OPINION

Where are the traffic police?

I have often wondered what precisely the traffic police do in Athens, for the state of a country’s roads are often a good indication of its future course. And looking at the roads of Greece and Athens in particular gives many the feeling that we are slipping to Third World status. Where does one begin? From the fact that cars are parked along both sides of Academias Street all day and all night? From the cars parked on the sidewalks of Vassilissis Sofias Avenue – a phenomenon one would never see in any other European country? From Panormou, which has become a single-lane road because delivery trucks are double-parked along its entire length? From Solonos, a small street which must endure all the downtown traffic on days when the center is closed because of marches and which even then has cars parked along its sides? Or from the area around the Acropolis which is congested with tour buses for which no one had the presence of mind to create parking lots? Sometime around 2004, either because of the Olympic Games or other coincidences, it appeared that some semblance of order had been restored to the streets of Athens. That order has now been lost. The traffic police may be present at the occasional roadblock or when a major public figure is driving by, but it is rarely seen enforcing the law, issuing tickets, removing license plates. What we now know is that staff shortages are not the problem; Management and discipline are. The wrong people are in the most important positions. The thing is that when Greeks see others breaking the law so frequently and flagrantly, they will not hesitate to break the law themselves. If a Greek drives down Academias and sees cars parked along the side, he’ll say, «Hey, I’ll stop here and get my shopping done too.» You may say that the country is facing greater problems. But the state of a capital’s roads reflect the state of the country in general and give rise to corresponding behavioral patterns.