|GP: Campaign against new public garages in center of Zagreb - Croatia|
Zagreb has 786.200 residents and 11 public garages in historical center with 3721 parking spaces. That amount of garages is enough, and no new ones are necessary. Based on the number of the inhabitants, Zagreb has more places in public garages in center of the city than some of the other European capital cities, like Vienna, Amsterdam or Stockholm. In the existing public garages in center of Zagreb, each parking place is used 3,5 – 4,9 times, mostly between 8 and 18 o’clock. That means that if a new garage with 500 parking places would be constructed in center of Zagreb, there would be over 2000 cars using that garage every day, mostly in peak hours. That would cause increscent of car-traffic and additional transport problems in the already congested area, with clear reduction of the air-quality.
On fortunately, Zagreb municipality is fostering construction of several new public garages in center. Because of that, environmental organization Zelena akcija – Friends of the Earth Croatia, started campaign against new public garages in center. After several smaller activities, there were two more media visible protest actions at the end of 2006, regarding the construction of two public garages. Back then, only minority of citizens and passers-by understood the reasons for opposing new garages in center, while most of them were supporting the idea of construction. That was a clear sign for Zelena akcija that they have to start big campaign of educating citizens on sustainable transport solutions. People were supporting the garages because there weren’t familiar with the alternatives, such as Park&Ride, car-sharing, public bicycles, and possibilities of better organization of public transport. So Zelena akcija decided to promote those ideas as an alternative to the garages.
In the same time, the new citizen initiative called Right of the City has just started to have it’s first activities. Primal goal of that initiative was to stop construction of the project “Cvjetni prolaz” near Flower square (Cvjetni trg) in the historic center of Zagreb. There were many reasons for opposing the project, but three of them were the most important:
Considering that two of those problems (public garage and reduction of pedestrian zone) were in focus of Zelena akcija’s activities, it was logical step to establish close partnership between Zelena akcija and Right of the City. After couple of events, in 2007 they have started the petition Stop the Devastation of Cvjetni trg which included four demands:
- stopping the Cvjetni prolaz project
- careful reconstruction and revitalization of blocks in the historic city center, respecting public interest and opinion
- stopping plans to construct new public garages in the historical center
- expanding the pedestrian zone
Within a two month period 54,500 signed the petition, making it the largest local petition ever in Croatia.
The campaign also resulted in the creation of Green Action’s Council for Urban Planning which gathered architects, sociologists, transport engineers, and economists for discussions and information sharing. During the campaign, a wide network of urban planning experts, NGO activists, public persons, art-historians and regular citizens was created. This coalition has organized many media-attractive protest actions and panel discussions, published several publications on transport and urban planning, and became one of the well-known citizen initiatives in Croatia.
Campaign is still lasting; even it was originally planned for the project Cvjetni prolaz to be finished in 2008, to this very moment it is far from being over. On fortunately, historic buildings were crushed down in Summer 2009. It is likely that the project will be partially done some time in the future, but it will be different than originally imagined. One of the biggest differences is that it will be smaller, and will had garage with less than 400 parking places, which will cause less transport problems than the big garage that was planned at the beginning. Location of the entrance in the garage is still dubious, and activists are determined to stop the idea for entrance to be in the pedestrian zone.
One of the biggest achievements of the campaign is that majority of citizens is against new public garages in the center of Zagreb, which is huge change compared with situation 3 years earlier. It is also important to say that since start of this campaign, no similar project with this level of harm has started. Except that, on 2007 City officials were announcing several locations for new garages in the center of Zagreb, and now they gave-up from most of them, fostering only one - under the Marsal Tito square. Public has reacted negatively on the idea of construction under that square, and it is likely that Zelena akcija and Right of the City will start the campaign against that garage, and supporting the alternative location 250 meters further, near Klaićeva street, where it wouldn’t cause big transport problems.