Cyclists take part in a bike ride in Athens, Greece, on May 13, 2018. Thousands of people participated in the 11th Bike Ride on Sunday in Athens and other 26 cities across Greece requesting friendlier cities to people. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, May 13 (Xinhua) - Thousands of people participated in the 11th Bike Ride on Sunday in Athens and other 26 cities across Greece requesting friendlier cities to people.
Hundreds of cyclists jumped to their pedals along with associations of pedestrians to spread the word on sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs) funded by the European Commission and to push local authorities to make good use of the funds.
"The best thing about SUMPs is their focus on quality of urban life and public spaces in the city, changing back the concentration from traffic and vehicles to people," Kaiti Daliani, volunteer and cyclist told Xinhua.
"We do not focus only to cyclists, but we convey our message to pedestrians, to people with disabilities, mothers with their children and elders," she added.
A total of 162 Greek municipalities are currently in the process of drafting urban mobility plans. They will receive funding up to 9 million euros (10.8 million U.S. dollars) by the Green Fund of Greece's Ministry of Environment and Energy.
The capital, Athens, will receive 230,000 euros which is the largest share. The remaining municipalities will receive between 30,000 to 150,000 euros to set a long term strategic plan designed to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses in cities and their surroundings for a better quality of life.
"SUMP is a planning concept able to address transport related problems. Among their characteristics are their focus on people, their long-term vision, and the fact that important stakeholders and the public are actively involved," Kosmas Anagnostopoulos, coordinator of the network for Sustainable Mobility Civinet for Cyprus and Greece told Xinhua.
In Europe, the effects of transport planning through such projects are visible in large urban areas, like Copenhagen. There is a decline in car use, increased use of public transport and cycling is making a comeback in towns.
"Currently the SUMPs have gained recognition by local authorities and municipalities all over Greece and become part of their agenda for the coming years," Anagnostopoulos explained.
Among the best Greek examples of urban mobility is the city of Trikala in central Greece. Trikala has implemented several projects, like measurement of traffic, monitoring of municipal fleet via GIS, automated controlled parking, remote information signs on bus stops, and an experimental application for a bus without driver.
But that is not the case for most Greek cities. A recent survey conducted by Britain-based international cleaning service company, Zipjet, has revealed that Athens is the most stressful city in the European Union and the third most stressful in the European continent in 2017.
The Greek capital ranked 121 out of 150 and with a total score of 7.19 based on factors including traffic levels, public transport, percentage of green spaces, financial status of citizens including debt levels, physical and mental health.
"Imagine what would be the impact on stress levels if there were more green spaces or less cars," Daliani noted. (1 euro= 1.2 U.S. dollars)