Open letter to demand the redesign of Mġarr Road

Open letter to demand the redesign of Mġarr Road

On the 15th of February, Moviment Graffitti, Friends of the Earth Malta, and Rota sent a letter to the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, Dr Aaron Farrugia, the CEO of Transport Malta, Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, and the CEO of Infrastructure Malta, Mr Ivan Falzon, demanding that political responsibility is shouldered for the failure of the bicycle lane on Triq Sir Temi Żammit, Mġarr, in keeping cyclists safe. The letter demands the immediate redesign of Mġarr Road to prioritise the safety and efficiency of cyclists and pedestrians. On the 17th of February activists unfolded a banner on Mġarr Road (Triq Sir Temi Żammit), asking: “Why are our roads deadly?”

On Sunday 12 February, a cyclist was seriously injured in a collision with a car while using the cycle lane on Triq Sir Temi Żammit, leading up to Mġarr. This is a road that was redone by Infrastructure Malta in 2021, under the authority of Transport Malta and the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, against the informed recommendations by local NGO Rota.

The organisations note that this is not the first accident highlighting the insufficiency of this freshly introduced “cycle lane”, and their open letter follows over two years of public outcry by the cycling community on the dangerous state of the cycling infrastructure on this road. Now, a cyclist has had to suffer the incompetence of the authorities’ work. The organisations are now demanding that political responsibility is shouldered and reiterate that the road is redone in conformity with best practices to keep all road users safe.

Sunday’s accident could have been easily prevented had Rota’s suggestions of segregated cycle lanes been taken on board at the outset, when they were consulted by Infrastructure Malta during the planning phase of this road in 2020. It is completely unacceptable that Infrastructure Malta reduced the consultation process to a box-ticking exercise. Paired with a complete lack of an enforceable policy on cycling infrastructure from Transport Malta, Mġarr Road features what is possibly the least usable cycle lane on the island, so narrow that it forces cyclists to rejoin speeding car traffic at several points. It represents a step backwards, not forwards, in encouraging the uptake of active means of transport and in keeping all road users safe. It is a shame that this “cycle lane” on Triq Sir Temi Żammit has been retained despite the outcry, and that not a word has been uttered by the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects on the situation in the three days since this latest accident.

Fundamentally, road design should seek to ensure safety for all users and tackle entrenched car dependency. Increasing penalties alone will not prevent fatal accidents if our road infrastructure continues to encourage speeding cars at the cost of all other means of transport. The organisations are therefore demanding that works to redesign the Triq Sir Temi Żammit are started immediately, in accordance with international cycling infrastructure standards, such as the proposed plan by Rota, to prevent further avoidable accidents on this road. They also expect the publication of national standards for cycling infrastructure, in line with top international standards, to ensure that in future public funds are not wasted on the creation of substandard and dangerous infrastructure.

Following the deafening silence in response to our open letter to the Transport Minister and CEOs of Infrastructure Malta and Transport Malta, we ask once again: who will take responsibility for these road crashes and deaths by design?

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