Borrow-a-bike program on its way

Health Ministry officials yesterday announced plans to place three automatic bicycle rental points in the historical center of the Greek capital, as part of a pilot program to promote environmentally friendly transportation and sport.

The program, which is expected to begin in June, has also been extended to include other parts of Greece, and the cost is estimated to be under 300,000 euros, according to the ministry.

The areas that will benefit from the project are the northern port city of Thessaloniki, the island of Samothraki in the northern Aegean and the town of Archangelo in Pella, northern Greece. In Athens, bicycle stops will be located under the Acropolis, in Thiseio and near the Metropolitan Cathedral in Plaka, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and his deputy Christos Aidonis said in a statement.

Taking its cue from similar initiatives in other big cities like Rome, London, Amsterdam and Melbourne, the Greek experiment will begin with 25 bicycles being made available at every station. Each station will also provide parking spots for 30 bicycles.

The service will be free of charge, though users will need a credit card in order to check out a bicycle; this is a measure to help the Greek program from experiencing similar problems to those encountered in Paris, where a spate of thefts and vandalism of rental bicycles left the fleet depleted by half within the first 18 months of the program?s implementation.

The program will be run in collaboration with municipal authorities, who will be responsible for its day-to-day operation.

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