NEWS

Learning to live without our precious automobiles

How long can an Athenian survive without a car? Unfortunately, not very long, it appears. According to surveys, 54 percent of the city’s residents choose to use their cars every day. Only 31 percent prefer public transport. Every day 1.6 million cars go through the city center, and every year 150,000 – 200,000 new cars are sold in Athens. Yesterday saw the start of «European Transport Week» – a European Union initiative with the aim of getting people to change their habits for a while and to think about mounting transport problems. The program goes a step further than the «Day without Cars,» promising to show us a different way of life for a few days. Banning the use of private cars for short periods, encouraging people to use public transport (yesterday, traveling on all buses, trains and trolley buses was free of charge), a series of cultural events throughout the week and educational programs at schools are all part of the week’s agenda, organized by the Environment and Public Works Ministry as pilot programs to find new ways to get people around big cities. It is also a good opportunity to get people thinking about the need to restrict their movements in private cars and to promote alternative means of transport that are less of a burden on the urban environment in terms of atmospheric and noise pollution and traffic volume. In presenting the program, Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said that cities have reached the point where they can take no more cars. «Measurements indicate a growing burden that is leading to a deterioration of the quality of life,» Papandreou said. «The rate at which the number of private vehicles is increasing is much greater than the rate at which roads can be built or improved,» she added. The minister emphasized the need to make people aware of the need to change their habits. «No measures by the State are capable of changing things if people do not wake up to the fact that they have to change the way they get about, by using public transport, a bicycle or walking short distances to go shopping or to the nearest bank,» she said. The week’s events have the support of 79 municipalities, assisted by the ministries of Transport, Public Order, Education and Culture, local government unions and the municipality of Athens and the Athens 2004 Organization. No Nemea