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Outcry after Gov’t bans cars from downtown Athens, fines 150 euros

The government shocked Athenians on Friday morning with a joint ministerial decision banning cars traffic in a large part of downtown Athens, including main avenues. Restrictions will be valid from mid-June and for a period of 3+3 months. Violators are threatened with a fine of 150 euros.

Officially, reason for the restrictions that will cause endless traffic jams and chaos to anyone having to cross the Greek capital as there are not alternatives is “the protection of public health from the coronavirus.”

“Urgent reasons for dealing with a serious public health risk,” stands in the decision published in the official gazette on Friday morning and signed by the ministers of Health, Interior, Trasnport and the hea dof Civil Protection.

Coronavirus? Really? Now that the government reiterates 24/7 that it has managed to contain the virus, and while  everybody knows the virus is not transmitted from car to car?

Unofficially, the reason for banned cars from downtown Athens is the municipality plan to overhaul the area for pedestrians and cyclists.

Streets affected:

Streets in Plaka

Avenues: Mitropoleos, Ermou, Athinas, Stadiou, Metropoleos/Ermou from Athinas Street to Agion Asomaton.

Temporary traffic measures and regulations with mild forms of movement, will also be applied on the avenues:

Eleftheriou Venizelou (Panepistimiou)
Vassilissis Olgas, Irodou Attikou

Stadiou from Karagiorgi Servias street to Mitropoleos street.

Exempted are:

  • government, municipality and high-ranking officials
  • permanent residents
  • vehicles linked to local businesses supplies
  • vehicles to parking places
  • taxis and public transport means

The decision triggered a storm of outcry and, as no other expected, also lots of ironic comments including sharp criticism against the Mayor of Athens, Costas Bakoyiannis who happens to be nephew of the Prime Minister.

Many express the suspicion that the ban aims to create more outdoors space for cafes and restaurants that will be allowed to occupy also parts of the street for tables and chairs to keep virus-safe distance among the customers.

“Downtown Athens only for tourists.”

The implementation of the measures timely coincides with the date Greece opens its borders to foreign tourists allowed to land only in Athens airport.

“Helicopters rentals will increase in order to reach the city center.”

“Does the scientific staff agrees with this in the center of Athens? Crowding in public transport means will increase. I think, we slowly touch the edge of ridiculousness.”

“Excellent decision to paralyze downtown Athens. We count the hours until they withdraw it.”

“You contract the coronavirus in the area surrounded by Mitropoleos-Ermou-Athinas-Stadiou and therefore they ban the cars(not the people). Thank goodness, you don’t get infected in Stadiou avenue therefore it remains open to traffic as a whole.”

Many sharply criticized the “paranoid” measures with authorities to urge commuters to use private cars and avoid public transport for the coronavirus but now the ban pushes people to use more buses, etc. when they do not operate in the capacity they should.

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