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Critical Mass wheels away
Outnumbering last year's previous record high of 50,000 participants, this year an estimated 80,000 bikers and in-line skaters wheeled across and around Budapest at the Critical Mass rally marking Earth Day on Sunday Apr 20.
The rally was organized by a number of NGOs to promote cycling and protest against air and noise pollution.Before the official start, 10,000 bikers received green T-shirts from the organizers to take part in a project by National Geographic photographer Jason Hawkes, who shot pictures from a helicopter flying above the crowd.This event was started by Ronald Alexander Mollinger, the Dutch ambassador to Hungary, at Deák tér in Pest’s District V.
The organizers had invited the ambassador because The Netherlands is a leader in all bicycle-related figures, with a greater than 20% ratio of bikers in city traffic.
The “march” of 80,000 people remained peaceful and, unusually for Hungary, was entirely without political connotation.
A reporter of news portal Index.hu spent several hours in front of Parliament watching the Critical Mass ride by, but only one young man started yelling anti-government phrases. No one joined in with him, however, and he soon rode on.
The mass history
The ride left Deák tér, crossed the Danube on the Elisabeth bridge, circumvented the Buda Castle via Attila út, returned to Pest across Lánchíd, and approached its destination, the Városliget, along Andrássy út.
The Critical Mass movement was started in California, and was first organized in Budapest in 2004. From then, each rally has seen a growth in the number of participants.
According to the Budapest municipality, so has the number of everyday bikers: in recent years, the number of bicyclists has doubled year on year, an unique level of growth in Europe.
Photo by Zsolt Balla