A site with the contents of a presentation on spatial challanges in Lublin for participants of Citython Lublin.
Presentation by Marcin Skrzypek, Forum for Space Culture programme in the „Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre. (Attention: corrections made after consulting the presentation with other people, if any, are marked red)
Challanges for participants:
- Reclaiming city streets for citizens. How traffic should be removed from the city centres considering the needs of elderly and disabled people, families?) and local entrepreneurs.
- Accessibility to urban space, public transport and mobile services, with particular emphasis on disabled and elderly people.
- Bus routes optimization through citizens engagement.
The topics of the above challanges overlap, so it will be best to refer to them step by step while characterising the main spatial features of Lublin.
First of all, we have to know, that spacial features of Lublin were determined to a great extent by landform. The city has a defensive location between two river valleys on a hill which flattens to the west, on land intersected by many dry gullies.
That is why the city centre has a linear structure starting from the Old City and going to the west, between two major car ways going in wet and dry valleys. Car traffic + the valleys separate the centre from the north and the south.
Therefore it is easy to go through Lublin along the east-west direction but difficult along the north-south one. And all city life concentrates along the axis Old Town – Krakowskie Przedmieście – Aleje Racławickie. This is our „life line”.
Here you have the beginngings of our Life Line and the defensive location of the Old City in the 18th c. and a plan showing the differences of altitude (marked black, remember the fan-like shape of the Old City as a landmark, source: WUOZ Lublin):
Now, let us compare the above information with the present day situation by Google (the „fan” of the Old City on the right + I marked the Life Line and in red barrier lines):
Post-war residential areas were planned on hills surrounding the old Lublin. That led to forming in a natural way satellite districts with their own local centres. Post war Lublin was close to the idea of 15-minute city but the realisation of this master plan was not consistent. (see the picture of Lublin post-war masterplan below). By the way, the idea of 15-minute city can be very much inspirating in the case of Lublin…
For the time being, I say that Lublin preserved its defensive location but now it „defends” itslef against surrounding dictricts 🙂
Now, let us juxtapose the above information with our public city transport system. The philosophy behind it, when it was created after the war, was to use one bus or trolley bus line at a time, because Lublin was much simpler than it is today. Since then the system developed „organically” by prolongoing some lines, bending others etc. Here is the the plan of the system from the site of Lublin city transport company (By the way, when you look at the site you will find there a very good travel planner and other useful services provided by Lublin public transport company).
Topologically it resembles a maze and we may suppose that such a network has its limitations of development.
An alterntive model of transportation system is based on changing lines and resembles a spider’s web as can be exemplified by Moscow subway system – see below (Nextnews.com). Lublin road system allows for such a solution because we have a few rings already available or being built – the next picture below („Nowy Tydzień”). What is more, the concentric transportation system fits the post-war Lublin masterplan with satellite districts surrounding the centre (picture from an interview with its author)
So the topology of the public transportation system may be the first challenge as regards „Bus routes optimization through citizens engagement”.
In this regard, it is worth paying attention that the former transit road (replaced by city by-pass) along the axis of Mazowieckiego, Solidarności and Tysiclecia avenues, that links western and easter Lublin, is used only partially by public transport, by no means to the extent that cars take advntage of it (GoogleMaps):
But as you can see on the map of Moscow subway, the lines’ network is not the only issue, here. The crucial thing for such a system to work is high quality network of nodes where you can change lines. We have such a model node at one crossing – 4 bus stops accessible by half-open stop bays, as convenient for pedestrians as possible (Google Maps):
Such a node could have been built at another place where a very important north-south car way crosses Life Line in the middle of Aleje Racławickie. But the street are now being rebuild as an average crossing (Google Maps):
Summing up, these are the features of Lublin public transportation system that weaken its competetive potential of a rival to personal car transport and it is a great challenge as regards bus routes optimisation. The more so, that public transport is in Lublin included among areas of savings for the public budget – quite recently the numer of public transport connections has been significantly reduced.
In such a way we have come to the problem of cars Vs pedestrians relations in Lublin.
First of all, we have too little useful data on car traffic in Lublin; it is not monitored enough. On the basis of press articles (Dziennik Wschodni, Kurier Lubelski) it can be estimated that in Lublin there mey be now about 240 000 passenger cars alone, 700 per 1000 people. Not counting cars „living” in Lublin but registered elswhere, student cars and those that come to the city every morning from neighbouring boroughs. That means that passenger cars alone need about 2,5 km2 of land to park in the night which equals an area of a city district. They take up another „dictrict” during the day, not counting space needed for driving, manouvering etc..
What is more, Lublin is a much sprawled city. Here is a comparison between built-up areas in Lublin and in our sister city in Germany Muenster (the leyer of buildings from OpenStreet Map, 2018):
All these factors result in a great pressure of car traffic against other users of public space. This can be observed in parking habits of drivers, in what public money is spent for and in the quality of pedestrian traffic conditions.
Generally speaking, these conditions are slowly getting better here and there, but the general policy is focused on improving conditions for car traffic with whom public transport can match less and less, and we should keep in mind that urban sprawl and natural landform barriers favour motor cars.
Here is a short, ironic story of what it is like to be a pedestrian in Lublin, made for an NGO project City for people. Lublin standards of pedestrian infrastructure (2015-2016). You will find in it examples of many problem to solve:
Before, we proceed on that subject, maybe it is a good place to say a few words about the disabled and elderly people who need more friendly space than others. Ask the organisers of Citython Lublin to send you the list of about 30 issues that people with various disabilities gave municipal office during social participation meetings.
In general, it is about many small things that should be improved everywhre around connected with unversal design as well as with special adjustments required e.g. because of Lublin landform (slopes). So there is nothing exceptional about that. So the challenge is not that good solutions are unknow of have not yet been invented. I would say, that the challenge as regards people with various disabilities (including the elderly) consists in the fact, that their needs are very often ingored or not known. Otherwise, the visible results would be different.
Here you can find more examples of spatial diffilcutlies for people on wheel chairs as well as you as contact Pieszy Lublin (Pedestrian Lublin) for more information:
To pay attention to the needs of less capable people (including children) one has to be very empathetic towards others. Personal eperience helps a lot. When I broke my leg this January and walked on crutches for a couple of months I understood that even a small unevenness or tilt of pavment surface can be an obstacle for a person who can hardly walk, not to mention e.g. lack of benches along a trail to shops. This maybe a hint as to how to meet the challenge of making public space better for people with disabilities. For example, this how a walking frame behaves on the paving in the Old Town:
And another case. I have a colleague whose wife moves on a wheelchair which he pushes. When I asked him where they like to stroll, what is their favourite trail, it turned out that there is actually the only one that meets their needs, including interesting city life and a toilet (Skarby Kultury Przestrzeni):
Why do they not go in any other direction? Because there is nowhere else to go.
And this is to some extent the problem of all pedestrians: they need not only streets for walking as such but also nice destinations they would like to go to. Lublin Life Line is very thin. The intensity of life grows as we move along it to the east and achieves its highest level in the Old Town. But at the same time the contrast grows between the quality of space and street life along the Life Line and the quality of space in the streets on both sides of it. Here is the promende, Krakowskie Przedmieście, then a street to the left, and streets to the right:
These are issues connected with revitalisation. How to push life into these spaces, how to make them attractive for entrepreneurs and their clients, „walking wallets”?
Meanwhile, when the main, representative space of Krakowskie Przedmieście and Litewski Square as well as the Old Town, all next to the Town Hall, are really nice and friendly, there are lots of other issues pedestrians have to face everywhere else:
Fortunately, we have city bikes and electric scooters that broaden the ranges pedestrians can cover and together with buses and trolleys they make the sustainable multimodal transportaion system focused on pedestrians. However, we lack enough bike lanes, especially in the centre so both bike and scooter riders use pavements disturbing pedestrian traffic. Recently especially scooters dropped everywhere are a nuisance:
During the „City for people” project we made many interesting observations that, however sketchy, can serve as an inspiration for „reclaiming city streets for citizens”. Here are some samples from a site devoted to fluency of pedestrian movement:
- pedestrian „pools” all over the city where people walk freely
- and how these areas are separated from one another
- pedestrian isochrones
- the rate of pedestrian traffic along the Life Line
Isochrones deserve a few words of commentary. Pedestrian isochrones are lines of maximum distance one can walk in all directions from a given point in a given time. As a model for our isochrones we took a distance covered in half an hour along the Life Line from the Old Town, i.e. the most pleasant walk that does not seem too long. In ideal conditions isochrones should be maximally large and round. Where obstacles occur, the circles are deformated: you need more time to cover the same distance or, in other words, you cannot go equally far in the same time.
You can find more interesting and more exhaustiing data at GIS-Expert blog, the sites of a company that process statistic data on maps. You can ask them for help, they will be only too happy to give you more hints if only they can. Here are two samples (also based on isochrones): pedestrian accessibility of bus stops and kindergartens:
At the end, I would like to to take you for a walk through Lublin centre. First, examples of what people on wheel chairs have to face:
- The Old Town is not accessible by any lift
- A ramp to a public toillet was designed only from one side of the bank
- Most of entrances to shops and offices in the centre have steps, but how to solve this problem in sich a way as not to build ramps everywhere?
The Solidarności avenue, a part of the former transit road mentioned above, which connects western Lublin with the centre, does not have pavement and bike lane along its all length and works as a barrier between the centre of Lublin and the district of Czechów on the north:
The Niecała street which some inhabitants would like to turn into a woonerf. It is a dead end street ending up at the slopes of the hill where the centre of Lublin is located (the roads going downwards is Solidarności avenue and the 3 Maja street):
A larg new office building in the Spokojna street that has dead-looking first floor but invites people inside. A characteristic thing of many shopping centres that seem to be turned back from the streets:
The Krótka street, another chance for a woonerf or even a fully pedestrin street, and wide pavements of the Krakowskie Przedmieście street. They are worth better treatment but now are narrowed by incorrect position of poles with chains (separating people from trees):
Various problems with parking in the centre Vs quite „human” and full of life broad and narrow streets turned into car storage magazines. By the way, it is worth noticing that bad parking is the matter of bad habits that are tolerated, little action againts the is taken. Therefore restaurant owners on a photo below took action themselves and put flower pots to block parking on the pavement:
The Old Town where everybody wants to show and organise everything and its neglected or sub-standard surroundings. There is a problem of finding more public space in the centre, especially so that vitality of this tip of the Life Line could spread around:
Thank you for you attention.
Please, feel free to ask me any questions.
Marcin Skrzypek, marcin(at)tnn.lublin.pl