Two Maltese roads have been marked as ‘bad practice’ for cyclists by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF).

Triq l-Imġarr in Għajnsielem and the Marsa junction have been picked as examples of ‘bad practice’ and ‘bad practice set to be improved’ by the federation in a report pushing for integrating cycling infrastructure into all TEN-T infrastructure projects.

But Infrastructure Malta shot down the bad mark for the Marsa junction, saying the federation had failed to report the development of an underpass rather than a bridge.

In reply to questions on the report, an agency spokesperson said the report cites 2019 and 2020 meetings between Rota and the project team and how Infrastructure Malta had replaced the original pedestrian bridge with a 10 metre-long, five-metre-wide underpass.

“The indicated improvement, being an underpass instead of a planned bridge, was built last year and started being used this year, along with the rest of the new walking and cycling infrastructure of the Marsa junction project,” he said.

The project comprises a 3.5-kilometre network of segregated cycle lanes and footpaths. It also forms part of a wider alternative transport network to provide safer connections between Tarxien, Paola, Santa Luċija, Luqa and Marsa.

Back in November, it was reported that several lifts at the Marsa junction were out of order, following reports from cyclists and pedestrians. At the time, Infrastructure Malta blamed the faults on “accidental or intentional misuse”.

Regarding Triq l-Imġarr, the spokesperson said it was rebuilt over 10 years ago, before Infrastructure Malta was established in 2018.

Over 16 kilometres of cycle lanes since 2018

The spokesperson said that, over the past three years, Infrastructure Malta developed more than 16 kilometres of cycle lanes, including the first bi-directional segregated cycling and walking tracks as well as the “longest cycle lane in Malta” connecting Ta’ Qali, Attard, Balzan, Mrieħel and Birkirkara.

But Rota president Michelle Attard Tonna is still not happy, saying cyclists were forced to use “certain death traps”.

She said bad practices exist in every country but in Malta there is a growing reputation, through statistics of high accident rates, that roads are not safe.

It’s not simply a question of culture but of poor infrastructure and real danger

“The ECF mentioned the road leading to the ferry terminal but that road is not even the worst. There are others which are more dangerous, like Tal-Balal, Żebbuġ bypass and Vjal Sir Paul Boffa, in Paola, to name a few,” she said.

“This is the reality, particularly for commuters who use their bike because in such cases you do not have much choice but to use certain death traps.”

She said it is time for the authorities to take responsibility to provide safety for all road users. She suggested that in areas where the speed of cars is much higher than that of bicycles, there should be physically segregated bike lanes. In residential zones and rural areas, she suggested cycling can be rendered safer by traffic calming measures and more awareness.

“Expats who move to Malta and plan to cycle here give up on the idea as soon as they realise how dangerous it is. Some of these people come from the Netherlands or Denmark, where cycling is very popular. So, it’s not simply a question of culture but also of poor infrastructure and real danger.”

What is the report about?

Founded in 1983, EFC is an umbrella federation for national cycling organisations, promoting and encouraging cycling worldwide and enforcing stronger cycling policies at a European level.

In the upcoming revision of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) guidelines on December 14, the federation is proposing to integrate cycling infrastructure and the European cycle route network into all TEN-T infrastructure projects.

TEN-T is a network of roads, railways, airport and water infrastructure in the European Union and an investment in transport infrastructure across the continent.

In a detailed map highlighting the good and bad practices of cycling infrastructure on TEN-T projects, the federation lists a number of selected case studies and ranks them in green (good practice), yellow (has pros and cons), orange (bad practice set to be improved) and red (bad practice). One of 14 projects ranked as bad practice includes the road leading to the ferry between Gozo and Malta, Triq l-Imġarr.

The federation said the road provides four lanes for cars but only a narrow sidewalk for pedestrians and no cycling lane or facilities for cyclists.

The federation marked the €70 million Marsa junction, which was inaugurated in April this year, as orange. The ECF noted how Infrastructure Malta took on recommendations by cyclist NGO Rota to include a new underpass to the project to facilitate pedestrians and cyclists.

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