Yoko Alender

The interview was published in the magazine PULSS, text: Pulss, photo: Laura Stranberg


YOKO ALENDER (38), a Member of the Riigikogu, is a fervent protector of good city space, equipped with knowledge and experience to share with others. After all, hot-tempered scolding is tiring; it is much more refreshing to see a constructive approach.

“Tallinn is my home. Northern Tallinn is my hood, my space, Kalamaja is my street,” says Yoko, daughter of the legendary Estonian singer Urmas Alender. “Northern Tallinn is so versatile that it suits me in every weather and mood. Just like in my everyday business, l need a quick moment to withdraw into my-self, l need to go to my own space in the city to restore balance.”

What is still bad about our city is that there are still huge ruptures hindering movement. There are great areas, oases, but between them, it is really inconvenient to move. Besides motorization, the onslaught of shopping centers is also bad as it kills local street vending.

A good thing is that people have formed a strong identity and a sense of community with respect to their home; citizen initiative has brought about great festivals, cafes, businesses, truly positive city life. It is a great value to be cherished and supported.

As a mother to several children, Yoko thinks Estonia as a whole is an excellent place to raise your children. However, in Tallinn city space, there is a big hindrance when it comes to movement and safety. “Every parent who has been walking around with one, two or three small children knows what I’m talking about.”

“There are about 600 cars per 1,000 people in Estonia,” Yoko says, meaning we have quickly caught up with the richer Europe with our motorization level. And for that reason, we have mainly been developing the infrastructure for cars in the city. But public transport, cycling and walking spaces have not been developed enough to be comfortable and of a high quality, so these are not the first choices for many right now. “To really get us moving, we need to radically improve the quality and reputation of public transport, build up a network of safe bike paths throughout the city and fix up the walking space.”

Yoko’s own dream would be to provide conditions in the capital so that about 15% of the people would prefer bicycle as a daily means of movement.