Not that long ago, Zagreb was two towns. Gradec, the place of gentry, and Kaptol, where the bishops ruled. They had their own buildings and streets, fields and houses, squares and stables.
Time changes, things progress and so Gradec and Kaptol gave birth to Zagreb. Back in those days, it wasn’t a big city, but slowly it descended down from the mountain slopes to the Sava valley. The first world war came, the great war, the last war, they called it. Zagreb’s population doubled after that. Many losing their homes, hoping to find a better future in the capital.
As it turned out, the ”last” war wasn’t the last war. World War Two arrived, demolishing the country, and once again, Zagreb’s population doubled. This time, socialist revolution crossed the river, and spread Zagreb in all directions. And then, on the brink of the third millenia, another war, not a ”great” war, but a more ”local” one, errupted, and doubled Zagreb’s population yet again.
To put it blankly, this city wasn’t envisioned to be a big city. Hills on one side, a river on another, Zagreb’s problem is being to close to the mountain. The main square has no real approach from the north, and the whole center above Ilica creates a traffic bottle neck no matter what time of day you happen to be travelling. You can get stuck in traffic for an hour, and in Croatia, that means you’re half way to the seaside. Complete parts of Zagreb just blocked. Snails and turtules racing the cars. In Zvonimirova, you can meet someone, date them, marry them, have kids, run away with a yoga instructor, and still not leave the damn traffic line, and it’s getting worse every year.
More cars are on the road every year, and the infrastructure is barely keeping up. And while I’m not a civic engineer or a traffic expert, I can see the collapse happening in front of my very own eyes.
Just next to my buliding is the good ol’ West train station. Being a part of the railway that divides the city more than it connects it these days, I can slowly see the traffic regulations choking the city. Every year, the line of cars next to the railway is getting longer. When I was a kid, a can barely remember cars creating a line at all.
Sometimes, when the ramp on the train crossing was down, people would wait for some time, and soon enough, they’d pass. But every year, that line was getting longer and longer. Today, it’s hundreds and hundreds of metres in length, going all the way to my builiding, keeping on blocking the parking area of the sports facility, blocking the bus station, and going all the way to the next crossing, blocking the traffic and making the traffic lights and regulations useless. For last couple of years, every day at 16:00, it looks like there’s been an accident.
And this is happening all around the city. Lines are getting longer and longer, the traffic beast is getting bigger and bigger. This city is choking to death. Public transportation and taxi services are also drowning with the rest of us. People are slowly losing their minds. These streets were not built for this, nor were the people.
I don’t have the solution, I just can’t ignore the problem anymore. I don’t take my car into the centre anymore, and I try to avoid going anywhere when work hours are over, but that’s the luxury of choice some people don’t have.
This is a problem you have to figure out a solution to on your own. And you will. The moment you choke for the first time.