Reflection / CityToolbox
Rijeka ECoC2020 / rediscovering own city post-COVID
The unusual situation we have all been facing since the beginning of 2020 has opened up many unexpected opportunities in cities around the world. The great change has been noticed in public spaces, as they have become less occupied, almost empty. In particular, the streets that are normally crowded with cars have become more accessible to different user groups.
As the public transport system has also been reduced or even completely absent, people have started to use bicycles and other alternative means of transport to commute. What had been desirable for many years in terms of sustainable mobility has now developed with ease and positive experiences in a very short time. Even in cities where, for example, cycling was not developed for specific reasons, as in the case of the Croatian city of Rijeka, people noticed new patterns of behaviour in terms of mobility as the bicycle was used more often. It is reported that bicycles are hard to buy in Europe today, as cycling is experiencing a kind of renaissance. Above all, with more free time also urban sports such as skating, running, jogging, etc have become more evident. On the other hand, walking the dog was in some places considered a privilege.
What has really been experienced as a privilege is an opportunity to see how our public spaces can function differently, how they can offer citizens much more if only the hierarchies change a little.
Future of mobility
Rijeka is a very attractive and interesting city from many points of view – the combination of port and old town, the crazy topography with modern skyscrapers, the sea view, and above all the friendly people. However, car traffic in Rijeka seems to be a burden since too much valuable public space is occupied by cars, such as the large parking lot in the Delta area. In a city with such a dynamic topography and insufficiently developed public transport system, dependence on the car seems a logical answer, but how can this be changed? Could walking and cycling be better developed and encouraged? Could we imagine Rijeka becoming a bicycle-friendly city by 2030?
For many people from Rijeka, cycling simply does not seem to be an option, as even walking in some directions is quite strenuous. Nevertheless, there are places and parts of the city that have the predisposition for this kind of improvement, like the flat narrow stripe along the coast, the already mentioned Delta area, but also the area along the canyon of Rječina river. The latter could be developed as an experimental mobility zone where many alternative concepts could be tested. Biking along Ružićeva Street towards Hartera and on the way back riding along the Vodovodna Street – such a route was mentioned to be used on weekends by a few families with kids from Rijeka, because there is not much traffic, not too many parked cars and the terrain is flat. Even the air temperature in summer is a few degrees lower than in the centre due to the configuration of the gorge and the river. This area could develop into an attractive place for urban recreation and cycling. With improvements in the infrastructure, including basic signalling for cycling, bicycle stands, bicycle rental, a bicycle polygon for children to learn to manoeuvre the bike better, a pump track and other small things, all generations could be invited to use the bike more often. Especially for the development of tourism, this and other mentioned areas could be connected by bicycle routes, which would then also be used daily by local people. In the medium term, the city of Rijeka would be relieved of car traffic, and if we can only imagine using e-bikes, the whole city would become more accessible and bicycle-friendly. There are already many active citizens' groups in Rijeka, but also the so-called Transition Initiative movement (Tranzicijska Inicijativa Rijeka), which works to promote cycling in Rijeka and organises bicycle repair cafés such as Biciklopopravljaonica.
Urban sport and leisure
The area along and around the canyon Rječina in the districts Skoljić and Sušak in Rijeka offers many possibilities for sports, recreation and leisure. You burn calories by taking the stairs to Trsat castle, walking towards old Mlin Žakalj, climbing the cliffs above the river canal, running along the river in loops – from the sea to the mountains, canoeing on Rječina when the water level is high enough, etc. The area is situated in the immediate vicinity of the old town centre of Rijeka, but because of many old and dilapidated industrial buildings, and also because of the proclaimed "bad reputation" of certain parts, the area is not recognised as a place that the inhabitants of Rijeka or visitors would normally visit. With an appropriate urban renewal, the area could become a very attractive place in the city, as it has some remarkable landscape features and a rich history. It could also offer new experiences in terms of leisure time, such as the old aqueduct could become a new elevated High Line or a special exploration area with thematic guided tours. The existing aqueduct includes many cave-like spaces that could be used for relaxation or other community activities. A symbolic ´base camp` or ‘mountain hut’ at the end point (near Marganovo big hall) could provide a meeting point and the access to the natural background of Rijeka. A unique Titanic-like moment can already be experienced on a deck above the aqueduct, with a special view of the sea, the viaduct, the Trsat Castle…
However, much more could be done, for example by improving the asphalt to make it smoother. Parts of this area could become a paradise for skaters, as there is enough space for their activities. A playground for kids would bring all generations to this hidden gem. It could be organised as a DIY playground where they could learn and play through various activities. A walk with the dog with supporting pet waste infrastructure would be amazing. Additional seating would provide a better experience and support for walks for older people. A bit of care and infrastructure, a bit of greenery and human touch and this ´post-industrial park` would be something worth experiencing!
All photos (c) Kiki Vuckovic, 2020
Rijeka 2020 - European Capital of Culture (ECoC)
CTB Lab 03 Rijeka
Third iteration of CTB-Lab (Octobre 2019 - Octobre 2020) driven by the question: How to use hallmark-events (such as prestige ECoC title) to address the urban challenges systematically left behind or dimmed by entertainment spectacles, cosmetic infrastructural improvements and urban marketing? | ›