Makarios Avenue in Nicosia opened as a “shared space” for pedestrians and authorised vehicles on Thursday, in what the municipality hopes will lead to more environmentally friendly use of the road.

As of 10 am Thursday, the only traffic allowed down Makarios Avenue will be buses, taxis, emergency vehicles, and the vehicles of residents or shop owners on the road.

According to a written statement from the Nicosia municipality last week, Makarios Avenue and adjacent AG Leventis Street were closed the day before so that the roads could be painted.

In their statement about the shared space created on the avenue, the municipality said: “This means that the movement of wheeled vehicles will have a mandatory maximum speed of 20 km/h, while at the same time stopping and parking of vehicles will be strictly prohibited along the entire length of the road. Shared use zones are a modern approach to urban planning, which aim to reduce the use and dominance of vehicles on the road network, increase safety levels for vulnerable users (pedestrians, cyclists, PWDs, etc.) and the facilitation of traffic with environmentally friendly means, creating conditions for sustainable mobility.”

The urban planning concept shared space was linked to the work of Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, who pioneered the method in the Dutch province of Friesland.

Shared spaces exist many countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands, and Germany. They are an urban design approach that minimise the segregation between modes of road user. This is done by removing features such as kerbs, road surface markings, traffic signs, and traffic lights.

The shared space was originally meant to open on October 20, but bad weather caused delays.

The street has undergone a revamp in recent years, along with other areas in the centre of the capital.

The municipality said that the project was one of the priorities in its development plan as it seeks to make the urban commercial centre of the capital competitive, attractive and friendly to people and the environment.

“In this specific section of Makarios Avenue, we are making the first attempt in our country to create an area of reduced pollution within the urban shopping centre.”

The aim is also to create a corridor of unhindered circulation for public transport, with the aim of strengthening sustainable mobility and traffic with environmentally friendly means, “without discrimination against disabled people and with the consequent benefits of reducing traffic congestion, pollution and noise and increasing the level of safety, visitability and commerciality of the area”.

After being partially closed for months, there was disagreement last year on what vehicles would be able to use the avenue when it finally reopened. The road was opened on December 7 last year although it was closed to traffic over the festive period.

The audit service had said that changes to the plans could lead to the withdrawal of €13m of government funds allocated for the redevelopment project.

Audit service spokesperson Marios Petrides said the funds for the project were allocated “under specific conditions” and that a change in the plans would violate the agreement.

Back when the plan was launched, Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said the decision to allow private vehicles on Makarios Avenue was only to be allowed for about a year until all redevelopment works in the area were completed. That time period has now expired.