ATHENS – Despite some grumbling from critics, and motorists caught in longer traffic jams, the Grand Walk through the Greek capital's center that cuts lanes for vehicles to make way for pedestrians and bicycles will have its trial extended three months.
The city council approved the longer time to see how it's working out, an attempt by Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis to continue beautification efforts of the city's grimy and grim downtown that has few trees or flowers, almost no grass and overrun with vehicles.
Officials, said Kathimerini, talked about additional measures, including signs, more policing to ensure the spaces designated for use by pedestrians and cyclists are not violated by motorcycles and motorbikes and creating more parking spots.
Late in June, the walk was extended to Syntagma Square, the heart of the city outside Parliament and the major metro stop, the scheme cutting the number of traffic lanes from six to four and widening designated ways for walkers and bicyclists.
The plan is that there will be three traffic lanes for all motor vehicles and one exclusively for buses but the bus lane for now will also be available to all vehicles to cut down the congestion while also making room for people walking or pedaling.
The Grand Walk project’s aim is to free up 50,000 square meters (538,196 square feet) of space, create 2,000 parking spots for motorcycles and 12 taxi stands, and speed up bus services although motorists stuck in traffic aren’t happy.
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 to the residents.