The allocation of road space to different users was not a major problem in 20th century Tirana, because the main modes of transport used were “bicycles and horse-drawn carts, often with elaborately carved wooden cabins” (Carter 1986, p.277). As late as 1992, “cars behaved as bicycles, swerving to avoid the pedestrians” and bicycles used “whichever side of the road they liked” (De Waal 2005. p.38).
We are now in 2015 and there are 300,000 cars in Tirana, all of them asking for road space. Fortunately, the city has taken measures to ensure that these cars do not take up ALL the space available.
Many of the boulevards that line the city now have a wide median strip which is off-limits to motorised traffic (Could this be a solution for London’s Seven Sisters Road?).
Strangely, some of these median strips are also designated as off-limits to pedestrians, although this seems to be only in theory. And in practice, some motorised modes of transport such as motorbikes use the strips as well.
The Ecovolis bike share system, launched in 2011, and the new cycling lanes have also contributed to the promotion of cycling, and have even been used as a way to make peaceful statements that the city belongs to all. But I am not sure if the Ecovolis system is still operating, as the photo below suggests.
I am also not sure what will happen to the median strips and the cycling lanes after the boulevards are redesigned to accommodate the new mode of transport shown below (photo from Tirana Municipality).
Often, the issue is not the allocation of space for users travelling along a road, but the design of the points where different spaces meet, for example, where pedestrian circulation is interrupted by side roads. Dropped kerbs are a solution that makes a real difference for the wellbeing of people with restricted mobility. Admittedly, these dropped kerbs seem to be much more frequent in the affluent Bllok neighbourhood than in other parts of Tirana, especially in the suburbs.
The continuity of the pedestrian space is also interrupted by the space that private vehicles require when they are not circulating on the road. When we look at the surface quality and evenness of access to garages and pedestrian pavements in some places, it seems that priority has been given to the former. In other places, parked cars are major obstructions to the circulation of pedestrians.
Another major problem arises at pedestrian crossings, due to the traffic regulations. Albania is one of those countries where vehicles are allowed to turn from all directions when it’s green for pedestrians, which is very, very, very dangerous.
The city has many users, all with different needs. This post showed some of the issues planners face to accommodate those needs using the limited road space available.
Carter, F W. (1986) Tirana (City Profile). Cities 3(4), 270-281.
De Waal, C. (2005) Albania Today – A Portrait of Post-Communist Turbulence. I.B.Tauris, London.