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Tallinn midtown 2035: Bicycles and scooters to be fastest vehicles

Cyclist by Tallinn's Old Town.
Cyclist by Tallinn's Old Town. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Tallinn city government recently released its developmental strategy for the next 15 years, setting out a vision of making the city center (Kesklinn) area more pedestrian-friendly.

Kesklinn elder Monika Haukanõmm says the fastest vehicle in the district in 15 years' time should be of a two-wheeld variety, ie. a bicycle or scooter.

Tallinn's development strategy (link in Estonian) sees Kesklinn as a district all of its own, with many developmental opportunities and attractions, potentially inter-connected via a network of pedestrian and cycle lanes, promenades and public transport routes.

Even with the Main Street project called off and set for redesign, the district is not likely to be made comfortable for a private vehicles. The priority will be on pedestrians and public transport with each coming year.

Haukanõmm said the most important attraction so far as Tallinn goes will be that there will be less reason to enter the Kesklinn district in a car. "In a longer term, we see a Kesklinn designed for pedestrians, not cars. We must develop many fast and comfortable public transport solutions, and reduce car noise pollution. We see traffic being directed away from the district," Haukanõmm told ERR.

To facilitate this, the city must plan and develop a proper street network, reduce speed limits and convince people that it is best to move in Kesklinn on foot or on two wheels, the district elder said.

The priority in the near future is to give buses more preference and to develop new tram lines, with an idea of making Elron trains operate within Tallinn throughout the day also discussed. Public transport must become an important aspect of Tallinn, Haukanõmm said.

Access to Viru keskus by public transportation from 7-9 a.m. The greener the area, the quicker (1-40 minutes) public transportation gets to Viru keskus. Red areas mean 40-80 minutes. Source: Tallinna arengustrateegia 2035

Haukanõmm said: "You must be able to get to Kesklinn by public transportation and by foot and cycle paths, hopefully giving sufficient reason to not come here by car. We must consider how to improve the quality of the street space, hopefully competing with Helsinki, Riga and Stockholm in 10-15 years."

Fewer cars and more pedestrians would mean more footpaths. The goal is for bicycles and scooters to become the fastest means of transport in Kesklinn, with their own movement space also planned, Haukanõmm says.

The planned cycle road main and supplemental network in Tallinn's developmental plan for 2035. Source: Tallinna arengustrateegia 2035

Concrete plans and some of the ideas were already named in the Main Street project, with a plan to connect Kesklinn to Lasnamäe, east of the city center, also on the table; a pedestrian and cycle bridge would connect the Majaka and Gonsiori streets.

Pedestrians' boots on the ground, cars subordinated

Haukanõmm said the first "bubble point" to be solved is the Viru roundabout, connecting four major streets. The issue will be how to direct traffic away from the intersection and to give more room for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

"All streets exiting Viru roundabout, whether it be Narva maantee toward Kadriorg or others, need work - there is a lot to be done to make this a more natural part of the city, and also suitable for pedestrians. The current long-developed street network is still car-centered, and that must be changed," the district elder said.

Making pedestrians a priority would then mean taking cars underground in the city center, area and that no more large parking houses would pop up, polluting the street views. "At one point, we had a feeling that people were directed to tunnels and underground, that period is certainly over. We would rather have cars drive underground, parking as well. We want parking lots to be developed underground because we can not do without them either," Haukanõmm said.

More residents in Vanalinn

One of the goals of the development strategy is to increase the number of residents in the Vanalinn district. This does not just mean increasing a number however, the plan has been drawn up with a vision of bringing new life to the district and developing the area for someone other than tourists.

Haukanõmm said: "We want Vanalinn to be a living part of the city with permanent residents, schools, theaters and active business. The idea is to create conditions that would keep people living in Vanalinn."

The district elder said the Vanalinn district must become more natural and many new areas are planned for the near future in the area and its surrounding areas as well.

"In addition, there are some 20 very different areas around Vanalinn: Kassisaba, Torupilli or Kadriorg, for example. The goal is for people to find a comfortable place to live in Kesklinn, for movement from Kadriorg to Kitseküla to be comfortable and safe by bicycle or bus. For there to be many green areas, attractive cafes, parks, to create the feeling of wanting to be in Kesklinn," Haukanõmm said.

Part of the plan is to move the shared space toward the sea. Haukanõmm said the goal is for there to be a midtown-like space on the seaside. "Whether it be developing the Main Street project or reconstructing Ahtri tänav. Currently, detail plans of the port area are being designed, we certainly want there to be an attractive cruise termina with an urban park and for the terrain solution at D-terminal to come to life," the district elder noted.

Haukanõmm could not say if Linnahall and the new national opera building are inclded in the plans. "The Linnahall area could and should develop into a active location for citizens. It is a shame that developments have come to a stop and the building is unused and decomposed," the district elder concluded.

Artist's impression of proposed plans for Tallinn's Vanasadama redevelopment. Source: Zaha Hadid Architects


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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