The city of Vilnius has launched its new traffic plan in order to better manage traffic in its historic centre, the Old Town. From the 7 July 2020 onwards, vehicles can only navigate the city in four loops that cover the entire historic city centre. Introduction of the new traffic plan is to reduce transit traffic through the city centre and improve overall liveability.
Currently, 40% of traffic in the Old Town consists of transit traffic. In some streets of the Old Town (Rūdninkai, Klaipėda, Bokštas), transit traffic makes up more than 70% of traffic during the morning peak. The traffic and congestion, noise and air pollution and increased risk of accidents which result from this traffic, destroy the unique heritage of the Old Town and pose a severe strain on the overall quality of life within it.
In order to counter these negative impacts and keep the heart of the capital clean, safe, comfortable for people's lives and leisure activities, the city of Vilnius has introduced a new traffic plan which will cut back through traffic in the Old Town. Cars cannot dominate the most sensitive and beautiful part of our city – Vilnius is choosing to be a city of the future now,” said Remigijus Šimašius, the Mayor of Vilnius about the new plan.
Under the new traffic plan, residents and visitors of the Old Town will continue to be able to drive to their homes, workplaces and attractions, but will not be able to cross the Old Town. All vehicles, with the exception of public transport vehicles, are only allowed to move around in loops, which have been created in four zones covering the entire Old Town. Each zone has one main entrance and one or two exists. Traffic in each loop is one-way only, regulated by traffic signs, barriers and a 20 km/h speed limit. The Old Town area will also be accessible via smaller streets, but they will also belong to one of the four loops.
Getting used to the new situation
Navigating the city will require drivers some getting used to. In order to make it easier for drivers to remember the routes, the Old Town is divided into four coloured zones according to the loops: brown (Trakų St. zone), orange (Islandijos St. zone), purple (Subačiaus St. zone) and blue (Latako St. zone).
According to Vilnius Deputy Mayor Vytautas Mitalas, it is important to plan the route in advance, but finding the right zone and entrance should be easy. Information about the zones is available online and at the entrance of the zones and make it easy to determine the zone and entrance required to reach a destination. In addition, GPS navigation apps will be able to assist drivers to find the best route.
Mitalas states, “The most important thing is not to hurry and drive through the residential area at the set speed (20 km / h) in order to keep up with the road signs. And if you made a mistake and entered the wrong zone, just calmly leave it in the prescribed direction and travel to the correct zone. Or just leave the car in the parking lot and cover the remaining distance on foot from one area to another, while walking and admiring the Old Town.”
Šimašius adds that, “All changes require understanding and patience. We will help you to understand the new map of the Old Town, so I ask Vilnius residents to be patient – at first, you may be unable to find the right entrance or you will make a wrong turn, but we will not be able to even imagine the appeal of the Old Town without these changes after a while, just like now we cannot understand how smoking was once allowed in restaurants”