The Malta Independent 2 March 2024, Saturday
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NGOs call for ‘a safe and efficient transport system’

Saturday, 18 March 2023, 10:11 Last update: about 13 months ago

Moviment Graffitti, Friends of the Earth Malta, and Rota on Saturday held a lie-in and press conference in front of Parliament to highlight the real cost of inefficient public transport, lack of appropriate infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, and an illogical car-centric transport system, which is negatively affecting people’s lives and quality of life. 

The transport model being pushed by past and current authorities prioritises private cars at the expense of guaranteeing safe and reliable access to mobility for everyone, at its worst resulting in an unacceptably high number of road incidents and deaths, the NGOs said in a statement. It has also resulted in constant traffic and congestion problems, severely impairing people’s ability to move from one place to another.

A transport system based on private cars perpetuates existing inequalities and does not provide safe and equitable mobility. None of us should be obliged to own a car simply because of the inadequacy of alternatives, and viable alternatives have become increasingly in demand as both the traffic congestion issue deepens and economic divides grow. However, the actions and message from authorities indicates that infrastructure for cars remains the priority. This infrastructure perpetuates the lack of safety and efficiency felt by many who would like to move to other forms of transport. 

Public transport is a public service, and should not be run by for-profit enterprises that run the risk of compromising on quality to make profits on taxpayer money. This model has led to the great disappointment of the Gozo Fast Ferry over the past months, with the government aiming to pledge millions more in public funds to satiate private businesses.  The failure of the authorities to acknowledge that a large proportion of the public is dependent on buses and ferries for daily commutes - due to age, ability, finance, or choice - is a gross disservice.

Our politicians do not take necessary, bold approaches that replace car dependency - which negatively affects people's health, finances and free time - with more accessible, sustainable, and socially inclusive means of travel, because they prefer to appease lobbyists and financial backers, the NGOs said. Roadworks continue to serve as a vehicle for politicians to dish out favours - and huge amounts of public money - to private contractors. We insist that our safety and quality of life are worth far more than politicians’ perceived obligation to those who financed their campaigns, and remind them that their true constituents are the people. Should politicians rise to the occasion and address our transport issues head on, they will be remembered positively in the long-term.

Tried and tested solutions have solved similar mobility challenges in cities and countries elsewhere - both hilly and flat, and with diverse weather considerations – but this will is currently lacking locally for no justifiable reason. If Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia wants to avoid further deaths on our roads and be remembered as the transport minister that solved our road congestion issues, the way forward is clear. The public has waited long enough, and it is well past the time to walk the talk, they said.

The organisations are thus calling on Farrugia to:

  1. Nationalise and further invest in all public transport, including ferries
  2. Publish standards for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure
  3. Publish a legally-binding national cycling policy
  4. Update our Highway Code to introduce the hierarchy of road users, giving those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger to the more vulnerable road users. 
  5. Introduce Presumed Liability laws to protect the more vulnerable road users
  6. Enhance the quality of our village cores by prioritising active mobility, allowing people to safely walk or cycle within their villages.

 

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