Malta's unhealthy car addiction

With increasing numbers of cars on the road, and little incentives for other means of transportation, Malta is following the American model of development.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Malta's unhealthy car addiction - NewsMavens
Bucyclists, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

Tourism brochures praise a relaxed lifestyle and the opportunity to cycle along narrow lanes of cute Mediterranean villages, but which Malta are they talking about?

Malta currently has the second highest number of cars per capita in the European Union -- nearly two passenger cars for every three people -- making cyclists fear for their lives.

Young people regret having to depend on lifts or taxis for their nights out in Valletta if they aren't ready to fork out over a thousand euros to become drivers, and senior citizens are increasingly afraid to cross streets that used to be safe and pleasant for them. Most agree that something needs to be done, but what exactly?

The approach as of late has been to widen the roads, which eats away wildlife and leaves tree branches hanging low -- a strategy which has cost two lives this year. While public transit is constantly improving, it is falling victim to heavy congestion, being trashed by users on social networks, and struggling to recruit drivers.

The situation is unsustainable by every estimation, but authorities fear that any restrictions on private cars would be politically unpopular.

On the other hand, parts of Valletta were pedestrianized years ago -- a move that proved to be immensely popular and business-friendly, showing that change is possible where there is political will.

Details from the story:

  • Four out of five residents of Malta depend on cars for their daily commutes, however short they are.
  • Traffic congestion costs Malta €118 million a year, as of 2015.
  • 20% of households have more than three cars.
  • 10.8% of trips are made by bus whilst the share of people who walk has decreased by ten times (to 1.2%).
  • In spring, a Serbian cyclist was killed on a new flyover in central Malta, exemplifying how new developments exclude pedestrians and cyclists, further incentivising car dependency.
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