Healthy mobility in Malta
Recently, George Debono, on behalf of The Today Public Policy Institute, presented a report entitled "Healthy mobility in Sliema: A case study". The report takes Sliema as an example of the need to improve the traffic situation in many of Malta’s towns and villages.
di-ve.com spoke to Dr Debono to find out more on the subject. Read his comments below.
"Even though the report was well-received, there is still cause for concern at the way things are going in Malta in respect of healthy mobility.
"It is as though this latest Think Tank report uses a language that few (or none) are able to understand, largely because the car still dominates in Malta as the foremost object of desire and status symbol. The car thus remains the only conceivable means of transport, even for the shortest of journeys and people tend to view mobility in terms of parking space and traffic flow. They are unable to conceive any other way of move from Point A to Point B.
"At the same time, we are in fact fast approaching tipping point, where it will soon be futile to go anywhere close by car and going on foot or bicycle will become more practical.
"Even if only a few people were to start using alternative transport, like cycling or walking for short trips, the effect on traffic could be significant. However, instead of creating conditions aimed at encouraging people to walk or cycle, our traffic and infrastructural authorities simply continue to pander to private motorised transport.
"As a consequence of the phenomenal increase in powerboat ownership, this attitude is now spreading to the sea. Swimming is a healthy pastime open to all. But swimmers are now under pressure to have a dip within the small confines of newly created so-called safety zones. According to a Transport Malta statement, corralling swimmers into small pens in this way will 'promote a safer culture within all modes of transport' and 'stepping up efforts to educate and increase safety awareness among boat users'.
"This must rate as the most phenomenally stupid statement of the century. All it means is that powerboats may now enjoy even greater freedom of the sea without worrying about hitting swimmers, who are all conveniently segregated out of their way.
"As for healthy mobility in children such as cycling: The European cycling federation regards the issue of children’s healthy mobility as that of a right, the most important element of which was providing road safety. At the same time, the EU has come out with a most amazing no-brainer report (visit http://www.childsafetyeurope.org/reportcards/downloads.html) which came to the utterly astonishing conclusion that because Malta has a cycle-helmet law, young cyclists are safer in Malta than countries like Denmark and Holland. Of course, this is pure insanity; the absurd conclusion in this EU report ignores the plain fact that wearing a cycle helmet does not make road conditions safer for cyclists.
"While Transport Malta cannot be blamed for this outrageous and amateurish EU conclusion, very little is being done to encourage children to cycle. Parents continue to be conditioned towards the (correct) mindset that our roads are too dangerous to allow children to cycle on them. The misguided answer to this in Malta is to create so-called parks where children can cycle without interference from motor traffic (rather in the same way as swimmers are now expected to swim in small zones for their safety).
"Of course, this ignores the principle that promoting physical exercise as part of children’s’ routine depends on the safety of their immediate road environment. It also ignores the fact that limiting children to cycling in protected environments does nothing to make cycling on our roads safer.
"Such generalised, stupid and backward thinking simply defeats the objective of encouraging healthy mobility and only reinforces an attitude, common among motorists in Malta, that walking is an abomination and that cyclists do not belong on our roads."
To read the report, visit http://www.tppi.org.mt/~user2/index.php/news/1/567-healthy-mobility-in-sliema.