founding member of
Who are we
We are a NGO aiming at the protection of pedestrian rights in Athens. The group is named
peh-zee) after an expression denoting solemnly "on foot" in the Greek language. We are inspired by
texts such as:
The Pedestrians' rights charter (European Parliament 1988)
The Copenhagen declaration (Eurocities - Carfree cities network 1996)
Pedestrians in Athens, and generally in Greece, are brutally oppressed by the authorities through illegal actions and neglect of their needs. Sidewalks, squares,
pedestrianised streets, parks, pedestrian crossings and the totality of the pedestrian infrastructure is packed with illegally parked cars and moving motorcycles. The traffic
police are usually willing to handle car and motorcycle issues, but when comes to pedestrian rights violation, although competent,
they decline to intervene. According to official documents of the police authorities, whenever a driver fails to find a parking place, it is considered reasonable behaviour to use pedestrian spaces, although the law and humanism dictates the opposite. During the construction of new works, no provision is taken for the pedestrians. Particularly afflicted by this situation are the more vulnerable groups:
the elderly, small children, parents with strollers, people with disabilities. It is already practically impossible for wheelchair users and blind people to move autonomously in this city.
The Greek administration, a bureaucratic monster managed by politicians who are frequently accused
of corruption, has fervently encouraged the use of cars for many decades. Greece has always been among the countries with the cheapest gasoline in Europe and now is also among those with the lowest car prices. In order to favour car use and make it cheaper, the public space had been allowed to be used for free parking. When this space proved insufficient, because Athens urban density
is substantially high, the administration also allowed the illegal use of pedestrian spaces for the parking of motorised vehicles. Public transport is left to deteriorate in relation to private means of transport, and traffic needs
were designed to be satisfied by car use. Thus the share of public transport in total mobility declined from 65% in 1973 to 51% in 1983 and to 42% in 1996, while today
it is even lower (estimated at about 34%). Bicycle use is discouraged or prohibited and today is almost non-existent.
Railways transport was also left to deteriorate
quantitatively and qualitatively, while large motorway projects were planned and
implemented. Car ownership rose from about 200.000 some 25 years ago to almost 2
million today. When, as result of this policy, the narrow streets of Athens were saturated, instead of promoting public transit, walking, and bicycle use (which require serious
programmes), the use of motorcycles is encouraged through a series of privileges, in order to squeeze even more motorised traffic through the congested streets. The minority of motorcycle users has been granted the free, though illegal and unethical, use of the totality of pedestrian infrastructure for movement and parking and the number of two
wheeled motorised vehicles has reached almost 1 million.
The present situation
Athens is currently the most polluted by traffic and the most pedestrian unfriendly capital in Europe. The inhuman conditions have serious consequences in economic activities like tourism. The share in the total tourists arrivals constantly declines, despite the excellent natural climate and the plethora of monuments from the millennia-long history of the city.
The monuments of Athens, like Acropolis, spared from time, suffer serious damages
from motorised traffic due to pollution. For this reason it is not possible for
many statutes to remain in their original place, for fear
of damage by air pollution, and the most significant among them are preserved in
special nitrogen atmosphere. The common use of cars and motorcycles and the persecution of pedestrian and bicycle traffic contributed to the
deterioration of the health conditions of the
population. So, Greeks walking less than anywhere else in
Europe, have been turned into the
most obese nation in Europe. Greece has also higher accident rate compared to other EU countries because of the higher
motorcycle use (which is 15-30 times more dangerous than cars) and the pitiful pedestrian traffic conditions. The administration
which promotes an anti-pedestrian mentality offers to pedestrians more obstacles (like fences erected on the sidewalks) and
traffic tickets for the pedestrians who are forced by the conditions to move on the road
pavement. On the other hand, the administration offers new privileges for motorcycles (like the use of dedicated bus
lanes) and new tax discounts for motorised vehicles, falsely
presenting them to the public as social policy measures.
The public space for the pedestrians is under constant pressure from various lucrative activities of the nearby properties and strong economic interests.
An entire popular movement for the protection of the last free spaces in Athens has been developed, when, in numerous cases, the
local population reacted to the downgrade of such spaces, through building and greenery destruction. However the issue is often settled
through the use of police violence. Unfortunately the interest of some cronies has in most cases
for the administration higher priority over the health, safety, dignity and
welfare of the citizens. Instead of the protection of the common interest the administration leads mass operations for the deception of the public opinion. Thus
garages in the city
centre, destroying public spaces, are presented as projects for the benefit of
pedestrians and urban motorways splitting apart densely inhabited areas as projects for the protection of the environment!
You may want to take a VIRTUAL TOUR in the
streets of Athens. Please note that these pictures describe the average
situation, and in the case of an actual tour you may find yourself encountering even more shocking images (just try to imagine e.g. the situation of pedestrians
in this city on a rainy day)
Read also what you always wanted to know about
pedestrians and Athens 2004 olympics, but didn't know where to find it!