It is always pleasant news when Larnaka Municipality states that it will clamp down on certain anti-social behaviours (of which there are many!) But it is never a guarantee that they will put their money (or that of the taxpayers) where their mouth is, so I really, really hope that this time the new law of not allowing eyesores and illegal obstructions on pavements will be implemented.
No doubt there are business owners who are up-in-arms at the new decree that only those with prior permission are allowed to put signs, tables, chairs and decorative items on the pavements and roads outside of their establishments. After all, the sight of a board menu or an 'open' sign is a common sight in town, and within reason, the practise seems fairly harmless.
But, you get establishments who think that they own the pavement and road outside of their premises, to the point that they fill both up either to stop people parking (and thus blocking the sight of their premises), or to extend their services outside. And there are those who go a step further and actually forbid members of the public to park even in metered spaces unless they are visiting their particular shop or restaurant. Not only is this unfair and illegal, but there have been many instances when the establishment owners have actually become aggressive or violent towards vehicles parked outside 'their' premises. I have personally heard of owners returning to egged or scratched cars for refusing not to abide by the establishment's demands to move along.
By claiming the surrounding areas of their business, there are many establishments that are inconveniencing and endangering pedestrians – especially those with pushchairs and wheelchairs - by forcing them to walk on the road. It makes me very cross that any business should take away someone's right to walk safely on a pavement, or abuse them if they try to walk through the obstacle course of pot plants, signs and tables, or dare to park legally outside.
The reason that this clamping down is taking place is actually mainly for aesthetic reasons. As a tourist town, rusty signs held down by an old tire do not look nice! There is no consistency to the type of signs used, and some of them are actually hazardous as well as ugly. Good luck to the municipality, as I really don't fancy their chances of policing an entire town's pavements or finding cooperative business owners!
Personally, I live in fear of parking in a legal spot outside someone's business, as they tend to peer out and give you a dirty look if you are not going inside. I normally park and run out of the car before they spot me. This is crazy but in Cyprus, people are very territorial of surrounding areas that they think 'belong' to them.
Case-in-point is the issue of residential areas where homeowners selfishly plant massive trees in the middle of pavements, or park their car fully on the pavement. It has long been a contentious issue for me, especially as nothing is being done about it.
I for one certainly look forward to a less hazardous town, and kindly request that residential areas are next on the list!
First appeared in The Cyprus Weekly, week 03/07/15