The Street Panthers are a group who prowl the streets of the major Greek cities, slapping the vehicles of parking violators with orange stickers depicting a donkey in a car above the message, “I park wherever I want”. Their cause is due to the growing lack of space to both park and walk in Greek cities.
Background & Objectives
In Greece, the concerns and rights of pedestrians are widely disregarded. "Step on a sidewalk or try crossing any street here, and chances are you’ll instantly feel like the prey of a safari hunt,” claims the Hellenic Association of Road Traffic Victim Support. “This is the only place in Europe where the golden traffic rule — that pedestrians have the unconditional right of way — is so brazenly disrespected.”
In Greek cities, big or small, swarms of scooters race down crowded sidewalks. Pedestrians struggle to circumnavigate construction debris, torn-up pavement and mounds of refuse. The greatest impediment, however, is the fleet of vehicles that each day mounts the cities’ tree-lined sidewalks or other walkways to park.
In contrast to the patterns observed in other countries of Western Europe, household car ownership levels in urban areas of Greece are much higher than those recorded in rural areas. With an estimated two million vehicles, the city of Athens has the European Union’s highest per capita car ownership with 450 cars registered for every 1,000 residents.
Street panthers are a Greek group which decided to bring driver cars to reason by slapping their cars with a smart sticker. The stickers depict a donkey in a car above a message stating, “I park wherever I want.” The aim of this action is to remind car drivers that pavements are for pedestrians and that they should walk rather than drive their cars.
Street panthers began in the end of 2006 in Thessaloniki and their activities dispersed thereafter rapidly all over Greece.
The explanation for the “I-park-where-I-want-and-I-don’t-care-about-anyone” phenomenon is rather simple. The donkey is a self-adhesive reminder for inconsiderate drivers to respect those who commit the unforgivable crime of walking. The parkers often cannot see the crosswalks. They stop and park their cars, as if pedestrians were see-through. After the sticker is placed though, they begin to reconsider their behavior.
Since their start, Street panthers have created a series of such creative stickers and more than 250,000 stickers have been distributed.
Other stickers bring the message “Do not park in a handicapped area for your convenience" and "Try to take their position to see what difficulty means"
The movement led to a one-evening "prowl" whereby a group of advocates combed the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki stamping cars with the stickers stating, "I park wherever I want."
The reaction from Greek citizens has been to ultimately join the initiative, and therefore, violations of parking have been declining.
Update 2011: the organization has attained legal status as a non-profit in Greece. There have been over 800.000 stickers in circulation and the leading members sometimes organize or participate in local events.
The founder of the movement, Grigoris, says the organization's aim is "not so much to have a 'public face', but rather provide the pedestrians with a tool (the sticker) to resist the illegal occupation of sidewalks and pedestrian facilities."
For more info about street panthers, visit http://www.streetpanthers.gr/ (in Greek).