Public participation in Piraeus City for sustainable mobility policies. A CycleCities result.

What do you think?

One of the deliverables of the CucleCities project was Piraeus’ Cycling Implementation Plan. Piraeus is an extremely dense urban area built around the Piraeus harbor, the most important port of Greece. Planning for sustainable mobility in such a densely populated urban area degraded by port’s heavy traffic and by the lack of parking space (most buildings are old and do not have parking places) is a challenge. The implementation of Piraeus sustainable mobility plan will reduce space for on-street parking and will propose changes in mobility patterns. Without public awareness and participation campaigns it is not possible to implement a sustainable mobility plan in a city with those parameters.

Public participation in the sustainable mobility plan was based on two different methods to collect views. The first method tried to collect qualitative information and interviews were used to achieve this. The second chosen method was a questionnaire because a larger sample was needed to check the findings of the first method.

Interviews conclusions

The qualitative information from the interviews was used to write the questionnaire. In that way it was not a questionnaire prepared by people who did not know local problems, but it was a questionnaire checking if some views expressed in the interviews are questions of general importance. To achieve this, interviews were prepared to be semi-structured. A wide spectrum of people were used including citizens as well as municipal employees to gain information about parameters which play a crucial role when shaping a sustainable mobility strategy in Piraeus. The type of semi-structured interview was selected, which is a flexible, open, minimum standardized and in depth conversation focused on the issues of mobility in the city of Piraeus.

The main conclusions drawn from the interviews are the following:

  • There is strong support for the creation of cycle routes mainly along Pireaus main road network, along the coastline (outside the port) and along the port.
  • Residents hesitate to bike due to safety reasons, health problems or practical difficulties (traffic conditions, lack of balance, inability to find safe parking near the house, knee problem, rise of the crime in the evening). This means that an integrated cycle policy should combine the construction of cycle infrastructure with other parallel measures.
  • Piraeus residents travel often without a car (by foot, train or bus). Lack of parking space makes car use inappropriate for short trips or for trips to the city center of Piraeus or to the city center of Athens.
  • There is strong support for measures in favor of the pedestrian (improvement of pavement surface, pavement enlargement, freeing of barriers).
  • Interviewees complained about the lack of enforcement of the illegal on-street parking which causes significant traffic problems.
  • There is a parking problem throughout the municipality, considerably aggravated by visitors (employees in companies, visitors of hospitals, visitors of the coastal zone). The parking problem also involves motorcycles.
  • Interviewees complained about the bus service (operational speed and frequency).

On-line questionnaire conclusions

After the interviews had been taken an on-line questionnaire was prepared based on their conclusions. It was sent by e-mail to residents and social organizations of Piraeus.

The target of the on-line questionnaire was to collect the widest spectrum of resident’s views. To achieve this, a “social map” of Piraeus was constructed. It presented Piraeus neighborhoods and social organization or citizens acting inside them.

On-line survey conclusions are consistent with interviews’ conclusions.

Most residents stated that they are not satisfied with the way they travel inside Piraeus.

diagram 1

Diagram 1: Residents’ satisfaction when travelling inside the Municipality of Piraeus 

The construction of bicycle infrastructure was valued as the most important project by the residents who answered the questionnaire. This was in line with interviews’ conclusion. Interviewees stated that bicycle infrastructure construction and public space improvement in favor of pedestrians are mobility measures they would agree with (Diagram 2).

Moreover consistent with the interviews’ conclusions residents view as very positive all sustainable mobility projects. Only tram construction was not valued high (Table 1).

Table 1: Views towards sustainable mobility projects. 5 means «I agree definitely», 1 means «I definitely disagree».

N Min Max Mean S
I value tram construction in Pireaus as positive 179 1 5 2,96 1,44
I value metro construction in Pireaus as positive 181 1 5 4,54 ,78
I would like to use a bicycle to make my trips 178 1 5 4,38 ,93
I would like to walk more in the city 176 1 5 4,48 ,71
I would like to see pulic spaces of my cities upgraded even if it means that on-street car parking is reduced 177 1 5 4,32 1,05
I would prefer more sustainable mobility solutions in Pireaus than car traffic 185 1 5 4,52 ,88

Diagram 2: Projects of high importance valued by car users (Ν= 66) (not answered by 26). «1» is the most important, «2» is second most important and «3» third most important.

diagram 2

Conclusions

Politicians, who are in charge to implement sustainable mobility projects, often hesitate, because they think that if they implement policies that target car users – most voters lie on this group -, they will not gain public opinion.

Public participation procedure in Piraeus city shows that society is nowadays ready to accept a change in mobility policy. Bicycle is chosen as a transport mode by many people and it gains respect. Residents of the wider Athens metropolitan area (which includes Piraeus city) use often public transport modes, because car use in its densely built urban centers is not the optimum solution. Residents demand when they are on the roads wide pavements to walk safely.  They complain when using car about illegal parking that degrades traffic capacity of main roads.

That means that active residents of Greek cities could be in favor of car restriction policies. Politicians who try to implement those policies can probably attract voters. Due to the densely populated Greek urban environment and the lack of free space the implementation of those policies is a challenge. Politicians must seek to find supporters and make them partners otherwise negative voices will dominate, which will make politicians sceptic.

The way to achieve this is a generous and lasting public participation procedure dominated by open dialogue and collaboration. Changing urban environment is a difficult task and social actors shaping the whole picture must participate.

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About avgivassi

PhD student| MSc Urban Planner| Surveyor Engineer National Technical University of Athens School of Surveying Engineering Sustainable Mobility Unit (SMU)
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