Plans are underway to redevelop Riia tänav, one of Tartu's main roads. In order to add in separate cycle lanes, the plan is to remove one of the current vehicle lanes and designate another for public transport only.
Currently, cyclists on Riia tänav use the same parts of the street as pedestrians. On some sections of the sidewalk, there are cycle lanes marked on one side of the street, while in other parts they are on the opposite side.
"Officially, a cyclist coming from Lõunakeskus (shopping mall – ed.) would have to cross Riia tänav four times in order to get to the city center. But, of course, people just ride on the sidewalk. They are not really allowed to, but the law does not directly prohibit it, so if there is a lot of traffic and you can't do otherwise, you ride on the sidewalk. At the moment, pedestrians are in a very bad situation, where everything is in their way. If we can separate bicycles and scooters, the situation for pedestrians will be much better," said Ilmar Part of the Tartu Cyclists' Association.
Next year, separate cycle lanes will be built on both sides of Riia tänav, with the outer lanes used for public transport only. The lanes will also be narrowed.
"If there is a narrower lane, cars will drive slower, and if they drive slower, they will make less noise and produce less pollution. There will also be space for cycle paths and landscaping. This means it will be less windy in winter and less bright sunshine in summer. Perhaps the space we get at the expense of the carriageway can be used for other purposes," said Tartu city architect Jiri Tintera.
The designers also propose reworking the intersection between the Kvartal and Kaubamaja shopping malls in the city center.
"One of the biggest changes today, is that the intersections at Riia tänav, Turu maantee and Narva maantee will have crossing lanes in all directions, as well as cycle paths. One of the proposals is also to lower the speed limit, to 40 kilometers per hour for most of the area, and in the area between Kaubamaja and Kvartal the speed limit could be 30 kilometers per hour," said designer Indrek Oden.
However, some Tartu residents who drive on Riia tänav every day have concerns about the plans.
"When it's rush hour, there's congestion there already. So I can't imagine [what it will be like] if (the vehicle lane] is going to be narrowed. When the cycle lanes come in, it's going to be a mess," said Arno, who commutes by car via Riia tänav.
"There are other options for cyclists, such as Vanemuise tänav, or going through the smaller streets of Karlova. I don't know why they would have to do that on Riia tänav," said Paavo, another driver, who often uses that particular road.
The aim of narrowing the lanes is not just so that more convenient cycling facilities can be added, but also to bring cafés and other service providers back to the street.
"It's very difficult to run any kind of business or provide any sort of service on Riia tänav. Not to mention the people who live in those apartment buildings that are on Riia mägi. They had much better living conditions 15-30 years ago than they do now. If we look at how our society has developed in the meantime, the result is a deterioration in the living conditions of many people, and we cannot continue like this," said Jiri Tintera.
Editor: Michael Cole