Cyclists in for a treat

Athens’s first proper bicycle lane will be built along Tritis Septemvriou Street, at least initially, despite previous speculation. In less than three months, by mid-September, the job of constructing the capital’s first-ever bicycle lane will be commissioned to a construction company. The studies are ready, the relevant authorities – the Ministry of Transport and the City of Athens – have discussed and agreed on a budget (approximately 66,000 euros), and all that is left is to sign the timetable for construction. Its realization, however, will be delayed because of the Olympic Games. The first phase of the project involves a bicycle lane starting at Victoria Square, leading to Omonia, on to Athinas Street and along the pedestrian roads of Dionyssiou Areopagitou, Adrianou and Apostolou Pavlou. The project is a result of a cooperation between the Ministry of Transport and the Metsoveio University, which conducted the initial research, headed by Assistant Professor Thanos Vlastos. «Creating the infrastructure for bicycle-friendly streets is a feat of knitting work in Athens’s streets,» says the study, which was submitted to the City of Athens a few months ago. This warning was probably why the City of Athens aimed a bit lower for the first bicycle lane in Athens by locating it along Tritis Septemvriou, a street that would experience a minimum amount of disruption to traffic flow. No traffic disruptions The bicycle lane will be 2 meters in length, but it will not restrict the width of road available to regular traffic, as it will simply take up the space currently occupied by illegally parked vehicles. (Tough times are ahead for illegally parked cars.) It will also be elevated from the street so that it is on the same level as the sidewalk. Tritis Septemvriou was selected because it is, essentially, the extension of Athinas Street, where a bicycle lane is already being built for the Olympic Games. This bicycle lane marks efforts by the authorities to create a network that will allow a pleasant bike ride linking some of the most heavily populated areas of the city center with areas of archaeological and historical interest. This first phase is part of a bigger plan which foresees a bicycle route running from Aghiou Meletiou all the way down to the Faliron Delta, via Tritis Septemvriou, Athinas and Thessalonikis (running parallel to the urban rail tracks). What the university study also concludes is that in Greece, motorcycles are the preferred mode of transport, amounting to some 10 percent of the total, beating all its European counterparts. This leads researchers to believe that the experiment with bicycles may be extremely successful. Areas in Greece that already enjoy bicycle lanes are Karditsa, Messolongi and Iraklion, in Crete.