Residents of the Georgian capital Tbilisi have been waging an online campaign to rid their sidewalks of cars, in response to worsening pedestrian conditions in the city.
In a recent blog-post, Transparency International Georgia summed up the problem in the city thus:
One will often come across a situation in Tbilisi where it is virtually impossible to walk on the city’s sidewalks because of the cars parked there. While this situation makes walking in Tbilisi inconvenient for everyone, it creates particularly difficult problems for the disabled individuals moving in wheelchairs as well as for the people carrying children in strollers.
According to Gela Kvashilava, Chairman of the Board of the Georgian NGO ‘Partnership for Road Safety”, who spoke to the author in July of this year, the problem is exacerbated by poor urban planning:
One fundamental issue in Georgia is planning. Even new cities in Georgia are planned around cars. We have few green spaces, an underdeveloped public transport system and no cycle lanes.
Parking in Tbilisi is currently managed by a private company, C.T. Park, which is contracted by the municipal government to implement article 37 of the Georgian Law on Road Traffic and issue fines to offenders. According to the law, parking is prohibited on sidewalks except where there are parking signs and appropriate white markings.
However, several Facebook groups set up to tackle the issue have posted pictures of clear violations of these regulations. A picture posted recently on one such group, Gaitsanit Samartskhvino Mdzgholebi (‘Introducing Shameless Drivers’), shows a car parked in the middle of a sidewalk, inviting the following exchange:
gzaze ar gaacheros trotuarzec ar daayenos aba sad waiyvano.
If you can’t park on the road and can’t park on the pavement, where are you supposed to take [your car]?
რამოდენიმე წრე დაარტყას და მოძებნოს, ან ცოტა მოშორებით გააჩეროს – სიარული რომ ეზარება ყველას. და თუ ეჩქარება – ცოტა ადრე უნდა გამოვიდეს. მაგრამ თუ დანიშნულების ადგილთან უშუალოდ 5 მეტრში ცარიელი ადგილი არ არის – ითვლება რომ ადგილი არ არის და მივაგდოთ მანქანა სადაც მოგვიხერხდება
Batoni Kacho, go round the block a few times and look, or stop a bit further away, [though] everyone’s too lazy to walk, and if you’re rushed, leave [the house] a bit earlier…If there isn’t an empty space approximately 5 metres from the final destination, then people think there’s no space and we can park the car wherever we want.
In the absence of a unified campaign, some Facebook users have taken matters into their own hands, producing stickers to slap on offending vehicles with slogans such as “I’ve parked my car on the pavement” and this one, which provides the number for C.T. Park and the police, reading:
“I’m blocking the way and forcing children, the elderly, people with limited mobility and anyone on foot to have to walk around me!”
There is even a website, Ruli.ge, which is collecting information about serious violations of parking and traffic laws and naming and shaming bad parkers in online articles. The website's leadership confirmed to this author that they do not contact police in connection with the violations.
So far, there has been no public response from the Mayor of Tbilisi on the issue of illegal parking, despite the fact that the recently-elected incumbent, Davit Narmania, has spoken publically about revising the contract with C.T. Park. Although the city authorities seem to want to ‘park’ the issue for now, Tbilisi’s frustrated pedestrians clearly do not.