I live in Athens, Greece. For the last two years there has been a big increase of people traveling by bike in the city. It seems that the economic crisis, which began in 2010, has a positive effect, at least for the environment. Fuel prices, as well as the increasing cost of mass transit tickets, are two important reasons that have been pushing people towards cycling.
Here are some statistics:
In 2010 bicycle sales increased 7%-10% all over Greece, and specifically in Athens there has been a 10% increase;
In 2011 the use of bicycles in Athens reached 25%.
However, cyclists in Athens find it hard to move around the city as there are only a few bike lanes, which sometimes are not even properly designed or designated. Consequently, the inevitable interaction with cars makes cycling unsafe, especially on main avenues where cars pass at high speeds. And from the car drivers’ point-of-view, the increasing number of bikes circulating along the road can seem like an obstacle.
Owning a car is something essential in the mentality of Greek people, but the current social and economical circumstances are transforming their way of thinking. The biking culture in Athens has been developing over the past few years and several associations concerning bike transportation have began developing as well. Members of these associations meet on a regular basis and organize bike tours throughout the city. These meetings are often coordinated through social media. They claim more bike paths and the installation of bike-parking facilities outside metro stations. A standard demand has also been the ability to transfer bikes within the metro rail system (only two bikes can be on a metro train at a time, and even then only in the last wagon).
Recently, there have been the first ever parking spaces for bikes installed by the municipality of Athens. In addition to this, residents and visitors of the municipality of Moschato-Tavros (a southern suburb of Attica) can use shared bicycles for their transportation.
In order to confront the problems emerging with bike use, Transport Engineers of Greece suggest the design of safe bike paths, with a special focus on road intersections. A similar idea has been successfully launched in central London,UK, which includes the construction of ten bike lanes so that a 400% increase in cycling is achieved by 2026.
Do you find cycling in your city safe? What other measures would you suggest in order to increase the number of people using bikes?
Credits: Images by Athina Kyrgeorgiou. Data linked to sources.