The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Beating the traffic: The advantage of having two wheels, not four

Jacob Borg Monday, 19 October 2015, 11:07 Last update: about 6 years ago

Malta is in a jam at the moment, and with this in mind Jacob Borg speaks to motorcycle instructor Dave White and cyclist Ryan Saliba about the advantages of two wheels over four in a bid to beat the traffic.

Motorcycles do not get much good publicity, but with the correct training the majority of accidents can be avoided, Dave White, an experienced motorcycle instructor who runs the RPM motorcycling school says.

“The pros of motorcycle riding far outweigh the cons. You experience a total feeling of freedom, you avoid traffic jams and have no parking issues. Maintenance is much cheaper than a car as are the fuel bills. Motorcycles are more environmentally friendly than other motorised vehicles, not to mention the sheer pleasure of riding itself.

“Unfortunately though, bikes do not get much positive publicity. You only ever see bikes in the media after an accident. Rarely do you see or read about someone who has gone for a ride, had a great day and returned home safely.

“This creates a lot of fear which really is unfair as most accidents can be avoided. The truth behind motorcycle accidents rarely comes out. People do not like to admit they have done wrong so reasons for accidents become more like fisherman’s tales, ‘there was diesel, someone pulled out,’ when in actual fact it could have been prevented in the first place just by merely paying more attention.”

Initiatives such as carpooling will not solve Malta’s traffic woes, Mr White says.

“The amount of cars I see daily stuck in traffic with only the driver in the car is ridiculous and carpooling is not working either in my opinion. People have different priorities after work, maybe they finish at different times or need to collect their children. I personally don’t have the time to wait for other people, I have my own things to do and little time in which to do them.

“Jumping on my bike after work inconveniences no one, I can go straight to my next task with no hassle. It seems the government has taken a step in the right direction with the introduction of cheaper road licenses for vehicles up to 125cc.

“I believe this will encourage people to leave their car at home in favour of a small bike to commute to work every day. This will greatly reduce traffic congestion, remember a bike takes probably a third of the space of a car. Imagine your normal traffic jam but for every one car you have three bikes.”

“We only have so much space and the problem is only going to get worse with families expanding and car-ownership increasing. ‘Rush hour’ does not exist anymore as it now starts at 6am until 9am. Motorcycles are the way forward in an ever-growing society, use the car only when necessary and commute on your bike or scooter for a more affordable and pleasurable journey. We don’t have the space to keep widening roads, we need to use smaller vehicles instead.”

Motorcycle usage does have its downsides, though none are insurmountable.

“Only two cons relating to the motorcycle itself come to mind, namely having to dress according to the weather and being unable to do any kind of bulky shopping. Although having said that, there are some good-sized scooters offering spacious storage compartments. Top boxes and panniers are available on other bikes making your daily shopping needs easily attainable. There is also a lot of stylish motorcycle clothing available which offer protection in all kinds of weather conditions while still looking pretty cool. Any other problems riding a bike come from other people and with proper training can be avoided.”

Cyclist reckons he has taken 25 cars off the road

Cyclist Ryan Saliba’s daily commute has taken on a twist in the past few weeks. Through his Facebook page ‘#No Traffic 4 Me’ he is actively encouraging people to ditch their cars for bicycles, and has even picked up aspiring cyclists from their home and accompanied them to work.

“I have been commuting by bicycle for the past three to four years at least. I always saw the benefits of it. Whereas people take an hour-and-a-half just to get somewhere and then have to look for parking, I would arrive in 20 minutes.

“When the traffic situation really worsened a few weeks ago, my girlfriend suggested that I stick a paper to my backpack saying ‘#No Traffic  4 Me’ and just ride along.

“The whole thing started from there. I opened up a Facebook page and it sort of mushroomed from there. In two days I had around 1,000 likes and a post reach of around 20,000.

“People are really fed up with the traffic situation so this helped the whole concept spread.

“I knew a lot of people wanted to start cycling to work, university and school but they never had the push to do so.

“I wanted to show people that it is time efficient to ride to work, so I put up the route and journey time of my commutes on the Facebook page.

“I would then tag two people who I knew and who wanted to start cycling to work. From then onwards, people started uploading their routes.”

“On the second day when I saw that the concept was catching, I said on the page that if I receive 500 likes I will find a person who wants to start cycling to work, pick them up from home and accompany them to work, before proceeding to work myself.

“It continued to spread from there, people were still uploading their routes – amazingly enough most of the routes were never longer than 35 minutes, no matter the distance.

“Whereas other people were spending one hour, one-hour-and-a-half stuck in traffic.”

Mr Saliba reckons that through his initiative -which is still in his infancy – a good number of cars have already been taken off the road during rush hour.

“I would say I have taken 20-25 cars off the road at least which is very good for the first week. What I noticed was that people do not cycle to work for various reasons, they think it might be unsafe, they don’t know the routes, they think they will end up all sweaty – ok you might end up sweaty for the first two days- but you can just wear a light vest when cycling, I never have to shower when I arrive at work.

“The way forward would be trying to combine all this into some sort of platform where we can actually help people to start doing this sort of thing.”

Mr Saliba says that although cycling can be dangerous, it is not as bad as some people think.

“If I am on the road with my bike and proceeding at the same speed as other cars, then I demand the respect of other drivers. First of all I obey all the traffic rules like giving way at roundabouts and stopping at stop signs.

“Communication with other road users is very important as it shows that I am an equal road user instead of just being stuck to the side of the road and intimidated by other cars.

“It takes a bit of initial courage, so my advice for beginners perhaps would be to take sides roads and avoid main roads.

“You will find that you begin to learn new routes and gain more confidence.

“My aim is to get more cyclists on the road. Perhaps if that happens, more initiatives will follow. It is not like we have to wait for the government or whoever to produce the infrastructure.”

 

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