How has Budapest empowered its citizens?

Budapest is the centrally located capital of Hungary, and is an important financial, cultural, political and cultural hub of the whole region. It has a population of 1,760,000 inhabitants. The modal split in Budapest is 22% walking, 2% cycling, 46% public transport and 30% private motor vehicle. Budapest’s mobility management plan focuses on empowering a modal shift from using the private car to using bike instead.


The number of car trips in the city centre of Budapest is high. This results in a range of environmental, social and economic issues such as pollution, harm to health, congestion and parking problems. An additional concern is that most pupils and students in the city see car use as their most desirable mode of future transportation. Budapest’s Balázs Mór Plan (BMT) set the mobility priorities for the capital and was guided by the principles of the European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). Since 2010, BKK Centre for Budapest Transport has implemented a number of measures in the fields of public transport, active mobility and road traffic. The current level of cycling in Budapest is 2% so the city must continue this work to achieve BMT’s ambitious goal of a 10% modal shift in cycling by 2030.


MOL Bubi, the first bike sharing scheme in Budapest, was launched in September 2014 with 1,100 bikes and 76 docking stations. The scheme was sponsored by MOL, the main Hungarian oil company. MOL used its advertisements to encourage car drivers to use bikes for trips located solely within Budapest city centre.

MOL Bubi covers the inner city evenly, has great public acceptance and achieves high levels of satisfaction among its users but there was potential to increase the number of users significantly. MOL Bubi’s main goal was to induce a modal shift within the city centre from car journeys to cycling in both current and potential future car users, whether travelling short trips or commuting, by motivating them to opt for its public bike sharing system.

Fostering off-street parking was also important as a means of encouraging people to get out of their cars, leave them in parking garages and continue their journeys via the bike sharing scheme. An increased demand for off-street parking would have the potential to create more livable public places in the city centre. In addition, the project aimed to achieve a youth paradigm shift towards cycling and a sharing economy to ensure sustainable results for the longer term.


BKK conducted an in-house test using a small scale implementation of positive incentives (150 phone cases and MOL Bubi packages) to gather feedback and suggestions for modifications. These were later embedded in the updated version.

As Take-Up City Budapest, BKK brought positive incentive elements into ECC (European Cycling Challenge) 2017, a team competition for urban cyclists held in May. BKK used EMPOWER know-how and experience, adding gamification elements, a communication campaign and rewards to encourage participation. As a result, Budapest registered almost 1,200 participants in ECC 2017, achieving a place in the top 10 out of 52 European cities.

In June 2017, BKK organised the Budapest Cycling Challenge (BCC), an individual and team competition for urban cyclists, using the know-how and toolkit learned from their experience as an EMPOWER Take-Up City. BKK provided rewards for participants via a lottery draw in which winners received one of a range of prizes: 150 phone cases, 100 sport club memberships, 10 bikes and 30 MOL Bubi yearly pass coupons. BKK also developed a communication campaign utilising a dedicated e-mail address to answer questions, a dedicated subpage on the MOL Bubi website, Facebook posts, news items on the BKK website and Instagram posts. It recruited participants via targeted advertising on Facebook and 2,100 Spokes Cards distributed at a major cyclist event. During the month of the BCC event, more than 1,200 people signed up for the challenge. Participants who road at least 10 km were entered into the lottery prize draw.


In 2014 MOL Bubi launched with 1,100 bikes and 76 docking stations. By March 2018 this had increased to 1,506 bikes and 125 docking stations.

EMPOWER know-how, experience and the toolkit in conjunction with lessons learned from ECC 2017 and the BCC allowed the development of a complex positive incentive scheme. A wide range of rewards was provided by third parties to induce change in mode choice and to increase usage of the public bike sharing scheme. EMPOWER know-how also enabled BKK to double the number of participants in ECC 2017 compared to the previous year.

Using GPS data from the tracked bicycle trips, the most used cycling routes of the city were mapped and the origin-destination cyclist matrix of the Integrated Macroscopic Transport Model of Budapest can now be developed.


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