Im on holiday! A week in Bucharest; That’s a big city in Romania if you were wondering. I am here looking after some business and enjoying the spring in the far east of Europe.
As city’s go it is fairly normal. Big, crowded, noisy, smelly and full of cars. In fact I have rarely seen a more clogged city in Europe. Paris’ legendary Arc de Triumph has nothing on its copy here in Bucharest [Named after deGaule] where the 4 hour morning rush hour blends into the 4 hour evening rush hour and some cars are rumoured to have been trapped in there for eternity.
The big surprise is the cycling infrastructure, and the fact that it is used. Oh, that’s the first surprise; the second is that the car drivers, even in their most ragged rush hour moments seem to mostly respect the bikes on the road.
Cyclists share painted on lanes on the wide pedestrian side walks, weaving between the locals. Some in lycra, some in jeans and just as many in skirts. There is no social or gender limit on cycling here in Bucharest. All ages seem engaged in just using their bikes.
This afternoon while resting in a street cafe, sipping espresso I watched a carbon, disk wheeled TT machine speed down the Cale de Dorobanti in one direction while a 3 year old rolled up to the pedestrian crossing on her trike, patiently waited for the green man and pedaled across the eight lanes of respectfully resting traffic. Her mother walked behind carrying the shopping. Teen aged boys on 29ers cruised down the road jumping the kirbs but avoided the old woman selling flowers from a carrier bag on the corner of the street. Bikes of every shape and size, some with peeling paint and dysfunctional gears and others gleaming rode next to each other. There is even a Tall Bike.
This place is a paradise compared to any city I have ridden in England. OK, its not perfect; The roads are often in a terrible state. If you dare to ride on the road you will find the lane markings are at best advisory and cars will randomly stop anywhere that suits their needs. To survive you have to set aside your English pre conceptions of how traffic should behave and join in with some “Zen And The Art Of Riding In Traffic”.
Personally I love the sport I have come to know as “Traffic Surfing” and Bucharest has some of the best waves I have found anywhere in the world.
When I needed some papers delivered to me from the other side of the city I discovered that Bucharest is also one of the few places in the world where there is still a job for the cycle courier and many are to be found earning their money on the streets.
Im coming back later in the summer and when I do I will bring the GoPro, the body armour and a big smile. Stay tuned!