Touting obvious, unenforced laws

The Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) announced with great fanfare yesterday plans to cooperate with the municipal police in order to implement legislation that prohibits drivers from parking in places that obstruct the passage of buses. Sure, everyone will welcome the joint venture between OASA and the police, as well as the ban on illegal parking in 87 spots in the capital (despite the selective nature of the clampdown). Nevertheless, we should be concerned that such a law is so rarely implemented in this country. In fact, the very news that such legislation will actually be enforced was seen as an excuse for holding a press conference. At least half of Greece’s population lives in an intolerable city. The narrow streets, the excess number of cars and the metastasizing problem of illegal parking create unbearable congestion. It is not just the urban transport that is affected by this condition. It is also the everyday lives of the people in every corner of Athens, since the simple act of walking to the supermarket is treacherous because the sidewalks are filled with parked cars and the roads congested with moving ones. Considering this, it’s a surprise to hear that the laws – which were made to apply to everyone and everywhere in Greece – will only be enforced in 87 spots around the capital. Obviously, drivers can freely violate traffic regulations in the non-designated areas. They can continue to double park, to leave their vehicles near crossings and to block the disabled access ramps. Governments must deal with problems in a comprehensive fashion, and implementation of the law cannot be selective. Unfortunately, in this country, measures announced by the government are rarely effective in the long term. Streets may be cleared of illegally parked cars for three days. But then police turn a blind eye, and the problems reappear – until, of course, the next press conference announcing yet another obvious and soon-to-be unenforced law.

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