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‘Be a diplomat, even when you ride your bike’

The Bicycling Advisory Group made a list of warnings to those visiting Malta for the EU presidency. Photo: Chris Sant FournierThe Bicycling Advisory Group made a list of warnings to those visiting Malta for the EU presidency. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Do not cause a diplomatic incident by running red lights or riding your bicycle against traffic, an advocacy group is warning diplomats and journalists planning to head to Malta during its EU presidency term.

The Bicycling Advocacy Group yesterday wrote to the European Cyclists’ Federation listing a series of warnings to guide prospective cyclists. The ECF is an umbrella federation for cycling organisations throughout Europe, and BAG is hoping it will disseminate the information.

Malta will host some 20,000 people between January and June of next year, and while the traffic is almost the densest in Europe, Maltese drivers are becoming more “bicycle aware”, BAG thinks.

However, the island is missing some cycling rules, and cyclists cannot give pillion rides as they would in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, among other places.

“Nor does Malta have any cycling protection laws, like a 1.5m passing distance or presumed liability, so riding here is quite different and cyclists themselves are treated differently than in more bike-friendly states.”

When it comes to tunnels, cyclists cannot ride through them on the road, and they have to use the footpaths, which are limited to walking speed. And “to avoid a diplomatic incident, while it is legal to filter traffic in Malta, there are no laws allowing cyclists to run red lights as in some other EU cities. A red light really does mean stop, even if only making a left turn,” spokesman Jim Wightman wrote, adding that hugging the centre strip, or riding against traffic is “a real no-no”.

While the traffic is almost the densest in Europe,Maltese drivers are becoming more bicycle aware

One of cyclists’ largest head-aches – pedelecs – also features in this list, and Mr Wightman noted that as far as he knew, Malta was the only EU state requiring pedelecs with power of less than 250w to be registered with the state regulator, Transport Malta.

The group is warning of the red tape surrounding the use of such bikes on Maltese roads.

Unfortunately, Maltese legislation did not make any provision for the temporary importation of pedelecs, which meant that although free, they still needed to be registered, he said.

Since this cannot be done at port of entry and such bikes do not have any type of certification, they need to be inspected at TM’s technical department in Floriana. The paperwork can then be taken to TM’s Marsa offices for registration.

“The tricky bit is that unregistered pedelecs cannot be ridden on the road, so you will need to find some way to get your bike to Floriana.”

“As registration hinges on having the right paperwork with you, we strongly suggest you email the documentation to TM to check that it is acceptable… Some people have had to make three or four trips when paperwork did not cover all the details,” Mr Wightman said.

“Having jumped through hoops, you’ll also be pleased to know there are no specific charging points for pedelecs in Malta as in other EU countries,” he added.

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