I love to ride a bicycle. I love to ride a bicycle in Athens because I live here and it is here that I must express this love. Not because Athens is a great place to ride a bicycle. In fact, it is fairly difficult to ride here for a number of reasons. First off, there are no bicycle paths here (or so few that they amount to almost nothing). Second, and this should really be first, The drivers here are like some kind of wild animal. They won’t see you, and they will run you down and back over your corpse if they think they will get to their destination 5 seconds faster. You have to watch your ass carefully, paranoically. Your perception must be ever-acute. It helps to expect the worst. In any given situation, expect the driver to do the stupidest possible thing and you will never be disappointed.
When I bought my first bicycle here, back in 2000, I would see almost no one out on a bicycle. I get the impression that people thought that riding a bicycle marked you as an ignorant peasant who could afford no better, a throwback to more primitive times, or that biking was for children and not real men. I never saw women riding back then. I have watched appreciatively as the number of cyclists out braving the traffic in Athens has increased steadily over the years. I suppose it is because cycling has become trendy and because gasoline has become expensive for people with no money. I have even seen the time pass when cyclists passing one another on the street would ring their bells at each other in solidarity. Cycling has become nothing all that remarkable.
I even took part in a demonstration of sorts, back in November, 2007 when hundreds of cyclists rode through town out to the ministry of transport to ask (not demand, not throw stones or firebombs) that bicycles be allowed on the Metro. It was the most peaceful demo I have ever heard of. It seems to have worked. Bicycles are now allowed on the Metro all the time, as well as the Tram and the Proastiakos Suburban Railway. Because of this, Maria and I have taken some really excellent, eco-warrior bike trips on the Suburban Railway line to some of the towns on the sea between Athens and Corinth, Kinetta and Agioi Theodori, for example. There is excellent beach there and the trip is fabulously cheap.
We also found out how to get to the sea in Athens by bicycle. One may just take the Treno to Palio Faliro and take the sometimes vague and uncertain path to the sea. The good way must be taught. One does eventually arrive at the beach. There is also a non-metro path I have recently found which I really love. It includes one of the few genuine bike paths to be found here. One rides along the concrete course of the ancient Illisos River where some excellent little Tavernas and cafes can be found. I will include the link to my map.
So, with a lot of stamina, perseverance, and eyes in the back of one’s head, a cyclist may find some really excellent and strangely beautiful rides in this city.