Cities commit to improve cycling infrastructure, Marosvásárhely works against it

Those who ride their bicycles on a daily basis in traffic already experienced exposing themselves to high risk, especially in cities without marked bicycle lanes. Take Marosvásárhely/Târgu Mureș, for example, where riding a bicycle resulted in the death of a person and a further six riders were seriously injured. And that’s just a summary of the first seven months of this year, with a total of 27 accidents, according to official police records. Despite the alarming data, the city mayor and his team have apparently declared war against bicycle owners and every civil initiative that seeks to make Marosvásárhely a sustainable city. That’s clearly working against the will of the inhabitants, promoting only motorized traffic, a one-sided view of a livable city, which compares to the efforts of Szekler cities’ fluidization of traffic by investing in bicycle infrastructure.

Supporters of cycling say that there are many positive examples all over Transylvania for a more positive approach. Székelyudvarhely/Odorheiu Secuiesc, for example, where the mayor has signed what they call a milestone contract with the Regional Development Agency Center for two successful grants totaling €15 million. This serious investment seeks to improve the city infrastructure and lower CO2 emissions in the area. By signing the contract, the city of Székelyudvarhely is committing itself to renovating the existing infrastructure and building more. An essential part of the contract is the commitment to give priority to alternative, green commuting, so in three years the city will have 16 km of bicycle infrastructure, something that Marosvásárhely inhabitants can only dream of.

During the quarterly meeting of the Regional Development Agency Center, the President of Kovászna/Covasna County Council, Sándor Tamás, formulated a request for the Romanian government not to block but stimulate the region’s access to EU funds. Looking forward, the priorities for the 2021–2027 period include improvements to the bicycle infrastructure, as proposed by László Henning, vice-president of Kovászna County Council. However, this means this region already has something to improve, and the leaders see that the only way to build sustainable cities is by building/improving/extending the infrastructure for alternative commuting.

But such open-mindedness doesn’t apply to Marosvásárhely city leaders. In this heavily motorized city (165,506 cars registered in 2018 in the county, and growing yearly by 10,000–15,000) the mayor has even prohibited access to the city center to the Tour of Romania competitors, so organizers had to find an alternative route, saying that it is impossible to shut down traffic in downtown Marosvásárhely – our sources say. In addition, another bicycle-centric event, Critical Mass, along with events promoting biking as an alternative mode of transportation, was excluded from the city center for the same reason. Interestingly, the decision comes from the city mayor, Dorin Florea, but he is nowhere to be found when it comes to open, face-to-face dialogue.

His position – sustained by the power group around him – speaks against what the city has committed to actually do to make Marosvásárhely a sustainable city in an application to access EU funds for sustainable urban mobility, such as the modernization of road infrastructure, including bicycle routes. “How many bicycle riders have to die for Marosvásárhely to have its own bicycle infrastructure for a safe travel across the city?”, a member of a civil group fighting for bicycle lanes asked.

Author: István Fekete