Urban planning Should the Esplanades even be made completely car-free? According to the Demars and the Greens, the expansion of the Helsinki pedestrian center is progressing too slowly

The city government, which will meet on Monday, will take a position on what kind of city center Helsinki is wanted.

Helsinki the improvement of walking conditions in the city center is gaining momentum after years of silence.

The city government will take a position next Monday on expanding the pedestrian areas in the city center.

The addition of pedestrian streets in the city center was one of the flagship projects agreed by the political groups at the beginning of this term. However, the development work froze at the stage when the Coalition Party was left alone to support the central tunnel in the autumn of 2019.

At the time, the council’s second and third largest parties, the Greens and the Social Democrats, found each other as burials in the central tunnel.

The two groups are currently discussing how Monday’s city government could add ambition to the design of the pedestrian center.

Deputy Mayor of Helsinki Nasima Razmyar (sd) is tormented by a sticky pace of development.

“Already four years ago, the studies included various analyzes of the North and South Esplanades, for example. They are not on the agenda of the city government. Personally, I assume that they need to be added to the conclusion, ”Razmyar says.

Helsinki’s Deputy Mayor Nazima Razmyar (sd) wants the Esplanadi area to be one of the sites to be explored in the expansion of the pedestrian center.­

Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki (Green) says the fate of the Esplanades has been under discussion for years. The development of the South Harbor area makes Esplanade Park meaningful in a new way: it is the route that visitors take in the city center towards the South Harbor.

“We will be making a presentation urging designers to think of more comfortable, better and more sustainable solutions in the center. We are already lagging behind in the development of walking projects in European and American cities, ”says Sinnemäki.

At least three different options have been proposed for the esplanades, which would make it possible to develop the pedestrian areas of the city center to be more comfortable.

One option would be to turn the North Esplanade into a pedestrian area and divert car traffic to the South Esplanade so that it would become two-way. Another option would be to narrow one lane away from both Esplanades. The third option was the most drastic, in which vehicle traffic would be completely cut off.

Razmyar believes that in the new preparation, officials will still find new solutions to improve the comfort of this key area.

“It needs to be added to the decision to analyze the different options in the Esplanade area such as the number of lanes and parking arrangements,” Razmyar says.

Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki (Green) estimates that Helsinki has lagged behind in the development of pedestrian areas compared to European capitals.­

Demareiden and the idea of ​​the Greens is now to give officials a call for planning, the results of which would be decided next autumn in the new city council.

According to Sinnemäki, the Esplanades are of key importance in the review, but there is a desire to develop the walking space in the center of Helsinki more widely.

Razmyar is in favor of now moving towards a “truly walkable European-style center” with greenery, terraces and cafes. It is important that cars continue to have access to the city center and that there are enough parking spaces.

He has previously estimated in an HS interview that there will also be a reduction in mileage For the benefit of the future museum activities of the South Harbor.

City government The table also currently contains a proposal to concentrate port operations in the West Harbor and Katajanokka so that the port operations in the South Harbor would be divided between the two. Demarit has supported the construction of the Länsisatama traffic jam in the harbor tunnel towards Länsiväylä.

According to Razmyar, different options for traffic arrangements in the city center could also be boldly tried.

“Usually the mayor Jan Vapaavuori is looking for international examples on various issues, but here (the development of a walking center) we are really careful, ”Razmyar smiles.

He thinks last summer’s walking experiment in Kaivopuisto was doomed to failure. Concrete piglets delimited motorists on a fairway that wasn’t properly connected to anything.

“Yes, the experiment will fail if it is desired. Experiments with better chances of success could also be made, ”says Razmyar.

The Esplanade Park is asleep in the peace of winter. In summer, it is one of the busiest meeting places in the city center.­

Last officials prepared to think pruning car lanes not only on the Esplanades but also on Kaivokatu and the southern end of Mannerheimintie.

None of these projects progressed because, according to HS, the design machinery was not authorized by the city chancellery. The Coalition Party, led by Vapaavuori, froze these openings.

In the fall of 2019, the Urban Environment Board approved a long list of ideas for developing a pedestrian center without a center tunnel. Vapaavuori exercised the right of intake, and only now raised this decision to the city government.

Razmyar is pleased that a lot of new things have now been taken into account in the performance, such as the plans for Elielinaukio and Kaivokatu.

“But the ambition of the floor show isn’t enough,” Razmyar says.

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