Five steps for better quality of life

Five steps that will help improve the quality of life in Athens: 1) Stop inappropriate parking. The parking situation is chaotic. Most European capitals have strict parking controls and motorists are obliged to park their cars in car parks provided by councils or in clearly designated spaces. There should be no tolerance of parking on the sidewalks or at the side of major roads. Eliminating illegal parking would ease congestion and allow pedestrians to use the sidewalks for the purpose they were designed for: walking. 2) Make councils adhere to minimum standards for sidewalks. Pavements should be fit for walking on. In addition, wheelchair users and people pushing baby buggies should also be able to use sidewalks. At present, this standard is not generally maintained in Attica. One problem is that lampposts and street signs have been badly placed, obstructing the sidewalk. In other places, the sidewalks are excessively narrow, obstructed by trees/cars, and are broken or incomplete. 3) Make ad posting illegal and prosecute those who post them: Many street signs and lampposts are covered with advertising posters, placed without permission. This makes the city look unsightly and also defaces public property. Traffic signs are covered, making it difficult for motorists to find their way and the distraction is dangerous. 4) Bury major electrical wires underground. In most European cities, electric cables are buried under the ground in urban areas. This practice carries three important benefits: It reduces the need for electricity poles, clearing room on the sidewalks, reducing the temptation for flier posters; it also reduces the level of electromagnetic radiation in the area surrounding the power cables. Research has shown that exposure to such radiation caused by power lines increases the risk of leukemia and other cancers. Thousands of children in Athens sleep within a few meters of power lines every night and lastly, it removes the ugly cables creating a more attractive streetscape. 5) Ban smoking in public places. Passive smoking is a major health hazard. In a city with an air-pollution problem, we cannot afford to add to the problem by allowing smoking in confined environments. Smoking bans in bars and restaurants in other EU countries have also helped smokers to give up, thus improving public health. MIMI BOOTH, Rafina.