The city authorities reported on the implementation of the Urban Sustainable Mobility Concept.
With each passing year Belarus is becoming more and more urbanized, and the growth of its cities goes hand in hand with the ever increasing mobility of its population. Experience of foreign countries demonstrates that city authorities should be concerned not just with ensuring comfort for motorists but also with building a sustainable urban mobility system convenient for all social groups. Ways of developing Belarusian cities were discussed by local and foreign experts during the seminar "New Tools for Integrated Urban and Transport Planning", which was organized by the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers, Ukraine regional representative office of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Eurasian office of the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the Support Programme of Belarus of the Federal Government of Germany and ODB Brussels.
Sustainabile urban mobility indicates how convenient it is to travel throughout the city on foot, by bike, using public transport or a personal vehicle, and how these modes of transportation are interconnected. This system must be convenient for everyone, cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
One of the first Urban Sustainable Mobility Concepts in Belarus was developed for the city of Navapolatsk. The document was created in 2014 within the framework of the Support Programme of Belarus of the Federal Government of Germany.
Vyachaslau Durnou, Head of Navapolatsk City Council of Deputies, shared project implementation details with the participants.
Vyachaslau Durnou, Head of Navapolatsk City Council of Deputies
“Navapolatsk is one of the youngest cities in our country, turning just 58 this year. The Concept took into account specific features of the city, specifics of the industrial companies operating in its territory and the need to create a sanitary protection strip. Navapolatsk is divided in a very peculiar way, so that residential and recreational zones are separated from the rest of the city”, explained Vyachaslau Durnou.
According to him, the city has three main residential areas, which include Navapolatsk itself (102 thousand residents), the town of Baravukha (5.5 thousand) and the village of Mizhreccha with a cluster of privately-owned detached houses.
The proximity to Polatsk also plays a role. "The common communication network not only provides transport links between the cities but also encourages Polatsk and Navapolatsk residents to use historic, educational and shopping facilities accessible to all of them", shared Durnou.
The Concept identified a number of major goals: to reduce the negative impact transport has on people's health and the environment, to improve accessibility of urban facilities, to make public transport more comfortable, as well as to enable people to walk or cycle around the city and to take into account the interests of disabled persons.
What were the specific recommendations to improve urban sustainable mobility did the local authorities receive?
Among other things, the experts advised them to give rush hour priority to buses going along the main streets of Navapolatsk, to improve convenience for tram passengers, e.g. install weather protected benches and schedule signs on tram stops. It was also recommended to build cycling lanes and gradually introduce parking fees in the city center.
What have the city authorities already implemented in 2014-2016?
"We have designed and organized cycling lanes on the centrally located Maladzyozhnaya street. Passenger stations and terminals have been equipped with ramps," reported Vyachaslau Durnou. "All Navapolatsk trams have been equipped with a voice information system, most of trams have LED running signs installed, two trams have been equipped to transport disabled persons of any category". The city has also acquired one low-floor tram.
Navapolatsk bus depot has 95 MAZ buses with kneeling systems, which allow the bus to lower its body to one side to facilitate boarding for passengers, especially to those who are disabled.
Vyachaslau Durnou attested to the fact that Navapolatsk joins international green initiatives: "It has already become a tradition to take part in the Car Free Days, when Navapolatsk residents and visitors are invited to abandon their personal vehicles for a day and use public transportation or cycle instead. On such days the city has a No Fee initiative, when participants can show the technical certificate for their car and use the bus or tram for free".
According to him, Navapolatsk authorities are open for cooperation and willing to implement new projects.
Living Street initiative held during the European Mobility Week in Navapolatsk
Palina Vardevanyan, Senior Lecturer at the Urban Planning Chair or Belarusian State Technical University, was one of the experts from the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers who took part in developping the Navapolatsk Sustainable Mobility Concept. She explained that ambitious projects face challenges primarily due to lack of funds. "Why do we face difficulties? It all depends on the people in their offices who are responsible for decision-making. When you start a discussion in whatever form, they always have an answer ready: all your suggestions are good but we have no money", she explains.
Palina Vardevanyan recommends studying international experience and looking for ready-made solutions. As an example she cited Brazil's city of Curitiba, which is claimed to be the most environmentally friendly city in the world. It has an extremely similar layout to that of Navapolatsk.
"Similar solutions [like those used in Curitiba] can be about street planning or car sharing. When you encourage people to take initiative, many issues that seem to be extremely costly can be solved in a much simpler way if we join forces", sums up the expert.
Palina Vardevanyan, member of the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers, Senior Lecturer at the Urban Planning Chair, Belarusian State Technical University