Drivers may finally be about to get a clear view ahead with billboards now firmly on the way out

The provisions of the highway code and Law 2946/2001 that regulate open-air advertising are a prime example of a law that is made to be broken. «Regulate» is not the operative word here, since private firms, with the complicity or indifference of local authority bosses, have turned every possible location into a place to advertise their wares. The Ministry of the Environment, Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) decided in November to implement the existing law. Provisions governing open-air advertising render the overwhelming majority of open-air ads illegal. Any advertising billboards on the roofs of houses are illegal (these should have been removed as from August 31, 2002), as are any within 150 meters of entry points into national roads or within 40 meters of urban routes that have a speed limit of over 70 kilometers (43 miles) per hour (e.g. Syngrou, Kifissias and Mesogeion avenues). Open-air advertising within Athens’s historic center and the main roads leading to it is also illegal, while only a certain type of billboard may be lit up. What of all this is actually implemented to erase blots from the landscape and remove a nuisance for drivers? Almost nothing. Municipalities disregard the laws while often aiding and abetting illegality by issuing permits to set up billboards on sidewalks and alongside fast roads. Complicity becomes a crime when the lure of municipal rates for billboards makes authorities indifferent to the law. This bad municipal example has been followed by the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA), whose funding deficits have forced it to change bus stops to include space for advertisements. According to the law, advertisements must be placed so they cannot be seen by oncoming drivers.