Thessaloniki, Greece is a city with numerous beautiful spots, great architecture, and a long history. However, many current problems in the city have occurred due to modern style of life. For example, there is a significant lack of green spaces. The ideal average share of green space is estimated at 20 m²∕capita to 10 m²∕capita at the least; in Thessaloniki, the percentage is 2.7 m²∕citizen. Another grave problem is the excessive space occupation by parked cars. Designated pedestrian zones would undoubtedly help reverse this situation, as they would allow pedestrians to walk around freely. Additionally, if trees were planted in them, then city dwellers would be able to breathe cleaner air.
Recently, the citizens of Thessaloniki were happy to hear that the Municipality of Thessaloniki decided to proceed with the pedestrianization of St. Sophia’s street, one of the busiest streets in the centre of the city. Unfortunately, what they meant was a pilot pedestrianization, with only a few flower beds and benches. Simultaneously, an architectural competition began for the regeneration of the Axis of St. Sophia Street. This proved how a crowded street, inundated by parked cars, could transform in order to allow St. Sophia’s Cathedral to stand out while contributing to the functional, aesthetic, and environmental improvement of the whole area.
Unfortunately, some days ago, Central Macedonia Prefecture officials announced that the pedestrianization of this street has caused serious problems to the circulation of the vehicles in the centre of the city, and that the pilot program should be discontinued. However, the mayor of Thessaloniki strongly disagrees with this prospect.
The majority of the citizens of Thessaloniki support the idea of a more sustainable environment in the centre of the city, but certainly the traffic problems should be taken into consideration before the final transformation. Although pedestrianization projects affect certain people and businesses, we all should think of the benefits of a car-free zone in an over-built environment, like the case of the centre of Thessaloniki.
Have pedestrianization projects caused such conflicting results in your city?
Credits: Photographs by Dafni Dimitriadi. Data linked to sources.