In this city labs we discussed issues connected with access to green areas. We specifically looked at the perspective of vulnerable social groups, namely elderly people, children and people with disabilities. In the opening prof. Selma Šogorić that is leader of Croatian Network of Healthy Cities held and introductory lecture. Participants worked interactively whereas first they were introduced to the problems, that worked in 5 subgroups (for an hour) and followed by conclusions in big session

Virtual Place

12:00 – 12:30: prof. Selma Šogorić, Faculty of Medicine; Croatian Network of Healthy Cities: Urban mobility and access to green areas 12:30 – 13:30: sub-group discussions in 5 subgroups Challenges: green areas in the city centre; access to urban green for children; issue of concreting of urban areas; assess to green areas for people with visual impairments; access to sport facilities for athletes with disabilities

13:30-14:00 Conclusions


Start: 10.11.2021
End: 10.10.2021


City of Zagreb , Health cities network

In this city labs we discussed issues connected with access to green areas. We specifically looked at the perspective of vulnerable social groups, namely elderly people, children and people with disabilities. In the opening prof. Selma Šogorić that is leader of Croatian Network of Healthy Cities held and introductory lecture. Participants worked interactively whereas first they were introduced to the problems, that worked in 5 subgroups (for an hour) and followed by conclusions in big session.

Timetable: 12:00 – 12:30: prof. Selma Šogorić, Faculty of Medicine; Croatian Network of Healthy Cities: Urban mobility and access to green areas 12:30 – 13:30: sub-group discussions in 5 subgroups Challenges: green areas in the city centre; access to urban green for children; issue of concreting of urban areas; assess to green areas for people with visual impairments; access to sport facilities for athletes with disabilities 13:30-14:00 Conclusions

Total participants: 99 Total students: 61 Total Staff members: 20 Total representatives of societal stakeholder: 10 local professionals and 8 representatives of the City of Zagreb


The first chapter that we focused on the impact of concreting, overconstruction and the lack of green surfaces on the quality of life for children and young adults on the location of Novi Zagreb. When we're speaking of Novi Zagreb, our main focus is on the Kajzerica neighborhood where residents already noticed that the future construction on accessable green surfaces is something they want to stop. The main theme of our group focuses on the issue of concreting, and availability of green surfaces so that the residents of the neigborhood can have a place to spend their free time, as the parks which are not suitable for kids. This issue of the Kajzerica neighborhood affect the whole population, and in our work we focused on the kids and young adults whos' quality of spending free time is under a question mark. Young people are in the period of their life where they are still learning and theyr immune system is growing, so the quality of air, quality of walking surfaces, social aspect which the parks and meadows bring are very important. The dirrection of the problem is hard to control because there are laws which enable construction on accessable surfaces and a big problem are private lands on which the population doesn't have any affect, and the owners of said landa are mainly not open to suggestions and wishes of their cohabitants. Small steps can be made through activision of the population, but it is hard to do any changes without some „big“ people. As local government of this neigborhood is already familiar to the problem of the lack of green surfaces and have organized petitions in the past which brought great results, we think that could be one of the possible resources since it's clear to see that the residents are already engaged. The president of the local board of Kajzerica told us how they already sent a request for the changing of GUP (General urban plan) to fix the issue of private lands and the issue on who can have a vote on wether sufaces can be built on or not.

ACCESS TO SPORT FACILITIES FOR ATHLETES WITH DISABILITIES In the city of Zagreb there are 105291 people with disabilities and only 1% of those people train some kind of sport. People with disabilities are facing many problems in their local community such as not being included enough in areas of politics, social questions as well as support of institutions. Institutions such as social welfare centers mostly give out financial support, while it should also try to work on emotional, physical and motivational support too. However, there are 70 organizations in the area of local community Trešnjevka Jug registered for people with disabilites and they form a great potential in future work specified for this very problem.
When it comes to the problem of sport and recreative activities, there aren’t many programs and activities developed specifically for them. There aren’t enough projects concerning sport activities for people with disabilities and facilities that offer sport programs don’t have the equipment and space adjusted to the people with disabilities. Local community Trešnjevka Jug has a Sports and recreation center Jarun where a lot of sports activities are happening. However, the problem is that Jarun is not adjusted to the people with disabilities in a way that it should be. Infrastructure there is not adequate for the people with disabilities and a great example for that is that there is a ramp but it cannot be used. That is one of the reasons why people with disabilities cannot play sports there. The other reason is transport infrastructure because there aren’t any buses or trains that would connect other areas of Zagreb with Jarun so it is difficult even to just come to Jarun. And also an important part of the problem is motivation because there isn’t enough competition for the people with disabilities nor enough trainers that would help them in their sport journey. This problem comes from many needs of people with disabilities such as improving their physical and mental health social inclusion and access to green areas. Even though we are talking specifically about people with disabilities that would like to play sport this problem doesn’t just concerned them but also people who would like to come to Jarun but they are not able to because of traffic, people in local community who aren’t aware of specific problems that people with disabilities are facing with and also it concerns city managers because people with disabilities are citizens too and they should be treated equally. There are a few changes happening when it comes to the problem itself and when a project or an idea comes, it takes a lot of time and effort to implement it. That’s why this problem is quite stable through time and maybe it takes a change of values among people to then change the problem. Values considering this problem should be equality, care for people with disability, empowerment and a turn in perspective of people not sensitive enough in this very aspect. These values are usually taken for granted in our society and people still have some type of stigma towards people with disabilities, for example thinking they aren’t worthy enough or as if they cannot contribute to society well enough. When people treat this vulnerable group like they aren’t worthy enough, consequences are severe and numerous. People with disability may experience ‘learned helplessness’ which means that if someone says negative things about them, they start to believe that is true and start behave in that way, thinking they deserve how people treat them. Furthermore, that makes them less motivated to participate, to be active in their societies but also it makes them stop pursuing sport and recreation activities . The problem itself isn’t disappearing -it’s only growing and getting more severe so that is why people like us; social workers and anyone interested in the topic should promote awareness about that problem and try to find ways to solve it. There is no point in taking any action if the first thing that is changed is not other people’s perspective but also a perspective of people with disabilities. Campaigns, programs and festivals are a great way to point out the importance of people with disabilities getting rights and treatment they deserve and it also shows the need of other people seeing them as worthy-enough citizens. That means that programs such as the ones mentioned should work on changing consciousness and perspective and should bring closer life and struggles of the disabled people. Moreover, another solution would be a change in traffic infrastructure because how can people with disabilities play sports and train somewhere where they cannot even arrive at. For example, on Jarun there can be some kind of bus lines implemented from different areas of the city or there can even be organized a special transport only for the people with disabilities (maybe city management could work on that solution). Another type of action that can be done is improving infrastructure of Jarun itself. Cycling paths in that area are very narrow and not separated with a barrier from the road where cars are driving, so installing a barrier for example would make a huge difference. Also, the ramp in Jarun that was previously mentioned should be fixed and be adjusted to people with disabilities. And the last direction of action for this problem could affect motivation of people with disabilities. Even if they have a financial support for playing sports, the action should be in making them see the benefits of playing and also really deciding to pursue it and not to give up. Motivation can come from organizing various sports activities so every person could try playing what interests them. Also it is important to provide them quality and patient trainers who would motivate them even more to continue playing sports and be an additional support for them instead of an extra obstacle. Projects should be initiated and planned with a “bottom up” theoretical approach in which the main factors include participants on a local scale and people with disabilities themselves. Only them know the best what their interests and needs are. There is definitely a room for improvement, we just have to start taking real actions and a positive change will be visible.


The main problem is the lack of recreational facilities (swings, seesaws, slides, etc.) for young children (0-6 years) and the lack of facilities that can encourage children's creativity. Children have the right to play and spend their free time in any green space near their home (in this project we focus on a park in Zagreb, Trnjanska Savica district). The green space in this area is large and offers unused potential. The playground equipment placed in the park is unsafe, unstable, and has been used for many years. Why are we talking about this problem? Well, children's play is very important for their psychophysical development. They tend to explore the world around them, they are very active and interested in many things at this age. If we take children to the park and the park has only a small selection of playground equipment, they will quickly get bored. In this situation, parents need to think about how to entertain their children, or they need to bring some toys to the park in advance. Nowadays, we are more aware of the importance of children's play, because of the pandemic, but there are also many results that show us how much time children spend in front of the TV, laptop or mobile phone and the impact it has on children's health and development. A more narrow problem we focus on is "Disabled creative play for children outdoors". We focused on this problem because well planned and designed children's parks and playgrounds with green spaces have a motivating, stimulating and positive effect on children's overall health and development. This problem directly affects the children, but at the same time indirectly affects the parents. It affects children in the sense that play quickly becomes boring. The predominance of artificial materials in the playground reduces children's contact with nature, reduces the space for the development of children's creativity and all this together prevents the proper growth and development of children. The problem affects parents indirectly in the sense that they have to make a special effort to increase their children's desire to visit the park, and then to animate them in the park and encourage the development of their imagination and creativity. The problem we emphasize has existed for a long time and we do not have an exact event or time that marks the beginning of this problem, but we can relate it to the increasing development of technology because then this problem becomes even more pronounced. In addition, we can say that the pace of development of this problem is currently accelerating due to the growing need for children's playgrounds and green areas during the Covid pandemic. As for the consequences of this problem, they are short-term because they currently prevent fun and creativity in children's play. But these are not the only consequences that exist. This problem has long-term consequences for children's health and psychophysical development, which is certainly very important to emphasize. For this problem, we can say that we really need to work on raising awareness, and of course on solving it. We see the cause of this problem primarily in insufficient knowledge of planning spaces for children's multisensory play. Experts are the ones who should play a big role in playground planning, because they have knowledge of what a playground should look like and what it should contain to provide children fun and creative play while encouraging their psychophysical development. We can also say that the problem is the lack of awareness of this issue among citizens. But what we also point out as one big cause is the lack of agreement between the local community and the city government on the children's playground project. There are many ways to approach this problem, and therefore many possible solutions. However, the most effective way of solving the problem is surely to raise citizens' awareness of the importance of being outdoors, to promote communication between the local population and the authorities and to encourage citizens' activism and initiative. One of the ways to raise awareness of the importance of spending time outdoors is to organize a joint exercise of children and their parents, which was led by the volunteers of the students of the Faculty of Kinesiology. To encourage activism, it is also possible to organize joint planting activities in the park. In this way, parents and children would spend a lot of time together, children would acquire the skill of planting plants and learn the importance of taking care of nature, and the park would be more scenic and greener than before. In addition, taking care of the planted plants would be an added incentive for the children to visit the park in the future. Finally, regarding the cooperation of the local population and the authorities, it would be good to organize a joint forum where all interested stakeholders (local population, representatives of local associations, government representatives, experts in the design of children's parks and, of course, the media) would discuss the best solution for their park.

THE RECREATIONAL FUNCTION OF URBAN GREEN SPACES FOR OLDER PERSONS LIVING IN THE LOWER TOWN CITY DISTRICT OF ZAGREB Just like the topic suggests, the main problem of urban green spaces in downtown of Zagreb is its primary recreational function. The inability to use those spaces results in many consequences on the vulnerable population of older persons.

Urban green spaces are, in fact, present in the city center, but their use is not fulfilled. They are mostly used for cultural events, such as Zagreb Christmas Market, and therefore older people living in the proximity to those urban green spaces, are denied their right to peace and quiet in their neighborhood. According to research (Lepan & Leutar, 2012; Takano & associates, 2002), access to urban green spaces has a positive effect on well-being and life expectancy of the elderly. The problem is that those events are not adjusted to the elderly population, but to younger generations. Public events, such as ,,Burger Fest’’ or ice-skating do not attract those above the age of 65 and that needs to change. It is important to organize activities meant to attract older generations because they need to feel like a part of the society. Said problems are further aggravated due to the fact of mobility in the downtown Zagreb. Transport infrastructure in the Lower Town city district includes road, tramway, cycle lanes, narrow pavements, lack of pedestrian crossings and many defects in concrete surfaces. Also, a big problem nowadays, are electric scooters and bicycles that cause many traffic accidents. Cars parked on the pavement, due to the lack of parking spaces in downtown, are also a problem because they block the pedestrian lane which forces older people to walk around them. This can be very dangerous is the pavement is next to a busy road. According to all that, older people are indeed a vulnerable population deprived of their use of urban green spaces. This raises a question - are urban green spaces really a place of relaxation, recreation and a healthy oasis for all people or just certain individuals? All in all, the above mentioned problems represent the importance of our topic. More specific problem within our topic is '' Decreased representation of green surfaces near the residential areas''. Older people, pregnant women, families with kids and pets are most affected by this problem. Reasons for that are; their need for proximity to green areas because of the reduced mobility, simplicity and convenience and also, simply, to save time when they go to the park with kids and pets. On the other hand, people who would not recognize that problem as a problem are those who's priorities are other things within the community, for example; choosing parking place and concrete surface rather than green surfaces. Furthermore, described problem is connected to the problems like: lack of spaces for recreation and relaxation (which affects people's health), too much concreted surfaces in the environment of the apartment blocks, reduced quality of the air and problem of arriving to the remote green areas. Also, that is the cause of the uncertainty in the traffic ( a lot of cyclists, parked cars on the walkway…). Indirectly related problems are: reduced social connection and psychological difficulties, discrimination and insensitivity for people with reduced mobility and who have problems with access to the green areas. In terms of territory, problem affects more cities in Croatia than villages. To be more precise, centers of the cities are the most affected by this problem because of the way they are made, much rather than suburbs in which we can find a great representation of green surfaces. The development of the problem was steady throughout history, with the development of the suburb „Donji grad“ from fields, roads, houses near roads, home blocks and later flats. With said urbanization and civil development of the city center, this problem reached its peak. It is currently stable and it's not changing due to the numerous restrictions regarding the building of new flats in the city center which would further decrease the amount of existing green surfaces. The consequences of the problem are most noticeable in the summer when the population's health is compromised due to the overheating of the public surfaces (which are mostly made of concrete). Then the older population, as well as the remainder of the population, has the need to go out to green oases. The source of the problem is most noticeable in politics, awareness of people as well as relations within society. Politics is more active in solving the said problem in the outer suburbs than in the city center, while the awareness of others (specifically our vulnerable group of elderly people) is reduced when discussing green surfaces. The relations between individuals in the center are „colder“ and more distant, so there is no direct communication on the needs which would initiate people to take certain actions. In addition, people are insufficiently informed on how to solve said problem, taking in count the sensitivity of the problem in city center and numerous obstacles (cultural, legal, public/private…) With everything mentioned in the analysis of the problem, we can clearly see the importance of the problem for the elderly population which makes up most of the population in the city center as well as those who are most affected by the shortage of green surfaces in the near proximity of living spaces.

Considering that the subject is the city district of Donji grad, which is located in the city center itself, there are many restrictions on taking some specific activities and solutions, such as legal regulation of conversion of public areas (and green), obtaining permits and consents of residents and key actors, then the relationship of private/public space, the importance of historical and cultural heritage for changing the residential landscape of the neighborhood as well as the issue of cost effectiveness and profit of creating a greater number of green surfaces near housing.

Due to the reasons stated above, our activities are not focused on the steps of creating an increasing number of green areas, at least not for now. Activities and possible solutions are primarily in terms of advocating this issue in society, activism, education and networking of professionals and citizens to develop awareness about this problem.

The activities they would carry out are • Introducing key associations dealing with the elderly population with the problem mentioned and getting their perspective on it • Gathering key actors and obtaining information from different professions • Conducting team meetings • Raising public awareness about the importance of changing the protocol for the use of green surfaces in the city center • Advocacy through local committees on the immediate importance of green spaces for human health and quality of life

The listed activities would be a long-term solution to this problem, which is a well-established practice and culture of importance of green areas in each district, especially preserving and developing the full potential of those green areas located in the city center as areas whose primary purpose is recreation and relaxation.


Mobility plays a major role in independent living of people with disability which consequently improves their quality of life. It’s a prerequisite for equal access and better social integration. There’s roughly 18 500 blind and visually impaired persons in Croatia or 3.5% out of 430 000 people with disability. Mobility of persons with visual impairment is directly correlated with spatial adjustments which greatly impact access to parks and green surfaces on the whole. Spatial accessibility, as one of the key elements of participation in the social life of a community, is an important factor contributing to the quality of life of the blind and visually impaired. Mobility of the visually impaired in outdoor spaces relies on well-known routes which makes unfamiliar spaces a highly stressful endeavour. The city of Zagreb saw in the last decade numerous projects aimed at inclusion of people with disabilities within their communities. Regardless, parks and green surfaces rarely play a part in the daily mobility of the blind and visually impaired. There seems to be a continuous and systematic neglect in putting green and recreational spaces on the city level agenda despite their role in physical, psychological, social and emotional wellbeing. Data shows green spaces currently available in Zagreb amount to 3-4m2 per citizen which indicates a worrying standard compared to other European cities. Small number of green spaces means less opportunity for adaptation of those spaces for the blind and visually impaired. Further problems of access to green spaces by the blind and visually impared is additionally enforced by the public transport inaccessibility, lack of information about existing adapted green areas, the lack of motivation for continuous use of public green spaces due to their inadequacy and lack of awareness of the need for structural rehabilitation of the visually impaired in terms of their mobility. City infrastructure and spatial planning are primarily aimed at citizens without disability which affects different models of mobility of the blind. Commendable focus of Zagreb’s adaptation of public spaces has been primarily on streets and crossings (road infrastructure), including acoustic traffic signal, tactile paving and orientation marks. Existing unadapted parks lack edges which are a substantial aid in movement of the visually impaired. Data indicates there are 3 blind and visually impaired persons out of 1000 citizens, making the city district Novi Zagreb Zapad a place of living for 200 blind and visually impaired persons. The district is facing problems of general inadequacy in infrastructure adaptation for this certain group; road infrastructure lacks a needed number of acoustic traffic signals, roads and streets are wide and in need of more orientation edges which otherwise creates movement difficulties. Those existing implemented adaptations do not however provide access to parks and green areas. Within the district, the access to green surfaces is completely restricted. The biggest park, Park Mladenaca, which has the potential of the center location for socialisation and recreation of the blind and visually impaired, as well as their families and the whole community due to its location, size and traffic connection, is short of maintained paths, tactile paving leading to benches, bins or recreational machines. There is a general lack of awareness for this specific problem in the district from other citizens, lack of finances and non-existence of this topic on the local government’s agenda. Advocacy for the blind and visually impaired doesn’t exist also due to no active association or public institution targeting this specific group in the area. Restriction of access to green public spaces in this district directly affects group’s right to equal treatment, socialisation and inclusion in their community, as well as their right to a healthy life. Drawing from the only existing, but badly implemented multisensory park for the blind, as well as educational programs for rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired, we would advocate in five areas in the district of Novi Zagreb Zapad. Ideally, we see the potential in gathering members of this population living in the area in order to create a space for addressing the issues, formulating their needs and creating a network with the aim of empowering the group to choose their representatives and find a place in the local political arena. Furthermore, answering the need for sensitization of citizens in the neighbourhood to the needs and problems blind and visually impaired face, common activities such as offering a walking experience through the neighbourhood with a blindfold, might serve both for cohesion, solidarity and neighbourly help. We stress the need for basic adjustments of Park Mladenaca which should include readapting the paths, creating edges, inserting tactile paving and orientation marks as the bare minimum. Moreover, road adaptations need to be equally done to provide easy access to daily services and parks to the blind as well as advocate for more projects by NGOs working in the city centre to be aimed at this district and its population of visually impaired persons


UNIC CityLabs | green city

Type of Case

Panel discussion | Workshop



Organizing unic universities

university logo


Cookie Settings