We rented an apartment in the Jewish quarter of Budapest and at the bottom of the staircase were two old boneshaker bikes, padlocked to the iron railings, that came with the apartment.
They barely looked rideable – no gears, dodgy brakes, a bit old-fashioned. One had a bell and basket, while the other was – frankly – small and pink.
I ignored them for a couple of days as I went up and down the staircase, but began to notice lots of bikes being ridden out on the streets of Budapest that made these look like top-of-the-range Tour de France machines. And I also began to notice how lovely Budapest seemed to be for cycling, with its cycle lanes and crossings, and long riverside promenade, and spacious boulevards, and flat streets.
“Go on, you know you want to”, said Elaine.
It’s true, I really did.
The only bike that actually works is the small pink one
“But I’m not coming with you” she said. “And, by the way, the only one that actually works is the small pink one”.
So the small pink bike it was. Plus my iPhone and a map of Budapest.
I learned two things, fairly quickly.
One, Budapest really is excellent for cycling. There are plenty of group bike tours available, but it’s an easy city to get around by bike and you can simply rent one for the day and see where the spirit takes you.
Two, I’m sure there are some rules about cycling on pavements, down one-way streets, over tram tracks and through red lights, but I can’t say I noticed anyone heeding them. In fact, I suspect you get actual points – maybe collected on an app – for doing all these things.
Oh, and actually Three, it is the height of madness to cycle one-handed over cobbles while trying to film video with your phone in the other hand. No one mentions that in the travel videos. Not until now, obviously.
Budapest by Locals has an excellent section on biking in Budapest – from routes and rental places to the best bike cafes.