Athens has committed to a fresh future that puts people before cars.
The City of Athens has emerged from lockdown with bold plans for a 6.8km Great Athens Walk that will allow residents and visitors much more space to walk, run, roam and cycle through the capital’s historic streets.
In one of the biggest urban interventions in the history of Athens, sidewalks will be extended, traffic limited, bicycle lanes formed, and trees and flowers planted to create one of Europe’s most beautiful urban promenades.
The Great Athens Walk will transform the historic heart of the city by unlocking its huge cultural wealth and delivering an urban centre that is not only a walker's delight, but sustainable and environmentally aware.
On completion of the new network of routes, you’ll be able to move for the first time between Athens’ world-class archeological sites and landmarks – from the Acropolis and Ancient Agora, to the modern Olympic (Panathenaic) Stadium and Academy of Athens - without getting in a car. Meanwhile, the iconic ancient neighbourhood of Plaka and a number of vital downtown arteries, including Ermou, Mitropoleos and Athinas streets, will also be converted into car-free zones.
Green-lighted by the Athens City Council this week, the ambitious 50 million euro vision will create 50,000 square metres of free public space and elevate the experience of all who visit. Work will begin in June and is estimated to be finalised within four years, with the lion’s share of the project delivered by 2022.
There is a deep need now among all citizens “to live in a people-friendly city”, said Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis this week:
“We want more public space so we can practise 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,” stressed Mr. Bakoyannis.
From the first pilot stage, residents and visitors will benefit from positive transformations such as painted road surfaces, traffic easing regulations, bright new flora and urban furniture like benches, planter boxes and waste baskets. Additionally, the once-thriving city landmark, Omonia Square, has been restored and reactivated for Athenians, in readiness to be linked to the Great Athens Walk, and will be officially unveiled this week.
In line with best practice seen in other big cities around the world, including New York, the pilot phase will be a “living plan” that allows residents to road test urgently-needed changes like spot-reduced congestion before they’re made permanent with new architectural structures.
Visitors stand to gain from the Great Athens Walk by being able to more readily and safely explore the city without cars and to uncover more of the capital’s hidden treasures. For families, there will be more public spaces for play, and for parents with strollers and disabled visitors, more easily navigable surfaces.
We’ll be keeping you up to date as this grand vision unfolds. However, if you’re curious to see how the Great Athens Walk will transform the Greek capital right now, you can visit the project’s official website here. It’s in Greek, but the pictures speak for themselves!