Ljubljana transport policy at the crossroads

In the last months we have been observing the construction and the initial operation of a modernised crossroads of Poljanska and Roška streets in Ljubljana. The crossroads came into existence as a kind of testing ground for different solutions gathered in the new guidelines for designing transport facilities in the city, which have been presented in the proposal for transport policy in the City of Ljubljana.

The crossroads is designed without any height differences and the pedestrians are lead through it on one level. Cyclists and pedestrians cross it in a straight line and the car lane for turning right, which can be very dangerous, has been abolished. Furthermore the green traffic light for pedestrians and cyclists lights up a bit earlier than the one for cars. There is also extra space for those cyclists waiting to turn left, which leaves enough space for those riding straight on. Yes, cyclists need extra space to make way for each other, and it is inconceivable that the left-turning lane for cars has been so logical and that it has been impossible to expect the same for cyclists, although not more than a bit of insight and good will is needed.

As users we are delighted and enthusiastic about the novelty. We hope that this is only the first serious step towards better transport facilities in the capital. Being additionally an important point in the last segment of the so-called inner ring, which is expected to have a great impact on city’s traffic flows, this completely reorganised crossroads is considered a big step.

However, if things end with this crossroads we will not come far. Literally. On the west side Poljanska streethas been renewed up to Ambrožev square, but from there on there is no cycle lane, the sidewalks are too narrow and often blocked by parked cars. On the east side there are cycling lanes, but almost no sidewalks. The new bridge on the north side is being built without cycle lanes and will in some years – considering the anticipated measures of the new transport policy – be the only point in the inner ring without bicycle lanes. On the south sideRoška streetcontinues with three car lanes and trees on both sides, a sidewalk and a cycle lane. Still, the sidewalk and the cycling lane are very narrow, especially on the east roadside. From the crossroads withStreliška streetonwards the cycling lane is wider, but has two-way traffic only on one side. On the 870 metres long segment from Poljanska street to Karlovška street there are only two crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, which is one in 290 metres on average. For a car that may be no distance, but for a pedestrian it means 5 extra minutes!

Therefore it is of crucial importance that, simultaneously with the redesign of the mentioned crossroads,Ljubljanahas for the first time got also a proposal for an integrated transport policy. It should direct all future decisions in relation to mobility in the city. The transport policy of the City ofLjubljanais setting itself a high aim: a drastic change of the modal split in favour of cycling, walking and public transport. The guidelines accompanying the policy document are also a welcome novelty.

The fact that the state of things is changing both on the level of implementation as well as of planning strategies and rules is surely a good thing. In spite of that some well-intentioned concerns in relation to the proposed transport policy have sprung up and will be highlighted below.

The main problem we have identified is a very loose connection between the objectives and the proposed measures of the transport policy. The modal split is to a great extent determined by daily mobility in theLjubljanafunctional region and the city as a whole; consequently all trips in the city centre are only a small proportion of all trips. Although walking and cycling are essential in the city centre, the transport policy has to be conceived more ambitiously, if it is to achieve its general aim. Not only the city as a whole, the whole functional region has to be taken into consideration. The current proposal is rather weak in this point.

Several good studies on public transport have been conducted in Ljubljana and its region, which are left out of consideration in this proposal. If the main objective is meant seriously, one of the first measures should be realisation of fast and efficient public transport, such as trams or buses on priority lanes. The extension of bus routes to the neighbouring municipalities is highly welcome, but a prompt effect would be achieved with immediate introduction of separate yellow lanes and progressive introduction of priority lanes for public transport.  A redesign of public transport routes in the city centre cannot be considered a sufficient measure in this regard.

In addition to a lack of ambition in the approach to public transport planning we found also a few other weaknesses related to sustainable mobility. First, with regard to cycling a clear picture of the main cycling lanes connected into a system is missing. And second, walking should be planned while paying attention to all city quarters equally – most ofLjubljana’s residents do not live in the city centre.

The possibility of turning the city centre into a pedestrian-friendly theme park, which you could reach with your own car (and park it there cheaply – hidden underground) is not consistent with the stated objectives. If the transport policy is meant for the city as a whole the centre has to be well connected to other districts in compliance with the suggested mobility pyramid where pedestrians, cyclists and public transport have priority. The inner ring should be considered as a connection of the centre to other parts of the city and not as a transport corridor that separates the centre from the rest of the city. The crossroads of Roška and Poljanska streets is an excellent and determined step in the right direction, but do we dare to expect a march?

Read more:

Original article on ipop.si: http://ipop.si/2012/01/24/krizisce-za-prometno-politiko/

Article on kolesarji.org: http://kolesarji.org/novo-krizice-sporno-nekaterim-strokovnjakom/

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