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Athens Consortium meeting: Modern transport challenges next to ancient ruins

Terraces, restaurants, motorcycles, buses and cars are sharing the urban street space in the buzzling Greek capital and tourism mecca for art and architecture of the antiquity. Cycling or using an e-scooter seem difficult on the narrow streets in the historic city centre or on the busy avenues. PHOEBE visited Athens for its 3rd consortium meeting to observe the pilot plans and first infrastructure implementations to protect vulnerable road users (VRUs) in the urban area.

The meeting, which took place on 21-23 June and was hosted by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), focused on the scope of the pilot tests in Athens, Valencia and the West Midlands. Besides passionate discussions about the upcoming plans until the next consortium meeting in Munich, Germany, cultural visits and city tours were part of the program to understand the mobility challenges of the Greek capital.

Solving challenges after initial research phase

Besides the exchange on the plans for each pilot location and its use case scenarios, based on the gathered information about the pilots, which took place since the start of the project in November 2022, a focus was set to define the pilot use cases and scenarios to cover a wide range of different tests in the framework of the modelling exercises in Athens, Valencia and the West Midlands.

Concerning the latter, Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM) identified 10 potential locations that could be used as use cases for the modelling exercises, of which around 50% are potentially suitable to be used with the solutions provided by iRAP and Aimsun. The scenarios include examples of the key route network in the region, major retail centres, walking and cycling routes, as well as hotspots for traffic incidents. Data to support testing and wider data gathering exercises will be provided by Transport for West Midlands, Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Police.

Valencia will assess the bicycle infrastructure investment opportunities by analysing 10 bike- and car intersections to boost non-motorised mobility, particularly walking and cycling, with the potential to enhance the existing network around the metropolitan area, connecting neighbourhoods and municipalities with cycling and walking paths. The use case is looking for comprehensive data on cycling Infrastructure, identification of high-risk areas, improved cycling safety measures, evaluation of speed limit impact and enhanced understanding of user behaviour. Several simulations and real measurements will be conducted on a sample of at least five ‘event-critical’ intersections and 10 bike lane segments across different road and area types.

Learning about local solutions

NTUA leads the Athens use case, which will assess the effectiveness of the project’s protective measures for vulnerable road users in urban areas. Furthermore, the university will contribute to various aspects of the research activities, including the development of innovative methodologies to address integrated risk assessment for the protection of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. Athens intends to promote safe and sustainable mobility by targeting VRU safety with three major interventions focused on public transport, implementing a city-wide 30km/h speed limit. Furthermore, 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) is also outlined in a long-term mobility plan.

In order to gain an overview of the mobility situation, the consortium visited the Athens Great Walk, a major urban regeneration project, demonstrating the pedestrianised ‘Vasilisis Olgas Avenue’ linking the Panathinaikon Stadium to the Acropolis walk, Syntagma Square, and Panepistimiou Street (the most central Athens avenue) in which works are in progress to replace two out of six traffic lanes with more space for pedestrian and city activities.