Businesses and residents of the Lykavitos area in Nicosia voiced ‘desperation’ on Thursday over the restricting of a section of upper Makarios Avenue to one-way traffic, saying the change had adversely affected their livelihoods and day-to-day movements.
In parliament, the affected group urged authorities to rethink and revise the new traffic system in the area – but officials slammed the door shut on the idea and denied that the environmental project had backfired.
Bureaucrats from the transport ministry responded that the one-way system implemented on that section of the avenue was a commitment made to the European Union, which financed the ‘sustainable mobility’ project. Additionally, every three months Cypriot authorities must report to the EU carbon dioxide measurements taken in the area.
Yiannis Nicolaides, acting permanent secretary at the transport ministry, asserted that “privileges enjoyed by private cars must end,” with traffic diverted to mass transit.
The section of Makarios Avenue – from the Landmark Nicosia (formerly the Hilton hotel) to the traffic lights at the Lykavitos police station is open only to one-way traffic.
Moreover, in late October the lower section of the avenue opened as a “shared space” for pedestrians and authorised vehicles such as buses, taxis and delivery vehicles, in what the municipality hopes will lead to more environmentally-friendly use of the road.
The plan is to create emissions-free areas in the capital.
Marilena Ieromonahou, representing businesses, homeowners and residents in the area, spoke of a “traffic jungle” that was killing business.
The hassle of the “labyrinthine” configuration of traffic now – with people forced to take sideroads to reach Makarios Avenue – has led to a sharp drop in business, she said. As a result, Ieromonahou added, many shops there have shut and others have relocated to malls in the suburbs of Nicosia.
And access to important public services – including migration, the Citizens Service Centre and the ministry of commerce – was likewise becoming more difficult.
Meantime traffic flow along Makarios Avenue has had to divert to sideroads, creating noise pollution for other residents and also an uptick in car accidents.
Also, traffic on Kallipoleos Avenue – now the main exit route from the capital when leaving the town centre – has become extremely congested.
“The transport minister may say we need to become an advanced capital…but in other European capitals there exist different realities, there are alternatives offered by mass transit, regular bus routes which allow for sustainable mobility,” Ieromonahou argued.
The group wants a temporary reopening of the segment of the avenue to two-way traffic, at least until all the town centre redevelopment projects are complete, so that “the town can work.”
But officials from the transport ministry ruled out any changes, and also pushed back against the notion that traffic along the approximately kilometre-long segment had declined.
They countered that bus routes had increased.
Evi Anayiotou, representing the ministry, said authorities envisage the avenue as Oxford Street in England or the Champs Elysees in Paris.
She said there was a new “pan-European order of things” in the context of green mobility.
Akel MP Giannakis Gavriel censured the government for its “sloppy” practices. While supporting ‘green projects’, the way in which this particular one was implemented has created more problems and nuisance for local residents, he said.
“Not only did it not solve the traffic problem, but it worsened it all over Nicosia and especially around Makarios Avenue,” he said.