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We want Gdynia to be a city of happy people

Deputy Mayor for Life Quality of Gdynia Bartosz Bartoszewicz speaks about smart city, accessibility of public spaces, sustainability and more
  • maj 23, 2019 11:30
  • Author Aseniya Dimitrova
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Źródło: City of Gdynia

Mr Bartoszewicz, you are Deputy-Mayor for life quality. This certainly is a broad concept, but could you tell us what are the main areas in which the City of Gdynia operates in order to improve its residents’ life satisfaction?

One of the key issues are relationships – both on the resident–resident and resident-city levels. We would like to develop Gdynia an empathic city that is able to read into the needs of members of the community, adapt to them by honest, good quality dialogue. As a Deputy Mayor I am directly responsible for education, healthcare system and smart city initiatives – implementing new technologies and sustainable development of the city. But the fundamental element of the strategy is to make the city open – that is why we share data and encourage citizens to participate in the decision-making processes.

One of your primary responsibilities is the supervision of the Smart city development of Gdynia. What are the goals of your administration for the next term, following the inclusion of the city in the WCCD Global Cities Registry™ in 2017, thus becoming the first one to be certified in Eastern Europe?

It is important to understand, that smart city is development based on cooperation with members of the community in order to fulfil their needs. There is no single model of smart city – every city is smart as long as it analyzes, listens to its residents, seeks optimal solutions and implements them. Receiving ISO 37120 certificate is a way, on the one hand, to measure the progress in subsequent years, on the other hand, to compare ourselves with other cities worldwide. This is also a step forward to sustainable development. We want to use new technologies as tools that allow us to accomplish our objectives, that is the quality of life of the residents and a sense of happiness. We want Gdynia to be a city of happy people. 

What smart city projects does the city boast currently?

The field of smart city is very wide so there are many projects. This includes open-data portals such as otwartedane.gdynia.pl and open portal of educational indicators, of which we are probably the first creators in the world. However, it is crucial to notice the solutions that allow the inhabitants to save time, which they can make use of for themselves and their families. Traffic management systems or the public services integration project can be found in one place, which helps to avoid searching for answers to the most frequently asked questions in various places and structures of the city. The city should help solve a problem, integrate and give a chance to establish good relations. One of such projects is a construction of a big park in the Gdynia Centre or creating a mobile urban application.

In April Gdynia was declared an Accessible city due to its compliance with the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities. Could you share the major steps and activities that the administration has undertaken to receive this recognition?

The process of implementing the social policy including the needs of all inhabitants of Gdynia started in 1999. A milestone in Gdynia’s efforts to become an accessible city was the appointment of the Mayor’s Plenipotentiary on People with Disabilities, who is responsible for creating equal opportunities for the disabled. Actions taken by the Plenipotentiary have resulted in an increase in mobility and professional activity of people with disabilities. Gdynia City Council adopted an official document entitled Accessibility Standards by a resolution in 2013. This document contains information and guidelines on how to design and develop public spaces in the city making them available for people with diverse limitations in mobility and perception – that means not only people with disabilities, but also the elderly. It sets standards of universal design and solutions used in public spaces in Gdynia.

Gdynia Central Railway Station has been modernised to meet the needs of the disabled

The city implements this strategy to build facilities that are friendly to people with disabilities who want to actively participate in various events and games with their friends and families, e.g. the National Rugby Stadium and the City Stadium have been designed in order for people with various kinds of disabilities to be able to support their team. Similarly, the Gdynia Central Railway Station has been fully modernised to meet the needs of the disabled. Facilities for people with disabilities can also be found in Gdynia’s Marina. People in wheelchairs can get to the downtown or Orłowo beaches by means of a wooden platform which can also be used by families with children or the elderly.

The great achievement of Gdynia is public transportation system, which is adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. All trolleybuses and buses are low-floor vehicles. For people who cannot use public transport, a door-to-door transport service was launched, as a specialised transport service. Specially profiled curbs which make it easier for low-floor buses to approach, making bus bays fully accessible. Apart from polymer concrete curbs, the new bays have textured tiles in contrasting colours which direct blind and visually impaired people to the entrance and warn them about getting closer to the edge of the stop’s platform. Most car parks are accessible in a similar way.

Through the Info Desk for People with Disabilities they can obtain information on their rights and privileges

Cultural institutions make their offer available to people with disabilities e.g. Music Theatre has a special system of hearing facilities and a sign language interpreter. As for the multiplex, some films are available with audio description services. During sporting events, audio description is provided for the blind. Additionally, all festivals/outdoor events are accessible to the disabled.

Gdynia runs the Info Desk for People with Disabilities where the disabled can obtain more information on their rights and privileges as well as seek advice. Moreover, some services are available online and since the website is available to blind and visually impaired users, the range of people who may use it is wide.

Gdynia is aware of the role of non-governmental organisations in increasing the level of inclusion for people with disabilities. The City maintains good relations with NGOs working for them. Their representatives take part in the Gdynia Public Benefit Council. Gdynia supports NGOs with funding and supports them in obtaining premises. Gdynia authorities were actively involved in establishing Rehabilitation Centre – Early Intervention Centre, Occupational Therapy Workshop, Personal Effects Bureau Theatre (Gdynia Creative Mangle and Gdynia Theatre Mangle) as the initiative of the Polish Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability (PSOUU), Gdynia Branch.

"The disabled are no longer treated as curiosities but as rightful citizens who can contribute to the society."

Offering accessible city infrastructure, teaching children tolerance, sensitivity and respect, realising social campaigns promoting the potential of people with disabilities as well as dynamic job activation encourage the disabled to undertake various social roles, to be active on the labour market and to start their own professional careers. All this contributes to a bigger involvement of people with disabilities in social and economic spheres of the city. The increased presence of people with disabilities also benefits the able-bodied who start to notice a real value of the disabled, respect them and regard them as equal. The disabled are no longer treated as curiosities but as rightful citizens who can contribute to the society. This new approach additionally benefits people with disabilities who have a higher self-esteem and become more and more independent.   

The 2018-2023 Barrier Free Gdynia program was designed as a continuation of previous activities, with people with disabilities and their surroundings in mind, with the awareness that disability is a matter that concerns the entire community: people with various kinds of disabilities, their families, surroundings and all those who may experience this disability at some stage of their life. Assumptions of the program were consulted with people with disabilities, entities working for people with disabilities – both institutions and NGOs – as well as based on the recommendation for the City of Gdynia produced by the monitoring team of the Helen Keller Foundation. Each topic was based on the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Moreover, within the Gdynia for All project, accessibility of city space has been evaluated in each district of Gdynia with participation of people with various kinds of disabilities, volunteers and city officials. All suggestions were recorded and used to prepare a proposal for solutions to improve the accessibility of the city space in the future.

Could you tell us more about the first Urban Lab in Poland, a city program for introducing sustainable solutions for improving the quality of life that took off in March?

UrbanLab in Gdynia is inspired by the concept of living labs – ecosystems aimed at creating innovations by bringing together people and institutions from various sectors. The main idea behind UrbanLab is to create not only sustainable solutions for the challenges we can see in our city, but to do it in a way that engages many city stakeholders and is as democratic as possible. We perceive our UrbanLab as a tool to improve the quality of life of the residents of Gdynia. It is a method of joint work whose purpose is to identify the problem, create an effective answer for it and implement the best solution while working together with public officials, residents, activists, business and other city actors. The unique approach of UrbanLab consists of looking for solutions not only with a small team of experts, but instead - granting the status of experts in the process to all to whom the potential solution could apply. ​

Finally, how do you evaluate the need for a unified online platform that aims to promote the best practices in terms of innovations and public policies from the municipalities of the European Union, like TheMayor.EU?

Networking and exchange of views are one of the best ways to implement the most effective solutions. I am very happy to participate in various conferences and meetings during which I can discuss ideas of other people, exchange experiences as well as watch innovative and bold projects in the world. We also like to experiment in various areas and willingly share the results of our research and analysis. The online urban platform can further accelerate and develop this contact, which may only be a benefit for those seeking inspirations or ready-made solutions. On the one hand, each city is different and to become smart it has to know individual needs of its inhabitants perfectly. On the other hand, most cities also deal with recurring problems and it is a good idea to use proven solutions.

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