Disgusting show in Parliament

A letter of mine entitled ‘The bicycle as a political statement?’ published in The Sunday Times of Malta (October 4) described the derision with which Simon Busuttil’s bicycle stunt on our so-called Car Free Day was received by  many timesofmalta .com commentators. Apart from the obvious political motivation behind most of the jeers, this sort of unhealthy attitude can only be ascribed to Malta’s ignorance on sensible transport choices and our pervasive pro-car bigotry.

Busuttil’s recent suggestion in Parliament that bicycle use should be encouraged was received by guffaws and laughter. This is truly disgusting and it is clear that crass ignorance, backwardness and pro-car bigotry also thrives among our MPs.

We have serious traffic pollution in our streets, we have Europe’s highest rates of obesity and diabetes, caused by lack of physical ex­ercise, and we have massive traffic congestion, with people wast­ing more and more of their lives sitting passively in a car, which compounds the health problems caused by our dense traffic pollution. And what do some mi­nis­ters do? They laugh.

There are early signs that people that are starting to realise that the bicycle is the answer for short trips. Bicycles are starting to appear more frequently on our roads. This should be encouraged rather than stupidly laughed at as it was in Parliament.

The recent development of well-designed electric bicycles has given a boost to accessible clean, healthy mobility in Europe. Most EU countries are encouraging the bicycle to help relieve traffic congestion and improve health.

To this end the EU has lifted all restrictions on sales of low-powered electric bicycles (pedelecs) and classes them as normal bicycles so that they can be purchased over-the-counter with no hassle just like any other bicycle. Transport Malta has gone in the opposite direction, imposing un­necessary restrictions on the easy purchase and use of pedelec bicycles that conform with EU norms.

As long as Malta’s traffic problem continues to be approached unimodally in terms of solely facili­tating car traffic flow, our traffic congestion will simply continue to increase. It is now necessary to promote multi-modal traffic and, preferentially, active mobility by public transport, walking and the bicycle.  The adage, ‘If you make it safe, people will ride’ should be the guiding principle for getting people to start using bicycles for practicable or short trips in Malta.


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