June 26 2014

Athenians Continue to Fight for a Bike Lane Network

In Athens, Greece, cyclists raise their voices for their safety and rights. Authorities return that there is no room in Athens for bicycles. But it’s more correct to say that “there is no more room for cars in Athens - and plenty of room for bicycles!”

Bikers Protest in Athens, Greece

The topic of bike lanes is more commonly encountered in mayoral pre-election speeches and future promises than in the actual urban landscape. Today, even though the bicycle is gaining popularity, many are still reluctant towards cycling; most hesitation and suspicion is expressed from various authorities, representing either the government or transport officials (i.e. Athens Metro Company – ΑΜΕΛ).

According to Athen’s urban planning history, the city was designed for less people, and far fewer cars than the two and a half million that are present in the city today. Car use is deeply rooted in Modern Greek state of mind.

Cycling in Athens, Greece

The recent rise in gas prices and changes in vehicle taxation acted as the driving force for many people to start thinking about cycling as an alternative and less expensive way of getting around. However, most Athenians will not consider the possibility of biking, and no one can blame them. The current cycling infrastructure is trivial and this is without taking into account the narrow sidewalks and many hills that hinder cycling.

The current bike lane network is far from what we see in bike-friendly cities around the world. Almost fifty kilometres of scattered, short paths, distributed all over Attica’s Municipalities, perfectly describe the inadequate effectiveness with which authorities have responded to the matter. Usually around or inside parks, marinas or university campuses, the longest path at thirteen kilometres can be found in the suburban Municipality of Kifissia. The longest, closest to the centre, is inside National Technical University Campus (NTUA). What is clearly observed is that the existing bike lanes are more likely to be seen as training fields, isolated from each other, and not as a well-organized urban cycling network.

bike lanes in Athens

Green lines represent existing bike lanes scattered throughout the city of Athens – Credit: PODILATissES Bikers Forum.

As a matter of fact, a design of a complete bike lane network in Athens was proposed by Professor Thanos Vlastos and his team (NTUA). The design proposed the construction of thirty-six bike lanes, totaling two hundred and thirty kilometers, successfully connecting the centre and suburbs of Athens. The project has been internationally recognized for its excellent design and even awarded with a prize at Velo-City 2013 Vienna Cyclists Convention. Sadly, it is yet to be accepted by the Greek State officials due to the bureaucracy and opposing local interests.

For the time being, those brave cyclists that take to the streets will be seen by drivers as obstacles, and mutual respect will lack between them. Also, as ΑΜΕΛ has forbidden cyclists from riding during rush hour, bikers will be reluctantly allowed into the metro.

Urban cycling in Athens, Greece

Is the urban cycling option available in your city? If so, what are the main advantages and/or drawbacks that boost or discourage bike use?

Credits: Images by Chris Christou or linked to sources. Data linked to sources.

Chris Christou

Chris has a Master's degree in Water Resources Science and Technology from the National Technical University of Athens. He started studying Mining Engineering and Metallurgy, but later on he concentrated his bachelor studies on Environmental Engineering, Waste and Water Management. During his late academic years he participated in environmental technology research projects. He is from Athens, Greece. His family, which consists mostly of civil engineers and architects, descends from the well-known stonemasons of the island of Santorini. Today he divides his time between Varkiza, a south-coast suburb of Athens, and Pagrati, downtown Athens, which he considers his home. Growing up in this central neighborhood he was able to witness the various changes in the city throughout the years. Observing his urban surroundings and influenced by his family, from an early age he became concerned about the urban environment. An inquisitive and creative person, he enjoys walking around the centre of Athens on quests for new or hidden details. Blogging for The Global Grid will be an opportunity to discover, highlight, and study the present state of environmental design in Athens, including potential outlets to improve the Athenian urban life.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 at 9:18 am and is filed under Environment, Environmental Design, Environmental Non-Profit, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Athenians Continue to Fight for a Bike Lane Network”

  1. Jos Sluijsmans Says:

    Some examples of the bicycle infrastructure in my home town Nijmegen is described by blogger BicycleDutch. His blogposts about Nijmegen are listed here: http://www.cargobikefestival.com/2014/03/cycling-in-nijmegen-by-bicycle-dutch.html

  2. Danny Lupiani Says:

    I hope their voices are heard and the city invests into cycling infrastructure. The benefits are enormous as everyone would benefit.

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