Sometimes it takes a minor accident for many Athenians to understand just how lucky they are to be fully mobile and able-bodied. Kathimerini has reported extensively on the dire state of the streets and sidewalks in the city center, publishing photographs of potholes, broken paving stones, the slipshod laying of road surfaces and other everyday features that are a constant peril to motorists and pedestrians alike.
Any mention of a slip or a fall prompts a barrage of similar stories from others, tales of sprains, bruises, breaks and even more serious injuries, so that all of us who have been hurt while going about our daily business come to form a community of sorts. Some even keep a record of cracked sidewalks, pitted roads and other such maintenance faults on their cell phones.
Athens is a minefield of good intentions that makes you wonder whether anyone is actually repairing roads and sidewalks. It is not just the municipal authority that is responsible for such tasks, but also the regional authority, and in some cases the Infrastructure Ministry. But it is mainly the municipality that should be keeping an eye out for and fixing these problems. Last May, Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis had promised that more than 100 streets would be repaved and also announced stiff fines for any public or private companies or organizations that damaged streets and sidewalks while carrying out their own projects without coordinating with the relevant authorities and without carrying out proper repairs or ensuring the public’s safety.
No one doubts that the challenge of improving daily life in Athens is an uphill battle, but the real question is: Has anyone ever really bothered to try to win it, and, if not, will they?
Many of the young candidates who will be running for posts in the municipal authority in the upcoming local elections have been stating their intention to deal with all the small things that impact on the quality of life in the Greek capital – not major infrastructure works, but the little things that can often make such a big difference.
Monday is International Day of Disabled Persons and it gives one pause to think about the magnitude of the issues faced by people with mobility problems in a city that’s a challenge even for the able-bodied.
The worst part is that we are no longer shocked or angered by the fact that we live in a city that is so hard to live in.