5 Bucharest Bicycling Tips to Save Your Life
Bucharest bicycling is a great way to see most of the city in a day. At around $4 U.S., it’s also very affordable. After spending a day riding with a friend, however, we noted that Bucharest may not be the safest city in which to ride. Always ready for a challenge, we hopped on some bicycle rentals and ventured into the city.
If you’ve planning to bike this city, here are a few challenges you should know ahead of time. I’ve also included some tips to help you work through each one.
Bike Paths Are Obstructed
There appears to have once been an urban plan to connect many of the main attractions and pathways with modern bike paths. Since that time, other things such as parking, gates and bus stops appear to have taken higher priority.
- Tip 1: Be on the lookout to where your bike path leads. If it ends or is obstructed by a parked car, bus stop or gate, don’t enact this bike lane video (which somewhat inspired this post) on the streets of Bucharest.
Curbs are Inaccessible
After riding for only a few minutes, I began to understand why so many of the bicycles we saw for rent were damaged. Although some curbs have been made to be bicycle accessible, a majority of them are not.
- Tip 2: If, like Napoleon Dynamite, you have ‘mad skills’ at jumping your bicycle up 6″ curbs and a capable bicycle, go for it. Otherwise, you may need to frequently stop your bike to lift it up onto the curb.
Rules? What Rules?
Whether biking or driving, there don’t seem to be a lot of rules in Bucharest. If there are, there don’t appear to be many police about enforcing them. The only police officers I saw during my week in this capital city were walking through the Old Town area. Expect cars to run red lights, taxis to change lanes and/or stop in intersections to block traffic and cars park in crosswalks.
- Tip 3: Pay attention. Don’t drink and ride.
What’s a Bicycle?
Bicyclers appear to be a rarity on the streets of Bucharest. During a 6-hour ride on a beautiful day, we saw only two others. This may explain why people seemed so terrified when we would ride by and paid such little attention to the fact that we could seriously injure them if they abruptly walked into the bike path. We narrowly avoided bumping in to people numerous times.
- Tip! See below for more information.
It’s difficult to be critical of the price of rentals, given how cheap they are. It can, however, create a safety issue. The conditions I’ve just described have resulted in a serious wear and tear on the bicycles that are rented out. When we did hop up curbs we noticed the bicycles couldn’t handle it without further damage to the wheels and in more than one case, the chain nearly came off.
Add to this the fact that bicycles don’t seem to have bells in Bucharest (at least not the ones we found) and it doesn’t leave many options for communicating with people who walk in your path. Although the word “pardon” is generally understood, I wish I would have known more Romanian.
- Tip 5: The Romanian word for ‘pardon’ is iertare (pronounced ear-TAR-vay). Listen to it here.
- Additional information on Romanian pronunciation can be found here.
Bucharest Bicycling Resources
- GreenRevolution: Attempts are being made to make Bucharest and other cities more bicycle friendly. Hopefully this will soon result in safer bike paths. This resource also contains places to find a rental.
- Bucharest Bicycle Activism: Local citizens are fighting for improved bicycle infrastructure in this city as well.
Bucharest bicycling was a fun activity and a great way to experience Bucharest. This information was put together to keep people safe if they’re planning on spending a day biking there. I recommend giving it a try, just be aware of everything.
If you are looking for a good biking destination, we biked out to an interesting island on Lacul (Lake) Morii. Much of it has fallen into disrepair but is worth checking out.
There’s even a bike map listed here.
Enjoy your time in Bucharest! It’s an interesting city with lots of history. Locals are kind and interested in tourists from the far West, in my experience. It’s also a relatively short bus or train ride to Transylvania, a beautiful place I highly recommend visiting as well.
Noroc! (Cheers in Romanian)
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