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Society

Start Your Feet: Athens’ New Grand Walk Will Reach Syntagma Square

ATHENS — The Grand Walk connection of pedestrian and bicycle lanes in the center of Greece’s capital, aimed at giving bicyclists and walkers social distancing space during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, will reach the downtown’s heart of Syntagma Square.

That’s scheduled for the night of June 27, extending the zone under the scheme that will reduce the number of vehicular traffic lanes from six to four, widening the paths for pedestrians and cyclists, although it had clogged the roads with cars.

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, said Kathimerini.

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. 

In May, adding to sweeping plans to overhaul the city's grime zones, Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis 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 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.

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