Beleaguered Athens pedestrians have a new enemy to contend with after a crackdown on jaywalking was announced this week.
Greece has the EU's highest death toll from motor accidents and officials admit illegal parking has reached epidemic proportions, but police have set their sights on pedestrians, who from 13 September will risk incurring spot fines of €16 (£10) for crossing the street on a red light.
Citizens' rights groups have responded with fury, accusing the authorities of "criminalising pedestrians" and pointing to the appalling state of the city's pavements. On Athens' main Akademias Avenue the pedestrian crossings are routinely blocked by motorists keen to steal forward those vital few feet at the traffic lights. "The definition of a millisecond in Greece is the time it takes from the light turning green for the man five cars back to hit his horn," complained one pedestrian after a swift illegal crossing.
Watching cars drive along a supposedly pedestrian shopping street, one shopper inquired less than politely what police were doing about these offenders. "What are these jokers doing to stop them?" she asked, pointing at two nearby traffic policemen.
Officials respond that there are bad pedestrians as well as bad motorists. With this in mind traffic police have been given 10 days to get the message to the public that the highway code is for walkers, not just drivers.
Traffic police are under pressure to show results after the failure of a previous attempt to force motorcyclists to wear helmets. The move resulted in thousands of bikers riding with helmets tied to their arms and then putting them on only after being stopped by police.
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