TSERI AVENUE in Nicosia is the worst possible advertisement for a modern town. With dirt paths instead of pavements, poor street lighting, rudimentary drainage, which causes flooding whenever there is a downpour, and anarchic planning that guarantees congestion, it is reminiscent of the way our towns looked 30 years ago. But apart from nostalgia value, the only thing this so-called avenue, which is more village road, offers motorists and pedestrians using it, is zero safety, inconvenience and traffic chaos.
Plans for its much-needed re-design and reconstruction were drafted some 10 years ago, but had to be put on hold because the funds were not available. Yet the avenue’s reconstruction should have been given priority because this is an extremely busy road. The funds have now been found and the government has decided to go ahead with the long-overdue project but it is encountering the strong opposition of residents, business-owners and now the majority of the Strovolos municipal council.
The Tseri residents’ group has hired a lawyer and is threatening to report the ministries to the auditor-general for squandering public money. It argues that the project could be done in such a way it would cost less money and it has cited a study by the Technical Chamber ETEK which found that the government’s plans were not suitable for the area. The current plan, which interior minister Socratis Hasikos said would go ahead regardless of the opposition, envisages three lanes, pavements, traffic lights at junctions, road bumps, roundabouts, plus 240 parking places.
Needless to say that all the fuss is about the parking places which in the government plans are not on the sides of the road. Shopkeepers complain that they would lose all their custom if drivers cannot park outside their shops, claiming, with a large dose of exaggeration, that if the government plan went ahead 150 businesses would close down and 1,000 people would lose their jobs. They cite as an example Strovolos Avenue, although the truth is there are plenty of shops operating on both sides of the road. The parking issue is the only concern of the protesters that are predominantly shopkeepers. Why would residents complain about the building of pavements and pedestrian crossings?
While they may have a point, the public interest, which would be best served by a safe and modern road with pavements for pedestrians, far outweighs the interest of a few dozen shopkeepers. President Anastasiades may have over-reacted yesterday, saying after meeting the Strovolos mayor that if the municipality did not want improvements to be made to Tseri Avenue the government could spend the money on other projects, but his frustration was understandable. The project should have been undertaken years ago and it cannot be delayed another 10 years because shop-owners want a re-design.
While scrapping the project would be a fitting punishment for the protesters, it would also punish everyone else that uses the road.