|GP: Putting the brakes on the traffic, Sibiu - Romania|
Romania’s accession to the EU is intended to be accompanied by a cultural sensation: Sibiu (also called Hermannstadt in German) and Luxembourg are to share the title of Cultural Capital of Europe in two years’ time. Sibiu is also making a bid to join UNESCO’s World Heritage List based on its historic Old City. That decision is expected in 2006. And by then the latest Romanian-German project should also be implemented, which is to put traffic-calming measures in place in Sibiu’s historic Old City.
Since the end of the 1990s GTZ has been working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to help Sibiu rehabilitate its ‘Old City’ district. All that time GTZ has been advising local inhabitants who want to protect their dwellings against further decay and to rehabilitate them step by step. The public squares, their access routes and staircases, and the city walls and gates in the historic heart of the city also had to be rebuilt. The rehabilitation and rebuilding of the public spaces is accompanied by re-directing the traffic. Too many cars and trucks were driving through the city and taking short cuts through the narrow lanes. The picturesque squares in the heart of the city were full of parked vehicles and some of the through traffic was also rumbling through the centre. A KfW subsidy of one and a half million euros administered by GTZ is therefore being spent in equal parts on the rehabilitation of (a) dwelling houses and social facilities and (b) the public spaces.
“There are no doubts any more about the concept of traffic-calming in the Old City: vehicles are no longer allowed to drive through the historic Old City, and the parking spaces on the squares are being either removed or significantly reduced,” says Steffen Mildner, who has been managing the GTZ Office in Sibiu for the last five years. Already we have been largely successful in keeping most of the traffic out of the Old City. The new era is kicking off with a new system of one-way streets, streets with traffic-calming measures, playstreets, zones with a 30 km/h speed limit, short-term parking spaces and residents-only parking. At the beginning it was difficult to get the authorities and local residents to accept the integrated Old City rehabilitation. “An Old City with life in it means more than beautiful buildings,” says Steffen Mildner, referring to the integrated rehabilitation of public spaces, the infrastructure and traffic. This also includes revitalising and promoting retail business.
The initial reservations of local residents and motorists about far-reaching measures has now given way to the understanding that a forward-looking plan will improve the image of this historic city.
According to experts at GTZ, Sibiu and its traffic-calming measures stand up very well to international comparison. The underlying concept was also the subject of discussions held with representatives of UNESCO and the government of Luxembourg. They all agreed that if Sibiu becomes the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007, the city must be able to present itself and to receive visitors. And that includes properly organised parking and keeping cars out of the Old City.
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