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PHOEBE’s plans for Athens – an interview with pilot leader NTUA

The modern city of Athens with its 3.5 million inhabitants, is built around the ancient ruins from the antiquity, which creates several challenges with regard to mobility. Regardless of these challenges, the city administration of the Greek capital managed to build nearly 100km of metro lines with an annual ridership of around 250 million. Besides this mass transit solution and a bus- and tram network, the modal split is currently. Due to this car-dominant environment, cycling can be dangerous. Thus, PHOEBE aims to enhance road safety for active mobility users.

An additional reason for the selection of NTUA as a first interview partner for the PHOEBE interview series is the upcoming consortium meeting, site visits and inspection of the Athens pilot plans, which will take place from 21-23 June 2023. We spoke with Apostolos Ziakopoulos, NTUA Research Associate and responsible for the local pilots, who updated us on the role of NTUA, the Athens pilot and their plans for the consortium meeting.

Apostolos, what is the role of NTUA in the PHOEBE project and what is the expertise of the university?

NTUA contributes to various aspects of the research activities, including the development of innovative methodologies which will address integrated risk assessment for the protection of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. Specifically, NTUA is responsible for the consolidation and synthesis of the knowledge obtained within the project activities and build on the theoretical principles of the methodological framework. This will help to create a suite of knowledge products, resources and tools for exploitation beyond the project. We also lead the Athens use case, including the selection of test scenarios and the collection of data from different sources.

Let’s focus on the Athens use case, what are the main aspects of the Greek pilot?

The Athens pilot focuses on assessing the effectiveness of the project’s protective measures for vulnerable road users in urban areas. This is particularly relevant since the City of Athens’ focuses on promoting VRU safety through various interventions. Athens intends to implement three major interventions to promote safety and sustainable mobility by targeting VRU safety. This will be achieved by promoting public transport, by implementing a city-wide 30km/h speed limit and the establishment of an extensive network of bicycle routes within the existing road network (mixed traffic, bike/bus lanes and bike lanes on road shoulders).

Examples of assessment areas in Athens

These are quite some significant plans, but how will PHOEBE help to enhance road safety in Athens?

Policy and regulatory interventions, such as environmental and safety transport charging policies will be evaluated by PHOEBE. This evaluation will be conducted through scenario tests and simulations, which will provide valuable insights into the impact of these interventions on road user behavior, mode choice, induced demand, and safety outcomes. We will provide valuable information on the effectiveness of different policy and regulatory interventions in promoting road safety for vulnerable road users in Athens. The project’s innovative technologies and analytical approach have the potential to significantly enhance road safety in Athens and promote sustainable mobility.

NTUA is also studying traffic scenarios during day- and nighttime. What are the main differences between the two scenarios and do you use different parameters?

Daytime and nighttime traffic scenarios differ in various aspects such as traffic volume, lighting conditions, and driver behaviour and safety. In daytime, traffic volume is usually higher, speeds are lower  and visibility is better, allowing drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists more easily. At night, however, lower but faster traffic together with reduced visibility increases the risk levels of vulnerable road users, especially pedestrians and motorcyclists. Risk is also increased by the absence of public transport alternatives between 00.00 – 05.00. Therefore, the parameters used in the simulation models and data analysis will differ between the two scenarios, revealing the real dimension of traffic and safety challenges faced by Athens residents and tourists.

Panathinaikon Stadium

What aspects will you show the project partners during our site visit in the framework of the 2nd consortium meeting in June?

NTUA will show three key parts of the Athens Great Walk, a major urban regeneration project, which is currently in full development. Firstly, we will demonstrate the pedestrianised ‘Vasilisis Olgas Avenue’ linking the Panathinaikon Stadium to the Acropolis walk. Then we will visit Syntagma square in which significant more pedestrian space has been delivered to pedestrian to the detriment of car traffic and illegal parking. Finally, we will walk Panepistimiou street the most central Athens avenue, in which works are in full progress to replace two out of six traffic lanes with more space for pedestrian and city activities.

The tour will provide an opportunity for the consortium to see the infrastructure that has been put in place to support sustainable mobility modes, how vehicle traffic and pedestrians are adapted and the overall impact of the Athens Great Walk on promoting road safety for vulnerable road users in Athens. A summary of our tour, including some photos will be published on the PHOEBE homepage.

What are the next steps in the PHOEBE project for NTUA?

We will collect data for the Athens pilot study and conduct traffic simulations to enhance road safety for vulnerable road users. Finally, NTUA will collaborate with other partners to exchange experiences and best practice, disseminate project results and exploit the outcomes in order to support stakeholders with evidence based decisions.