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Athens Great Walk leads to Athens Great Jam with commuters as lab rats

The overambitious plan of Athens Municipality the Great Walk of Athens turned into the Great Traffic Jam on Monday morning, when local authorities decreased the six lanes of Panepistimiou Avenue into three for vehicles including public transport means like buses and trolley buses.

Central roads in downtown Athens but also vertical ones were endless jammed. Chaos. Motorists and commuters on the verge of a nervous breakdown. All this because the Great Walk plan and the overhaul of the historic and commercial center was not well thought and executed.

Limiting access to one of the main avenues in the city center led to endless jam not only the city center but also surrounding streets. The jam for those trying to reach the city center from the south suburbs started 4 km away.

An unbearable situation.

Early in the morning, those who tried to cross the center with their vehicles found themselves in front of an unprecedented traffic jam, since the main roads of the city had been substantially decommissioned in order to facilitate exploring walks for tourists, who now also face the dilemma: Ketchup or Mustard?

Commuters needed hours to reach their work place in down town or in areas where they have to cross downtown Athens to reach it.

Angry drivers swore and honked and some used the time their car was immobilized to post tweets with poisonous attacks against the mayor of Athens and those who designed the Great Walk plan.

Red roads: Traffic jam at 10:40 Monday morning.

Three out of six lanes on Panepistimiou Avenue are now closed for traffic and allowed only for pedestrians and bikers.

One important thing the Great Walk designers overlooked is that bus and trolley bus stop three lanes away from the pavement where the stops are or people need to wait standing in the middle of the avenue.

An not only on Panepistimiou Avenue

The Athens Great Kitsch: pedestrian zones painted red and bicycle zones painted yellow.

The idea to pedestrianize the Athens city center -following examples of other mayor European cities is not new. However, it needs more parameters than just limiting the car traffic.

Commuters need alternatives to leave their car at home and go downtown with public transport means. They need frequent routes of public transport means and easy access to the metro.

Dense schedules of buses that have been largely abandoned from the center since 2012 and their schedules have been decreased to just one bus every half an hour.

The tram, the connects the south suburbs to the city center, has been halted from reaching Syntagma in the last couple of years. Its end station is almost 1 km away from the next metro station.

There are hardly “park and ride” options near the metro stations.

And anyway, Athenians have been advised to avoid public transport means during the pandemic.

The icing of cake -as no other expected – is that the Athens overhaul has absolutely no provisions for people with disabilities, their wheelchairs or their cars, as a disabled activist denounces on a news website.

That’s right. We want to be Europe but according to our own standards…

The new ‘interventions” are pilot implemented. The Great Walk can quickly turn into the Great Fail for the Mayor of Athens, Costas Bakoyiannis.

PS OK, some may think we are against “progress” but without metro station in our suburb located 6 km from Syntagma Square, we need 40-50 minutes to reach downtown with public transport means. We used to need 20 minutes, when the world was still in order.

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6 comments

  1. Cycling is suicide in Athens. Cyclists need insurance and number plates and they need to obey the lights as cars do but as motor cycles often do not. Cyclists are a danger to pedestrians especially to children and elderly people. How are they going to be kept on cyclists areas and not on the pedestrian paths? A cyclist jumping the lights nearly knocked down a mother with buggy and 2 more children on Saturday causing panic in Archenon Street.

  2. Yes, cars the world over are safer than bikes for people. Take a good think – where in the world do bikes kill more people than cars either directly (i.e. in crashes/accidents), indirectly (i.e. through pollution)? Of course there can be instances where a bike causes injury, but in the main your position is indefensible and plain wrong. In addition, think about how much space/infrastructure and costs a car takes up compared to cycles – the future is 2 wheels. Cars, and the way we have become accustom to using them, have never been and never will be ‘for ever’ – but change and adjustment is difficult and scary.

    Think of a world where instead of a city choked by cars we have alternatives, now go there. 6km by bike is about 20mins easy. Cheaper,safer and healthier too.

    • If you are a cyclist you are in great danger on Greek roads because of the rules of the road that are often ignores and because vehicles o often do not obey lights and frequently jump the red light.

      If you are a cyclist you are a danger to pedestrians and also to other vehicle unless you obey the rules of the road which unfortunately in many EU countries cyclists seem to think the rules do not apply to them.

      If you are a pedestrian you are in great danger from cyclists because they frequently and at high speed cycle along pavements, as do motor cyclists. It appears the there is no law against it as no one prevents them.

      Jimtom Who said that bikes killed more people tan cars? You are correct to say that. is wrong, of course bikes don’t kill more people than cars!

      My point is not about that nor even pollution, though that is another very important issue. My point is that pedestrians, parents with children, elderly people, any other person regardless of age have a very hard time when walking in Greece and in particular in Athens. Cyclists and motorcyclists are a major hazard. Bicycles swerve from road to pavement silently and swiftly causing huge problems and stress for pedestrians. They need numbers plates and insurance so that they can be held accountable for accidents and damage.

      In countries where bicycles are popular bad accidents have happened and the same requests are being made to governments.

      Traffic is often banned in city centres with exception of taxis and public buses.

      • Note the red path is separate from the yellow path in this initiative that is the focus of the article Note the paths are also separate from other traffic. So, are we in agreeance that this initiative is good then as it addresses your concerns?

        Some aspects you refer to are correct, such as t is scary to think of riding a bike on the roads in Greece. Even more reason to welcome this initiative as a way to promote some positive change. Note however, this initiative is not perfect (timing, etc), but it is positive and aiming in the right direction.

        Surely one thing we all agree on, we do not want ‘more’ cars in places like Athens – which has been the trend these past decades – less cars better, no?

  3. In typical Greek fashion, it is being implemented at the wrong time to ensure its failure.

    I don’t understand why all these people are taking their cars to the centre anyway. Stop making excuses and get with the 20th century already. We need bikes and better public transport, not illegally parked cars and traffic jams