How to make sure there are equal opportunities for all members of the society to have influence over public transport? One of the main objectives of a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan is to offer all citizens such transport options that enable access to key destinations and services. The balance between professional groups, different age groups, gender and accessibility was kept in mind in the SUMP process in Vilnius.
Aurelija Babiliute, Chief Specialist in Vilnius Healthy Cities Bureau, thinks it is important to count every possible opinion. Balance - regardless of whether this is about the balance between men and women, children and adults or the healthy and the disabled - means seeing transport issues from each and every angle.
Gender is one of the most complicated questions. “On a professional level, gender shouldn’t be an issue”, Babiliute says. “There are certain professional fields that are male-dominated. But if the person is open-minded, it shouldn’t make a difference.” And why not test bus stops, sidewalks, parking areas and safety with mothers – or fathers - taking young children to day-care or the grocery store!
In Lithuania, there is a special difference between the older and younger generations. Many users of public transport had a habit of using such services during the Soviet period. “It is sometimes difficult for them to see why younger generations are so enthusiastic about high technology, or buying cars. It seems to be a goal for the younger generations.”
Children form the majority of bicycle users in Lithuania. So far, cycling has not been a major mode of transport in the cities. “There are problems related to safety, and not enough parking lots for bicycles near the school yards. We need to take that into account in planning, and encourage children by already starting the education in kindergartens and schools.”
In Vilnius, the disabled have also been heard in public meetings. Their special needs are always kept in mind when planning new things. “It is sometimes difficult in older parts of the city because of lack of space. For example, we can’t really change much at the Unesco World Heritage site.”
Photo: City of Vilnius