Helsinki is known for its spacious parks and walking areas. Although the city is relatively small, green areas cover as much as 47% of its territory. Because of the small population size with just over 600,000 residents, this green comfort has been maintained relatively easy over the past decades. Unfortunately, all predictions point to rapid raise in number of citizens in the coming years, which calls for city planners to come up with ways to keep these green areas intact.
The latest proposal comes from Rikhard Manninen the head of the city’s Strategic Urban Planning Division. He thinks that the best strategy to lower carbon emissions, and reach the ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, is for the city to go car free. This is the only way in which all emissions that the city produces will equal the maximum carbon that the city green areas and surrounding forests can absorb.
The new concept is called “boulevardisation“, where inner-city motorways will be turned into green residential boulevards. This does not mean that cars will be banned, but rather that all public services should be brought up to speed, and discourage people from using their four wheelers. The plan takes into account greater improvement of public transport, providing all necessary services within walking distance in the main neighborhoods (schools, shops, hospitals), and of course, increasing parking charges.
It is quite a major step for Helsinki to take, especially considering that by 2050 the city is expected to have 40% more citizens. Of course, the idea also meets quite a strong opposition by people, who simply cannot comprehend that they can leave their cars behind. Many call the goal unrealistic and oversized, especially since the city is continuously expanding.
However, everyone agrees that the first and foremost issue to be addressed in order to cut down emissions, would be traffic. Currently, it accounts for 20% of the total emissions of the city, and therefore it is the most logical problem to be tackled first.
Image (c) Helsinki Strategic Urban Planning Division