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Society

Athens’ New Downtown Grand Walk Gets Test Walk

ATHENS – Pedestrians negotiating the Greek capital's sidewalks in a car-clogged environment will soon be able to enjoy The Grand Walk of Athens, a project of the city to encourage on-foot exploration by tourists that will get a test on June 11.

Pedestrian and bicycle zones have been arranged for the busy thoroughfares of  Vassilissis Olgas Avenue and Irodou Attikou and while the center of the city will be open it will be regulated, although it wasn't explained how.

The busy heart of the city, Syntagma Square and Panepistimiou Street be the next to open the pedestrian and bicycle areas on June 14 while related zoning will be introduced in the commercial/historical center as of early July, the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) said.

In a statement, the municipality said the measures would be introduced gradually and adaptations made depending on the reaction from citizens and workers as Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis wants to overhaul the city's grime zones and make it more liveable.

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.

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 still can have access.

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