Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) defended the extensive road reconstructions in the city center by emphasizing the need to redesign urban space and guarantee equal access for all road users.
"The urban space we all share for public transportation, cars, cyclists and pedestrians is a very limited resource, especially in the city center; but we want a high-quality urban space in which everyone can move around comfortably," Kõlvart told Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" program on Friday.
"We have to accommodate everyone and we cannot begin by ensuring the interests of only one group," the mayor added, referring to the car drivers.
"There is no other option here; we must redistribute urban space. First and foremost, to make it better, greener and Eco-friendly. Namely, to make it easier for pedestrians to navigate and to build the necessary infrastructure for bicycling. This must all change," the mayor said. "There is no alternative to closing the streets. Nobody has proposed a method for fixing the city center's streets while maintaining a high level of traffic."
Kõlvart said that rebuilding roads to make more space for public transportation, bicycles and pedestrians will also get people out of their cars. There would be fewer cars and they could fit on narrower roads, he said.
"In the future, it is also in the best interest of drivers and people who own cars that there is an alternative. The more people are encouraged to use bicycles or other alternatives to cars, the less traffic there is on roads and streets," he said.
"It will take time, but it's the only way forward. If you want more people to use public transportation, it has to be convenient. If you want more people to use alternative forms of transportation, like biking, you have to build the infrastructure for it. We also have to give pedestrians good urban space. In this way a great deal more of people will be willing to give up their cars."
"And those who are not ready to give up for various reasons, good reasons, they could still use roads, of course," he added.
"The question is what should come first. Our priority is pedestrians and public transport and I think that is the right thing to do," the mayor said.