Tough week for Athens drivers

Under a European Union campaign for city-dwellers to use public transport, bicycles or their legs rather than private transport, Athenians will be banned for hours from driving their cars in parts of the center for four days this coming week, the government said yesterday. The restrictions, which should exacerbate congestion problems in a city of some 2 million cars, will apply on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, in response to the European Mobility Week initiative, whose themes will be public transport, cycling and living streets/greenways. Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou told a press conference that transport problems in modern cities have reached a critical stage. «Citizens must understand the need to change their means of getting around, to take advantage of public transport, to use their bicycles for short distances at least and to do their shopping or go to the nearest bank on foot,» she said. «The rate of increase of the number of cars in modern cities is much faster than the rate of road construction or improvement.» On Monday, no cars will be allowed from 6.30 to 9 a.m. in the inner traffic restriction zone which includes most of the city center, while only cars whose registration numbers end in an even digit will be able to enter the outer zone. Public transport will be free of charge all day. On Wednesday, Dionysiou Areopagitou, Apostolou Pavlou, Ermou, Filellinon and Amalias streets will be set aside for cyclists from 5-8 a.m. On Saturday, the streets linking Exarchia and Kolonaki squares (Metaxa, Zoodochou Pigis, Navarinou and Skoufa) will be off limits to traffic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., while next Sunday all of Panepistimiou Avenue and Vassilisis Amalias from Syntagma Square to Vassilisis Olgas Avenue will be closed to traffic all day.

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