Thousands of cyclists ride around Hungary's capital to celebrate Earth Day

Thousands of cyclists rode around Hungary's capital on Saturday in celebration of Earth Day and to promote bicycling as an alternative means of urban transportation.

Organizers estimated the crowd at more than 30,000 riders, including President Laszlo Solyom, an avowed environmentalist, and his grandchildren. A police estimate was not immediately available, but some 20,000 took part in last year's event, according to the official calculation.

The events in Budapest and a handful of other Hungarian cities were part of a worldwide cycling movement organized by Critical Mass.

Solyom said riding a bike was a viable alternative to "polluting the air and making ourselves nervous in a traffic jam."

"In every normal city in Western Europe there are bicycle lanes where everyone can go," Solyom told state news wire MTI. "This is what is needed in Budapest."

The 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) route on the streets of Budapest began on the banks of the Danube River, passed through a tunnel under Buda Castle and concluded at City Park.

"I came in the hope that my kids will be able to ride their bikes in the city streets without having to fear they'll get run over by a car," said Boldizsar Koenig, 33, riding with one of his three children.

Organizers said there were 145 kilometers (90 miles) of bike lanes in the city, while at least 500 kilometers (310 miles) would be needed, reports AP.

O.Ch.