Last week, during 18 and 19 February, representatives of the local authorities, businesses and mass media from Polotsk were studying the experience that Dresden has amassed in the development of public transportation and of bicycle infrastructure, as well as in the management of car flows. Despite certain technological differences, the two cities apparently have common visions of how to deal with transportation issues.
The visit occurred as part of a project that aims to provide Polotsk with the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan. Thanks to this document, which is supposed to be finalized by the end of 2016, the Polotsk authorities will be able to employ a set of measures that can improve the quality of the public transportation, facilitate creation of bicycle lanes, and resolve the problems associated with traffic jams and parking spots.
The initiative started in spring 2014. The European Union finances the project, while Polotsk District Executive Committee and Interakcia Foundation act as partners in its implementation.
Speaking about Dresden, the first attempt to make moving around the capital of Lower Saxony more convenient for the city’s citizens was made in the 70s’. And recently, in November 2014, Dresden approved its Mobility Plan, which is similar to that document that is now being developed for Polotsk.
German experts that hosted the meeting represented the Department of Transport Development Planning, Technical University and the so-called Round Table (Runder Tisch) on urban mobility issues, while Burgomaster (Deputy Mayor) of Dresden Jörn Marx opened the meeting.
The Belarusian delegation was headed by Deputy Chairman of Polotsk District Executive Committee Aliaksandr Mikhalevich. The delegation also included specialists from the Department of Architecture and Construction, Land Use Planning Office of Polotsk District Executive Committee, as well as of the Polotsk Capital Construction Board.
The German experts paid special attention to the issue of how citizens can improve the quality of transportation, since any mobility plans have to be created precisely for urban residents, on the basis of their preferences. More than 30 various public and business organizations joined the Dresden’s Round Table on urban mobility issues. Just like the city authorities, they were qualified to discuss and devise solutions to the city’s transportation problems.
Also, public debates on a special web platform were conducted after the final version of the Plan had been prepared. Thanks to these debates, Dresden residents submitted more than 1000 proposals and comments how to build new roads, improve the work of the city’s trams, and create bicycle lanes. The city authorities also received hundreds of proposals during informal conversations with citizens in the so-called “Red Pavilion”. The latter was installed for a week in one of Dresden’s central squares. Visitors that came to the “Red Pavilion” could study the Mobility Plan and ask questions to representatives of the municipality who were responsible for transportation development of Dresden.
The project which is currently realized in Polotsk also presupposes active civic participation in the development of a strategy for dealing with the city’s transportation problems. Precisely for this end, the Public Working Group was established, which is analogous to the Round Table that existed in Dresden. Today the Group has participants from several public associations, the bicycle shop Drive and the cycling rental Velo-Garazh, the radio station Evropa Plus Polotsk: all in all, there are more than 10 participants in the Group. However, it is still open to all relevant organizations and just active citizens.
The German experts also told about some innovative methods they applied to curb traffic jams and improve the work of public transportation vehicles. For example, in order to preclude trucks from getting into the central parts of Dresden, a special map was created for truck drivers: in this map each road entrance to the city “is accompanied” with factories that drivers might look for. And Dresden residents have an opportunity to report about delays in the work of the public transportation system or about any other problems it might have. In order to submit such reports the citizens can use specialized “phone booths”. By the way, the major mode of transportation in Dresden is a tram. Trams operate in Dresden 24 hours a day: during the day the average interval between arrivals is 10-15 minutes, and during the night the average interval is 1 hour.
“Of course, Dresden and Polotsk have many differences, for instance, in population. More than 500 thousand people live in Dresden, while Polotsk has around 85 thousand residents. However there are some aspects we have in common. The general public has been participating in the development of the Mobility Plans both in Dresden and Polotsk. And thanks to this visit, we have understood how we can classify more effectively proposals by the Public Working Group in Polotsk. Besides, we will try to apply Dresden’s experience in running an online platform where Polotsk residents will be able to suggest and discuss measures that can eliminate transportation problems,” noted Anton Radniankou, Interakcia Foundation's Project Manager who is directly coordinating the development of sustainable urban mobility in Polotsk.