The Tallinn City Government recently released a set of videos on how renovated streets in the capital will look once the work is finished. Experts say that no meaningful change has been achieved, while the new streets waste precious urban space.
Marek Rannala, lecturer at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA), said that the project to reconstruct Pronksi and Jõe streets constitutes a missed opportunity to alter urban environment.
"I looked at the streets in the context of EKA's street studio project where students are given the task of redesigning existing streets. I believe this would fetch the minimal marks required to pass. The before and after pictures are best described as "find ten differences," Rannala said.
While the speed limit will be 40 kilometers an hour for the renovated streets, experts say the roads are too wide, which invites drivers to speed. At the same time, bicycle paths are of minimal width.
"Other cities in the Nordics no longer greenlight such projects because the lanes, as opposed to there being too many, are too wide and meant for speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour. That is what creates more pollution and noise, and despite of what it looks like, it is still a thoroughfare for cars," city strategist Pärtel-Peeter Pere (member of the Tallinn City Council and the Reform Party) said.
Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimit Svet (Center Party) disagrees in terms of the new streets being too similar to the old ones. He points out the addition of new bicycle lanes, public transport stops, twice the greenery and more pedestrian crossings.
"There are also several key changes that are invisible to the eye as they are underground. We have new district cooling, heating and water systems, separate sewage," Svet said.
Rannala said that street planning has a long tradition in Estonia, which will hopefully be abandoned in the future.
"There is nothing obligating the city to build different streets. There is no law or urban building standard to suggest anything needs to be done differently. In these terms, I eagerly await the climate law, which could be used to create such obligations. So it would become impossible to lay down so much non-absorbable surface creating heat islands."
The city government is not completely happy with the project either.
"Do we think it's an ideal street? Let us say that if we were designing it in 2023, we would do it differently," the deputy mayor admitted.
Editor: Marcus Turovski