“If you want to get to work or home quickly, walk rather than taking the bus.”
These are the words of Heraklion public bus drivers, who are up in arms because they can’t do their work properly, in a city with the most private cars per inhabitant in Greece and which has faced huge traffic problems in recent years.
Some works undertaken for the Olympics may have helped significantly at certain points, but much more needs to be done to solve Heraklion’s traffic congestion. Bus drivers mention three typical problems they and the public face: the narrow road at Fortetsa, parked cars at junctions and U-turns on busy roads.
The neighbourhood of Fortetsa was built hastily to accommodate homeless Greek refugees from Asia Minor nearly a century ago. People then could not have foreseen today’s needs in the large city Heraklion has become. As a result, the main street in Fortetsa is so narrow at certain points that only one car can pass at a time. For buses the problem is even greater, as even one illegally parked car can keep the bus stationary for a long time, with the driver honking angrily and passengers shaking their heads in despair. The only immediate solution would be to make the road one-way, relieving congestion in the area.
Another cause of daily discomfort are the thoughtless drivers who park at junctions, on corners and at traffic lights. A typical example is the junction at Dimokratias and Papandreou Avenues, where the bus can’t turn if there is a car parked at the traffic lights.
The third common example is U-turns practised by drivers of private cars on busy roads, in order to park on the other side of the street and shop at supermarkets and large stores. The driver stops in the middle of the road to turn, and may cut off circulation in his own lane for several minutes before finally finding a gap in the other lane.
If we add the chaos observed in the town centre with the first rain or cold day, when everybody drives into town and the roads are completely gridlocked, it is easy to understand bus drivers’ frustration, when a 30-minute route suddenly takes them an hour and a half.