ATHENS – Adding to sweeping plans to overhaul the city's grime zones, Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis has proposed The Grand Walk, a series of traffic-reduced areas in the heart of the capital to make it more livable.
There will still be cars, unlike earlier visions that foresaw pedestrian only areas similar to those around the Acropolis, frequently violated by cars and motorcycles anyway, but his scheme would include walkways as well.
Bakoyannis said he modeled the idea on some other European cities noted for their beauty and areas where cars are either reduced or eliminated, the center of Athens being particularly overrun with vehicles and buildings covered in generations of dirt.
He said a number of cities are using the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic that saw streets emptied of cars to find ways to recreate their centers and other neighborhoods to make them more attractive.
He had already commissioned, with the help of private benefactors, a radical overhaul of the filthy rotary in Omonia Square, redesigning an area that had been done when his mother, Dora Bakoyianni, was the city's mayor.
The Athens Municipal Council approved his grand plan that will include instant measures to add areas for pedestrians and bicycles although drivers of cars often violate areas in which they aren't supposed to be.
“During this period, a number of cities around the world, from London and Berlin to Bogota, have decided to take a series of emergency measures to deal with the pandemic,” he told the council, said Kathimerini.
“We want more public space so we can practice social distancing, as well as to give priority to pedestrians, bicycles and new means of transport, and to safeguard public health and the environment by not allowing roads to be flooded again by cars,” he also added, similar to another idea he had to upgrade the anarchist area of Exarchia.
insisting that there is a deep need among citizens to live in a people-friendly city.
The plan would have cars banned from two large sections of the city center: the so-called Commercial Triangle and the iconic area of Plaka. Permanent residents and service vehicles will be exempt from the ban.
Major streets such as Mitropoleos, Irodou Attikou, the rest of partially pedestrianized Ermou and Athinas will also become car-free similar to what happened in creating a walkway from the Acropolis Museum to the Thissio metro station where cars had once been able to use.
Vehicular traffic will be drastically restricted on Panepistimiou Avenue, a major connecting road, with wider and new sidewalks, and Vasilissis Olgas Avenue will be pedestrianized as well.
Bakoyannis said parts of the special zoning plan will be put up for public consultation in June but he wants to move fast with Greece needing tourists to save what's left of the summer season.
Until the overall plan is approved by authorities and the municipality puts out bids for the work, the new restrictions will be implemented on a temporary basis, drastically reducing traffic, the extra space used for pedestrians and bicycles and planters, trees and urban furniture to create a new aesthetic for Athens.