Rent-a-bike in Tallinn, Source:

Tallinn’s cycling strategy hits snags

Tallinn’s cycling strategy hits snags

The car-free main street project has been put on hold amid growing car traffic and decreasing use of public transport in Estonia’s capital

What transport alternative would you bet on when more and more private cars fill the streets of your city while fewer of its residents use public transport? The answer seems easy but, as the saying goes, it’s easier said than done.

According to the Road Administration, the number of cars registered in Tallinn, a city with a population of 445 259, is growing by five percent every year to reach 213 677 in 2020. And while the use of cars is increasing, reliance on public transport is declining – a tendency which the pandemic has only exacerbated.

Main street project in limbo  

To address these issues and keep abreast of the growing popularity of cycling in Estonia, Tallinn adopted its biking strategy two years ago. A pivotal point in the strategy was turning the main street into a walking and cycling-only zone. Yet, the project has been put on hold.

According to Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart, the car-free Tallinn main street project is not a priority at the moment, and the presented concept is also not realistic. However, he insisted that the City Government is continuing the project.

Speaking to ERR, Kõlvart said that Tallinn is definitely moving towards creating better opportunities for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, but drivers cannot be left out. "The question is how much we can limit car traffic in a situation where the number of cars is growing every year. This is not only a trend in Tallinn, it is actually a trend in every major European city," Kõlvart observed. 

Diverting traffic from the city centre

The city is taking steps to divert transit traffic away from the city centre, said Talvo Rüütelmaa, the head of traffic management at the Tallinn Transport Board. But Mari Jüssi, a former environmental expert of the car-free main street project and one of the leading experts of the Tallinn Mobility Plan, countered that the city administration could do more to reduce car use.

"In my opinion, the main street project was one of the most thoroughly researched ventures in the last 15-20 years, and therefore its very abrupt termination was quite unexpected," Jüssi told ERR. "We see that if the city sets this goal, it is possible to reduce car use and plan on the basis that we do not increase car traffic.”



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