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Society

Athens’ Grand Walk Will Keep Walking, Traffic Still Restricted

ATHENS – Despite complaints from businesses and critics who don't like the new design, the Grand Walk of expanded pedestrian paths in Greece's capital will stay in place at least through February, 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Environment Ministry submitted a legislative amendment in Parliament to continue the urban experiment that Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyiannis' envisions will link key city experiences and unclog smog-filled streets from vehicles.

Bicyclists have also been thrilled to have a dedicated path to avoid being hit by cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles on the city's overwhelmed streets but businesses are upset, believing it's hurting them although there are few parking spots in the downtown. 

The amendment, which foresees an extension of the measures “for urgent reasons of tackling serious threats to public health by reducing the risk of transmission of the coronavirus,” came after a court ruling temporarily halted it.

The decision by the Council of State was based on the way the measures were imposed on a fast-track process without parliamentary approval, said Kathimerini, that would take away some authority from Bakoyiannis.

In July, the scheme to unify Athens’ main monuments and landmarks including the Temple of Olympian Zeus with Zappeion and the National Garden was  also approved by the National Archaeological Council.

It ties together as well the the sites of Keramikos with Ardittos Hill and the Panathenaic Stadium in a 6.8-kilometer (4.22-mile) route that has drawn applause from pedestrians often forced to walk in streets because of sidewalks in rough shape or blocked by trees and obstacles.

“A historic route is being created that will showcase the [city’s] monuments and free up space for all,” said Bakoyannis, during a presentation of the pedestrianization of central Vassilis Olgas Avenue in July, said GTP Headlnes.

The area landscaping plans included 150 new trees, 5,500 shrubs, and 3,500 perennial plants. Bakoyiannis said then that the Grand Walk's design was to become “the axis around which the city is brightened, acquiring free green space, balancing traffic but also achieving something great; it creates a historical route that highlights the monuments and turns the visit into an experience.”

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