Athens among 100 worst cities to drive: Survey
It is no surprise to anyone who has been in Greece to realize that driving in the country is quite an experience.
A recent survey conducted by the European automotive group "Mister Auto" ranks cities across the world based on several metrics, including cars per capita, congestion, road quality, average speed, and access to public transport.
Athens got the 90th place in the list of 100 worst cities for drivers, while Calgary in Canada got the first place of the 100 best cities to drive, followed by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) standing in the second rank.
Capital Athens counts 0.77 vehicles per capita against 0.63 in Calgary of Canada and 0.54 in UAE's Dubai.
"Car ownership is a necessary precondition for commuting, as alternative ways are not possible mainly in urban centers," Efthimios Bakogiannis, secretary-general for Regional Planning and Urban Environment at the Environment and Energy Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.
In addition, "public transport cannot compete with the car, because it is insufficient, both in terms of routes and connections, and in terms of frequencies," he added.
"The lack of traffic regulations in order to discourage car use, combined with the lack of traffic police surveillance for parked cars, make driving a major issue," Bakogiannis added.
'No respect for pedestrians'
The survey also assessed the overall safety and road rage incidents.
In Athens, most drivers drive over the speed limit, do not respect pedestrians and do not follow traffic lights, whereas there is also a lack of respect for people with disabilities like the ones in wheelchairs.
"Yes, I'm not surprised that we rank among the worst 10 countries," a 35-year-old driver, Giannis Rousopoulos, told Anadolu Agency, and added: "I also experience it myself, we are nervous drivers, we drive over speed limits in streets, and do not respect each other".
"The city has become asphyxiating as there are too many cars," one pedestrian told Anadolu Agency.
"It’s not easy for us either," she said pointing at the lines in the road that designate the pedestrian crossing which is never respected by most drivers.
"I also drive, but I try to avoid road rage, because there is already a lot of rages out there and drivers are ready to fight, you don’t know how the other will react, so I try to keep it low," she added.
The survey has also shown that Greeks come out as hot-tempered with their percentage ranging at 70.85 with the likelihood of getting into a fight in the street or being present at a fight.
Bakogiannis explained that the traffic congestion of the road, the search for a parking spot and the daily short distance driving for even less than 5-km (3.1-mile) destinations that require over an hour’s drive, create irritation that can lead to abusive driving behaviors.
"I was once stopped in the middle of the street just because I legally overtook a vehicle," Anna Dimitriadou, 38, said.
"I had no idea what had happened, I just saw a driver stopping in front of me in the middle of the street and coming to my window and started shouting and doing some gestures," she added.
Such incidents are not unusual in the streets of Athens as Greeks use their cars even for the shortest distances, making car congestion and traffic unbearable.
"Investigation by the Greek police show that one in every three Greek drivers does not respect the disabled, parks in ramps or in parking spots for the disabled, while one in five drivers does not wear a seat belt, one in four makes an irregular overtaking and violates a red light, and one in three exceeds the speed limit," Bakogiannis explained.
"The results are not just because there are too many cars, and due to the difficulties the drivers face, but it's also cumulatively the fact that we are not disciplined, lack traffic police surveillance, have the Mediterranean spirit, and much more due to a general Greek attitude," Bakogiannis concluded.