A survey of living conditions in Athens has confirmed what the Greek capital's residents already know. Their city is polluted, congested and the rarity of its parking spaces is matched only by the rarity of its parks.
Athens is "depressed and disorganized," according to the three-month survey conducted by V-Project Research Consulting. The survey polled almost 3,000 people, looking at everything from commuting time to the odds of beating 1.3 million cars and 600,000 motorcycles to those rare parking spaces.Some sobering statistics: One-third of Athenians don't live near a park or a playground; 30 percent said they get sick from the pollution. And according to a second survey by Athens Pollution Control Program, half live in areas where noise levels are unhealthy.
Few are surprised by the results of a population explosion early this century that caught civic planners of this ancient city unawares and created a 5-million-strong metropolis.
"If you take a man who leads a healthy life in the country and put him in the middle of this city, he'll die," claimed Dimitris Dimitriou, 57, a street sweeper working near Constitution Square.
The mayor, Dimitris Avramopoulos, has promised to build more parking for the 80 percent of Athenians who drive to work instead of taking public transport. New laws require vehicles and nightclubs to quieten down or pay up. In the pipeline also are plans for car-free areas of the city and small parks.
"We are making efforts to increase the amount of open space and solve the traffic problem," said Ilias Skaleos, who has served as deputy mayor for 12 years. "Athenians have to end their attachment to the automobile."