Beware of motorcycle menace

Though travel guides to Athens always warn travelers to beware of motorbikes, the alarmed look on the tourists who risk a visit shows that the reality is even worse than they expected. And the sidewalks most clogged with motorbikes are the most visible, right in the historic center – around the Acropolis, Thiseion, Plaka and Monastiraki – which are frequented by crowds of tourists. «Oh yes, I always warn my friends who visit Athens from abroad to keep an eye out when they’re walking,» said Agence France-Presse bureau chief Raphael Hermano. «I tell them not to assume the cars will stop when they try to cross the road. Precisely the opposite will happen.» He can also see the city from the point of view of a motorcyclist. «In general, it’s chaotic driving in Athens, whether in a car or on a motorbike. But a motorbike can do things that a car cannot, like driving along the sidewalk. That is the most dangerous, because pedestrians often have to go into the road, because the sidewalks are very narrow in any case.» He hasn’t always resisted the temptation to drive up over the curb and onto the sidewalk or to drive in a pedestrian zone to get to his destination faster or to park. «To be honest, the same thing used to happen in France a few years ago. But there you were afraid of the police; here, nobody is going to stop you,» he noted. «I and most other motorcyclists think that we are more or less entitled to drive on the sidewalks.»