A culture of cycling and walking will be promoted by a department within the new transport authority being set up later this year.

"Clearly, the transport regulator must lead the national culture change that has so far given less attention to cycling than it should have," a Transport Ministry spokesman said.

She said it was hoped a change in attitude towards cycling and walking would permeate the entire organisation, including areas responsible for traffic management, road design and related activities.

"It is our policy to promote a modal shift away from private cars and cycling is a component of this effort that will never work while the activity is deemed unsafe on our roads," she said.

Cycling safety has been making the headlines after bicycle enthusiast Cliff Micallef died when he was hit by a car on the Coast Road last month. His death has sparked a petition - signed by almost 2,000 people in under two weeks - calling on the authorities to make motorists legally responsible for collisions with cyclists unless it was proven the cyclist deliberately caused the crash.

Replying to questions by The Times, the spokesman said the ministry would be considering the petition to make bicycle use safer. The government agreed it was time to revisit laws related to bicycle use, although she said changes in the law and an improvement in enforcement on its own would not bring about safety.

The spokesman said it was doubtful that motorists were not aware it was illegal to drink and drive or to drive in a cycle lane and the penalties associated with this.

She said the ministry was encouraged by the petition and the people who were interested enough to put their name to it. Until yesterday evening, over 1,800 people had signed the petition started on August 15.

"The awareness shown by these people will ensure they, and those they come in contact with, will be more careful drivers," the spokesman said, adding the ministry welcomed the petition and the recommendations.

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