Zhytomyr Returns Space Occupied by Cars to People
On 13th of November the new traffic scheme has been implemented in Zhytomyr. The city conducted a bold urban pilot project converting a 10 thousand square meters of asphalt into a two-lane traffic circle.
Sobornyi square in Zhytomyr can serve as a symbol of transformation, which Ukrainian cities have to go through in order to reach more democratic and more sustainable future. The act can be seen as an attempt to shift from the typical Soviet main square good for parades to a liveable urban street. But it seems not to be easy to change a mind-set of some of the residents. People split down the middle on the issue of traffic scheme, ironically, located right in front of where the Lenin used to stay before 2014.
Dmytro Tkachuk, the deputy-mayor for infrastructure comments: “This is a showcase, a temporary traffic scheme but it is more than a form of movement. This is an injection for new mind-set where people respect each other and where each resident has an equal right for a city”.
Earlier this year city administration conducted an Urban Intervention - Sobornyi PARKing Day - transforming a quarter of a square into a public space for two days. The traffic scheme was not implemented at that time since the police banned the transformation. Ironically, two weeks later II Belarus-Ukraine forum took place in Zhytomyr. The square has served as a showroom for Belarusian agricultural machinery.
Sobornyi square is the main square of the city located in the city center. The area of the square is over 10 thousand square meters covered by asphalt. About 3 to 5 times a year the square is used for public events when it is closed for traffic, otherwise it serves as a roadway. In 2018 city of Zhytomyr has announced an all-Ukrainian city planning competition for the reconstruction of Sobornyi and Peremohy square. The winning concept has been presented in May 2019 and being discussed since then.
From 21 to 22 September, Zhytomyr's main square became an active public space. The idea of the Sobornyi PARKing Day was to invite the residents of Zhytomyr to talk about what the central square should look like. As part of the event, residents of Zhytomyr learned about the proposals to reorganise public space and enlarge pedestrian zone in the city center. The residents participated in the discussions of the square reorganisation, could sign petition supporting reorganisation and took part in a photo flash mob “I am for/against Sobornyi PARKing”. The focal event was a public discussion “Is Sobornyi - a Square or a Road?”
From 13th of November and for six month the square will serve as a test ground, using vacated from car movement space for public engagement and participation activities.
By Olena Chernyshova; for more information please contact Martin Schäfer.