricted access areas, which will provide space for safe pedestrian and cycling traffic.

The REALLOCATE project will implement two pilot projects, with similar objectives, in Budapest. One of the pilots will be implemented in Józsefváros, and it will seek to create a "healthy superblock" by crossing the concepts of London's "healthy streets" and Barcelona's "superblocks". The aim is to increase active mobility and implement the idea of a 15-minute city to improve air quality, reduce noise pollution and provide quality, safe and family-friendly public spaces for city dwellers. This will include additional mobility points, tree planting and interventions using tactical urbanism tools. The other pilot project will be implemented in the 4th district, where a number of traffic problems can be identified at the junction of Megyeri út and Fóti út, and where the redistribution of public spaces would provide a solution. The identified problems include highly differentiated daily traffic loads, irregular parking and high rates of speeding, which are even more problematic when considering that the area is in proximity to an elementary school. The project includes plans for data-prepared traffic calming and speed limitation, improvements to cycling infrastructure, redistribution of intersection lanes, and the elimination of irregular parking. Furthermore, in synergy with another EU-funded project, there will also be the development of new city functions in the area reclaimed for people.

Tibor Vincze from Szeged Pólus NKft. gave a presentation on the bridgehead, Oskola street and related interventions in the downtown of Szeged. The forward-looking project started as a resolution to a decades-old traffic conflict and has become a complex urban rehabilitation project with tree planting and pavement widening. The former two-way cycle lane on the right side of the one-way street for motor vehicles has been replaced by two cycle lanes, one still on the right side in the direction of travel, and one on the opposite side running in the opposite direciton. This has allowed for the elimination of accident blackspots at intersections. As an extension of the project, the downtown bridge junction, which is also accident-prone, was also addressed. Innovative engineering solutions, traffic modelling and data-driven decision making have been used to help resolve conflicts. The project has grown into a complex cycling network development package that extends to other areas of the city. The negotiation process is still hampered by stereotypes about cycling, but the Hungarian Cyclists' Club and the planning jury bring the necessary professionalism to these projects, and Szeged has benefited from this so far. Moreover, intense, clear and compelling communication to the public has helped to manage conflicts of interest.

Tamás Batinkov, Development Team Leader of Griffsoft Zrt., spoke about Urbanalytics, the AI-based urban traffic monitoring and simulation application. The objectives of the solution are to support decision making and ensure that investment does not exceed the budget of an average municipality. The system is composed of two layers, a data collection and processing layer, which includes a cloud-based data management infrastructure and IoT sensors that use artificial intelligence, as well as a user interface that showcases the data using different visualisation solutions. Pilot cities are experimenting with the application for different purposes. Balatonföldvár, for example, is measuring the number of visitors to tourist sites, while Kistarcsa aims to monitor the proportion of transit traffic, including freight traffic. Future plans include modelling the impact of transport interventions.

On behalf of RÉV8 Józsefvárosi Rehabilitation and Urban Development Zrt., Zoltán Zikkert discussed plans to renew five streets as part of three different projects. The overall aim of the public space renovation projects is to create a safe and healthy environment, which requires the elimination of transit traffic through diversion or other means. If traffic must remain, the speed of traffic will be limited. A healthier environment would be fostered by tree planting, but the underground constraints of utilities are a major problem. In some cases, utility mains can be relocated but require more expenses, while in other cases they cannot be relocated at all. The planning process for all project sites takes into account the needs of the surrounding institutions, be it schools or homeless shelters, but also the needs of local businesses by creating loading spaces. Traffic calming tools used in some projects include raising the roadway to curb level or regular curbing, lane closures, and the narrowing of intersections to make priority shifts clear and to encourage all road users to be aware of each other's presence. In addition to these infrastructural improvements, regulatory measures, 30 mph zones and the provision of contra-flow cycling are also planned to encourage active mobility in the relevant neighbourhoods.

The dilemmas of public space usage that permeate urban planning processes were highlighted by Péter Biczók. People's mobility choices determine the mode that is selected, mode choice determines where one travels, and, indirectly, what investments are made in the city. It can, therefore, be said that mode choice ultimately determines the fabric of the city. Accordingly, the liberation of pavements and prioritisation of pedestrian safety has begun in Józsefváros. Whether it is by installing bollards, flowerbeds, or art, it is possible to create a place where pedestrians feel safe. A professional consensus on controversial issues is needed to ensure that legislation can catch up with reality.

Following the presentations, the participants visited the locations of several of the projects that were mentioned in the presentations, such as Somogyi Béla Street, Kölcsey and Békési Streets, Bacsó Béla Street, Víg Street, József Street, Németh Street, Horváth Mihály Square and the Square of the Thirty-Twoers. During the site visit, participants were able to learn about the professional details of the projects and experiences linked to the preparation and implementation processes.

Author: Magyar CIVINET Titkárság



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