While they were able to park their cars right in front of the building, clients of a disability supply store in Tallinn must now travel some 30 meters to access the store after Tallinn put barriers in front of the building during the summer and have not provided an alternative solution.
Enn Leinuste created set up Invaru, a shop selling assistive and nursing equipment for people with reduced mobility, 17 years ago in a building specifically picked because it had a wide sidewalk in front, leaving people with reduced mobility some 10 m of space for movement.
Clients using wheelchairs and crutches could also drive right to the store's front door, which made it significantly easier to shop. There is also tram and bus stops nearby, which was critical in choosing the location at Peterburi tee 14a.
Last June, however, the city of Tallinn unexpectedly blocked access to the store by installing barriers and flower planters.
Invaru tried contacting Tallinn to ensure their clients have access to the store, but the city's first recommendation was for the store to move to a sports hall across the street.
"First off, there weren't any rooms available," Enn Leinuste said. "Secondly, what they did have were working spaces, there was a cabinet and corridor system. Additionally, the building has a high staircase, but accessibility is important for us. There would have to be a 15 meter-long slope. There is also the question of parking, since buses drive through there occasionally. I gave a polite response to the city and said that would not do."
Lasnamäe district government then offered that clients could park on city property near the Peterburi tee building with special places marked for the store. Now, six months later, there is one handicap parking spot and one spot, which requires a parking clock, but that is not exclusive to Invaru clients.
The handicap spot is also not in a comfortable or safe location for clients. It is not possible for people to step right on the sidewalk from the car, they must first navigate through a parking lot, which can be dangerous for anyone, not just people with reduced mobility. Additionally, the parking spot is not too visible under a layer of snow and since the city has not done too good a job in keeping the spot clean, the store has spoken to city government about clearing the handicap spot of snow on multiple occasions.
During snow removal this year, the city discovered that a snow tractor cannot access the front of the building. The flower planters were pulled apart some, but cars were still not allowed to access the storefront.
The new situation has angered Invaru clients, who are directing their anger at the store, who had no say in the new traffic organization., which has caused issues for more than half a year. "We met with the acting district mayor and Transport Administration representatives at the start of July. The Transport Administration said they see no issues with the new organization and said clients do not have to drive to the front door, because that is a pedestrian area," Leinuste said.
He was also told on multiple occasions that there cannot be special parking spots for Invaru clients, since it is a private company. City officials also noted that accessibility for people with reduced mobility is not much better elsewhere, so why should it be improved there. Leinuste considers this illogical.
Previous Lasnamäe district mayor and current Tallinn deputy mayor Vladimir Svet (Center) promised Leinuste in autumn that the issue will be dealt with and that a roundtable would be gathered, but that was forgotten when the local government elections came and Svet became a deputy mayor. The city has not provided any new solutions.
Svet: Improving safety was the main goal
Current Tallinn deputy mayor Vladimir Svet said the barriers and planters were moved on the sidewalk to make it more comfortable and safe for pedestrians to move around.
"We also dealt with blocking illegal parking on sidewalks," the deputy mayor noted. "One of those places where cars drove and parked on sidewalks was Peterburi tee 14. Pedestrians using that sidewalk have repeatedly told us that moving around and between parked and moving cars is unsafe. The Traffic Act states clearly that there is no driving or parking allowed on sidewalks. And since that rule has been ignored in that location for years, we placed planters and barriers to prevent parking and driving."
Svet said there are other stores operating out of the Peterburi tee 14 building and their clients have also gotten used to driving straight to the front doors.
He noted that the city did provide Invaru with one handicap spot in the parking lot a little further from the building. "Store clients still had issues with this solution, so we began reorganizing for Invaru clients to be able to access the store without there being a dangerous situation for clients and other pedestrians," Svet said.
Leinuste said there have not been any dangerous traffic incidents in the 17 years Invaru has occupied part of the building. He did not agree with Svet's assessments of the area being unsafe for pedestrians.
Invaru proposed that the front of the building could be designated as a "calm traffic area", which would limit driving speeds and regulate pedestrian privilege. Among other solutions, parking could have been made exclusive to Invaru clients with a information board.
"We presume people are generally law-abiding. You should not handcuff the remaining 95 if five people are in the wrong, there are other sanctions. But alas, this solution was also not approved," Lennuste said.
Svet said a "calm traffic area" comes with its own issues. "Creating a 'calm traffic area' aside a major road would endanger less protected pedestrians, because it is not safe to maneuver in an area with reduced visibility. In addition, parking and maneuvering would also impede on smooth movement for pedestrians and cyclists. The issue is not just the vehicles of people with reduced mobility, but all the other vehicles that could access the area," the deputy mayor said.
He did confirm, however, that the city is prepared to offer Invaru a new solution next week. "We are planning to present the Invaru store management a solution that would see the front of their store reconstructed in a manner that would create wider parking spots a few meters away. If our proposal to create new handicap spots is suitable for Invaru, we will try to realize it as soon as possible," Svet said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste