The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

TMID Editorial: The need to make cycling safer

Tuesday, 2 August 2022, 10:09 Last update: about 12 days ago

If cyclists are saying that bicycle lanes in Malta are a joke, then they are.

Cyclists who make use of road cycle lanes are of the opinion that these are being designed by people who never rode a bike and do not know what this entails. Juan Buhagiar, a committee member of Rota, told The Malta Independent on Sunday that the people designing these bicycle lanes are not bicycle users and are not taking their suggestions seriously.

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Malta’s traffic problems are well known. This newsroom has published many editorials on the matter, and indeed had published one just last week regarding traffic caused by road works.

The arguments of promoting alternative transport in order for there to be fewer cars on the road are well-known. Cycling is one of these methods and, aside from this, is also a very good form of exercise.

But one thing is for sure. In order to promote this form of alternative transport, cyclists’ safety must be absolutely guaranteed.

Rota is an NGO that advocates for safer bicycle use by communicating with government agencies to suggest better ways to make the infrastructure more bicycle-friendly. Rota recently expressed their disappointment on social media after their proposal to implement safe, space-efficient bicycle lanes for the Mgarr Bypass project was ignored by Infrastructure Malta (IM). 

Rota said that all IM has done is paint part of the road green and call it a bicycle lane so that they can notify the EU that they have increased the number of bicycle lanes. "In reality, they are not usable bicycle lanes,” Buhagiar stated. He said: "it's a high-speed road with no separation, only paint. The bicycle lane is quite narrow; there are parts where a normal bicycle is wider than the actual bicycle lane.”

He claimed that the number one reason why people don't cycle in Malta is safety. He’s probably right.

If the NGO that is specifically aimed at ensuring cyclist safety in the island is saying that there is a problem with a bicycle lane well… the government should well and truly listen.

Another problem this island has is that cycling lanes are not continuous. Granted that the government has been trying to implement some form of bicycle lane in its major projects, but there is still more to be done.

Driver mentality is also another issue. Here, we are referring to the aggressive drivers on the road. Those tailgating other drivers, those who speed excessively on main roads, like the one at Mgarr and the Coast Road. They not only put themselves and other drivers at risk, but also cyclists who, if hit, are more likely to suffer fatal injuries.

Buhagiar gave some positive examples of certain areas around the country where good things were introduced, mentioning that the Marsa bicycle lane for instance was segregated from the road with the use of a crash barrier. Perhaps this should be considered in more areas?

"One thing that we really hope is achieved in Malta is to have some form of National Cycling Policy that sets predefined standards for a bicycle network and infrastructure," Buhagiar had said. This is a good idea and one that the government should consider taking onboard.

The country has NGOs in different sectors that are willing to put the time in to really improve the situation in Malta. Perhaps we should give more prominence to their ideas.

 

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