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]?
Introducing Shameless Drivers:
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.
Thank you for writing this article! I’ve lived in Georgia for several years, and i’ve seen the pedestrian situation get worse and worse.
I recently had relatives visit from the US (relatives who’ve been to pedestrian unfriendly places such as Mexico City and Rome) and they were absolutely stunned at the disregard for pedestrian safety and access that they saw in Tbilisi.
I always wonder how many members of either the current or former government ever took public transportation or walked to work in the last ten years – I guessing not too many. I’ve seen mid-level members of the education ministry chauffeured around town. Far cry from the city I used to live in the US, where you’d see the mayor commuting to work each day on a bicycle.
Some of the absolute worst streets in Tbilisi:
1. Nutsubidze. If you’re coming off the plateau, you’re forced to just a few spartan intersections – drivers DO NOT RESPECT the crosswalks. If you don’t use the crosswalks, or if you emerge in an area not close to one, you’re forced to walk down a sidewalk where the entire way is lined with cars parked and waiting to be driven into street facing auto body shops. Terrible (non-existent) urban planning. I’ve literally seen handicapped people in motorized wheelchairs dodge the freeway-esque traffic on that street.
2. Vazha. It’s common for storefront businesses to load items via the front door at these stores. It’s also common for elderly men and delivery drivers to speed onto the sidewalks with little regard for human life or common sense. You should be thankful (I guess) if they drive towards you while cursing and blaring their horns.
3. Tsereteli. Tsereteli (outside of the Didube area) is the kind of street that an American urban planner or politician would look at and realize that some minor improvements could lead to a doubling of property values in the area. Unfortunately, Georgians don’t seem comfortable using capitalist language – if you’re not dodging missing manhole covers or sidewalks that have been blocked by construction for four years, keep an eye out for the nuts who also speed while parking on the sidewalks.
I could go on and on, but if i’m an American and I don’t like it, why do I stay? Now that I think about it…….
P.S. Nothing would infuriate an old, stodgy Soviet more than this:
great story, thanks for following & please keep up reporting on such interesting citizen initiative!
Great article. Its a situation that really needs to improve.
build parking lots and there wount be cars on side walks. build sidewalk barriers so cars can not get there. it is really an engeneering issue related to funds nothing else. I remember listening to radio show here in USA and some very smart people were saying that remember, we thought Americans were inherently bad drivers that it was people who were just uncivilized but when we built freeways and put up signs and painted roads with simetry and precision suddently Americans started to drive flowlessly (more or less) and all of a sudden people realized that it was not the peoples fault but the absence of proper roads, signs and infrastructure. If it was up to me I would LEVEL tbilisi with bulldozers and in its place build a ultra modern city based not on mens ego but on scientific reality, the carrying capacity of the enviroment and infused with modern technology where everyone is housed appropriately. I would provide housing for free for everyone. Children will have their own bathrooms and houses will change to adapt to residents needs as they change. That is a true democracy and real freedome. This what you wrote here is B.S. Bad Science. Tsodnas Gaumarjos!