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300 Days of Sun and Flat Terrain: What's Keeping Athens,...

300 Days of Sun and Flat Terrain: What's Keeping Athens, Greece from Biking?

The increase of cycling in a city like Athens – or for instance Milan, Paris, London, Barcelona, Bucharest and other modern cities – makes sense and has merit, as it is associated with the sustainability of the city. When speaking about cycling in the city, we refer to some citizens’ choice to use a means of transport

Traffic Lights Yellow Bike by TheConstructor

The increase of cycling in a city like Athens – or for instance Milan, Paris, London, Barcelona, Bucharest and other modern cities – makes sense and has merit, as it is associated with the sustainability of the city.

When speaking about cycling in the city, we refer to some citizens’ choice to use a means of transport that is pleasant, quiet, doesn’t take up space, doesn’t require large parking spaces, is not dangerous for people around them and at the same time lets the driver observe and experience the city.

Biking is a mode of transportation that encourages simplicity, economy as far as money and resources are concerned, health improvement, and offers the possibility of moving in the city thanks to your own body, without burdening anything or anyone. Only walking could be considered a simpler method, but it is less amusing and doesn’t allow you to cover long distances.

So why don’t we all use bikes every day? It’s so surprising that a series of “misunderstandings,” which come from people’s ignorance and our tendency to avoid change, make us find more reasons to go to our parking spots, drive, seek another parking spots, lose our patience, spend our money on gas, provoke noise, pollution and accidents and at the same time, get addicted to the sluggishness that cars lead to. Whereas, we could take our bikes and drive to a café, to shops and to our offices. We could even combine the various methods of public transportation and our bikes and cover even greater distances.

Woman Cycling

The so-called problems, or else the reasons why many people don’t choose to bike, are because it’s dangerous, hard, wearing, it makes you sweat and people in cars tend not to pay attention. All these excuses are justifiable but only under certain circumstances. Obviously, you shouldn’t use your bike to drive from Nea Smyrni to Psychiko! The steps to biking effectively are: initially use the bike around and discover your neighborhood. Look around, observe things and feel the city through a unique experience. Find streets that are more suitable for biking, avoid steep slopes and traffic and learn your own limits.

Subsequently, you can move on to biking longer distances and realize how easily and fast one can incorporate cycling in their everyday life. There is another very interesting issue: since complete infrastructure for cycling won’t be created overnight, the more people use bikes, the more people will understand that cycling is an option. If there is currently no infrastructure, then potentially bikers can create some. When one hundred bikes utilize a central street, these bikes automatically define a cycle path. It then makes sense for the state to create a permanent one.

Bike culture in Copenhagen, Denmark

Additionally, the users of other means of transportation will realize that bikes are another mean of transport that has its own rights and obligations. Some people may say that bikers don’t respect the Highway Code, but they should first observe cars and motorbikes around them, and how these drivers behave in the street. In reality it’s the absence of policing, the reason why people tend not to obey to the Highway Code, and not the mean of transport they choose.

Will Athens become a bike-friendly city in good time? It depends on us, as the appropriate circumstances do exist. In a city where people enjoy the sun three hundred days a year and has few hills, the success of this change depends on people and our personal choice and on the local government. The increase of cycling in the city is a decision that is both political and personal, and urgent, if we really want to enjoy our city and our everyday life.

Because life may be much more simple than what we have been used to believing. 

Dog Riding Bike

Is biking a preferred method of transport where you live? What type of infrastructure is available? Where is there room for improvement?

Original article, originally published in Greek, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Dafni Dimitriadi is a student of Architecture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Her numerous experiences in participating in architectural competitions have helped her understand the importance of research and design. She is interest...