A Car of Our Existence: What Should Pedestrians Do in Tbilisi?

TBILISI - According to Tbilisi Mayor David Narmania’s announcement two-way traffic will be restored on Pushkini Street,  one of six streets that radiate out from Freedom Square in Tbilisi.

An overpass is to be built as well. The Mayor stated the archeological discoveries in the old settlement will be preserved within the frame of a project and it will not have a bad influence on the appearance of the city.

“Two-lane traffic will be restored. Movement will be on the same level, as well from downwards to upwards as from upwards to a downwards. This will have no bad influence over a city appearance. The discovered dig will be preserved, it will be convenient and attractive for visitors” the Tbilisi Mayor stated. Experts favor this project as the current traffic is dysfunctional and part of the traffic system is in decline.

Currently the central part of the city is isolated from the other coasts and all traffic goes through the narrow streets of Machabeli-Asatiani. Presumably the underground space under the road will be preserved, while the wall will be left so that pedestrians are able to descend and will be able to use the underground passages.

According to the main argument of the Mayor the two-way traffic will unload the capital’s most important part from traffic jams. According to Tiflis Hamkari representatives’ overpass will be part of the Panorama-Tbilisi project, the objective of which is to restore two-way traffic. It is clear to everyone that the new overpass is to clearly link to the transport involved in panorama construction process that overload section and will become one of the arteries of traffic of new cars and trucks.

Traffic jam problems will be combated by building new highways and overpasses in the center of a city. It’s a trap that a lot of cities of the world are caught in and it is often unsuccessful. Hundreds of millions have been wasted and traffic jams or other problems related to transports, have not been settled.

Pushkini Street is one of the central streets, where the wide pavement for pedestrians takes a large space on the carriageway. That caused a development of a small business there. It is known to everyone that a car can get anywhere if you do not restrict it. An overpass in this historic part of the city will suppress the small revived businesses and some new cafes will not be built. Moreover the existing ones will be closed.

There is little space for the public, most of the pedestrians does not use the underground passages and they probably will not be willing to walk under a new bridge. This is not a two-way traffic-but it is four-line traffic and the Mayor’s office is inviting the pedestrians underground again.

The construction of a new overpass will cost 4 million GEL from the Mayor’s office. Lots of parking spaces can be built for this sum of money so that the city will be relieved and many car-drivers will reject the idea of parking their cars on the pavement and on the carriageways.

All modern cities try to control the current of cars, their speed in the urban zone, encourage pedestrians or cyclists by making safety islands in the central places for pedestrians and to reduce cars’ space and imposing a high parking fee.

The movement and traffic in our city is fit only for cars, especially on Rustaveli Avenue and Freedom Square. This is another instance of making inhuman space and the construction of a new overpass will cause the increase of this alienation.

If we plan cities for cars and infrastructure, we will get cars and infrastructure, polluting air quality, increasing injures on the roads and the most importantly less people walking in the streets.

A few years ago the Irish company presented the development plan of cycle path on Pushkini Street and its surrounding territory, though this project had failed. When we are talking about other alternative transports, a lot of barriers and stereotype are we to face.

However, the idea of the landscape and relief of Tbilisi being unsuitable for the popularization of cycling is widely spread in society and in authorities as well. For instance Prague and Geneva have got far difficult relief than Tbilisi but cycling is already popular there.

It is high time for Tbilisi to share the developed countries’ experience like Kuertiba, Bogota, Lyon, Rosario, Vichangi, Albacete, Indore, Lima, Toluca, Yerevan, Morgenthau, Moscow, and Kigali.

The world-wide well-known Danish architecture and city-planner Jan Gehl, Mayer of Bogota Enrique Peñalosa and other prominent public figures and urban planners, all of them are unanimous and consider the cars oriented development is a matter of past that lead us to deadlock.

Author: Gela Kvashilava

Photo: Paul Salopek

Gela Kvashilava is the founder the Partnership for Road Safety fund (http://safedrive.ge), advisory council member and regional consultant of the British organization Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (www.easst.co.uk), expert at the EU TRACECA road safety project.

23 March 2016 16:06