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MALTATODAY 7 August 2022

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12 NEWS DR SUZANNE MAAS HAS our new Transport Min- ister already forgotten what he – presumably? – learned in his stint as Environment Minister over the past few years? Cli- mate change is here, now! Car- bon emission reductions need to be ramped up drastically and immediately, as per Malta's ob- ligations under the global Paris Agreement of 2015 and the Eu- ropean Green Deal, 55% reduc- tion of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net carbon neutrali- ty in 2050 in the EU. The New EU Urban Mobility Framework (2021), which guides EU member states' mobility policy, stresses the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to "shift away from the current approach to improve traffic flow, and instead move to an approach based on moving peo- ple and goods more sustainably, with a focus on strong public transport, promotion of active mobility, and zero-emission ur- ban logistics". Today, road transport contrib- utes to one third of total green- house gas emissions in Malta. To stop fuelling the climate crisis and reduce carbon emissions, as well as the impact of air pollu- tion on public health, road safety concerns and diminishing pub- lic space for anyone outside a car, we need to move away from planning only for cars. But no, our Transport Minis- ter says that "efficiency for cars comes first". For the past dec- ades we have seen investments in wider and further roads for cars, and there is nothing effi- cient about it. Building more roads and parking for cars only leads to more cars. This is a vicious and endless cycle termed 'induced demand' and is a simple story of supply and demand: increasing the ca- pacity for cars on the road in- creases the amount of cars on the road. This phenomenon is well documented in the litera- ture, based on examples from all over the world, and can be observed clearly in Malta as well, where new bypasses and flyovers have not resolved traffic conges- tion or parking issues at all. Exactly because Malta is small and space is limited, we need to invest in cleaner and leaner modes of transport. The car is the least space efficient mode of transport of all! The average commute in Malta is only 5.5km, therefore we need to invest in di- rect, safe, comfortable, attractive and connected infrastructure for walking and cycling, so that the choice to go on foot or by bicycle for short trips is easy and obvi- ous. This is not about "accom- modating cyclists over the cars on the road" as the Minister said, but about envisioning, devising and implementing a sustainable mobility policy for the country. The EU guidelines on Sus- tainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP), a plan which is cur- rently in the works for the prin- cipal urban area in Malta, stress the need to address the trans- port sector to tackle the climate crisis, with a primary focus on public transport, walking and cycling. And yes, such a plan should also seek to regulate and reduce private car use in a city, especially in its centre(s). This is being done around Eu- rope, where (local) governments have woken up to the harm that excessive private car use is causing their cities and citizens. Cities such as Paris, Milan, Bar- celona and Seville are reducing access and space for cars, and investing in public transport, active mobility and green public spaces instead. Or look at the in- spiring mobility policy of Rimini in Italy, which was shown as a case study in Transport Malta's own recent workshop on 'Ena- bling a shift towards sustainable transport modes' as part of their updating of the Transport Mas- ter Plan. Even the government's own Low Carbon Development Strategy (2021) identi- fies active transport (walking, cycling) as a high priority pol- icy area for the short term to reduce carbon emissions in Malta. From my own PhD re- search on the p r o m o t i o n of cycling as a mode of transport in Southern Euro- pean cities I found that road safety is the main barrier for people cy- cling, in Malta and many oth- er similar cities. If the Minister wants to make our roads safer for everyone, efforts should fo- cus on reducing large differences in mass and velocity of different transport modes; reducing travel speed to a maximum of 30 km/h and applying traffic calming where roads are shared between cars and vulnerable road users, and providing safe, separated infrastructure where the speed is higher. There are many things the Minister can do to promote cycling and other forms of sustainable mobility. Here are some to get started: • Invest in decent pavements to promote walking for lo- cal trips, with adequate widths, safe crossings and green infrastructure to pro- vide shade and mitigate noise and air pollution. • Apply traffic calming princi- ples in town centres and res- idential roads, to create safe spaces for walking and cy- cling, where cars are guests. • D e d - i c a t e space to efficient and reliable pub- lic transport and increase the connectivity between the bus and ferry networks. • Publish the long overdue National Cycling Policy an- nounced in the Transport Master Plan of 2016. Ap- point a cycling commission- er/committee and set up the Cycling Malta platform pro- posed in the draft National Cycling Strategy, and task them with the creation of a comprehensive cycling net- work and the creation of cy- cling infrastructure stand- ards and guidelines. • Reduce speed limits and road widths, to dis- courage over-speeding; the most efficient way to improve road safety! • Stop relying on a shift to electro-mobility as the only sustainable mobility poli- cy. It will not be enough to reach our carbon emission reduction targets, and cer- tainly will not resolve the other problems associated with too many cars: traffic, parking, take up of public space and road safety con- cerns. There are professionals in Mal- ta who can advise the govern- ment and the Transport Minis- ter on real, effective and efficient sustainable mobility policy and planning, such as the Institute for Climate Change and Sustain- able Development, and NGOs like Rota and Friends of the Earth Malta, alongside many others who have been promot- ing policies for healthy liveable urban areas. Together we can create a real sustainable mobil- ity future for Malta, to improve quality of life, public health and public spaces. We are here to help and make this a reality. If the Minister really does not know what else he can do to pro- mote sustainable mobility, may- be he should consider handing in his resignation; a Minister for Transport is not a Minister for Cars. Suzanne Maas holds a PhD in Sustainable Mobility (Melit.) from the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable De- velopment at the University of Malta. She is the Climate Campaign Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Malta and an active member of Rota. Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia was quoted saying that "efficiency for cars comes first" and that "there was nothing more they could do to accommodate cycling further" People walking, cycling and taking public transport can come first maltatoday | SUNDAY • 7 AUGUST 2022

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