Commercial vehicles could be banned at certain times from roads that suffer from traffic congestion and resultant air pollution, Environment Minister Mario de Marco said yesterday.

“We need to find ways to manage traffic flows better to create low emission zones,” Dr de Marco said at the launch of Car Free Day 2012.

The Environment Ministry is studying the impact of commercial vehicles in traffic-heavy areas to see if introducing timeframes for them to use busy roads would be feasible and beneficial.

Dr de Marco also said he would like to see more pedestrian-only zones created by councils in town centres and mooted the possibility of a public bicycle-sharing scheme, similar to the one used in London.

Announcing several eye-catching initiatives for Car Free Day on September 16, Dr de Marco said St Anne Street in Floriana – one of the island’s busiest roads – will be closed to traffic on the day and turned into an outdoor “fitness centre” hosting a variety of keep-fit activities.

Dr de Marco emphasised that Car Free Day was a “community-owned” event, where councils and NGOs came up with their own ideas.

“We know Car Free Day won’t solve traffic problems overnight, but it will help to reflect on the consequences of our over-dependence on cars and that is a step in the right direction,” Dr de Marco said, in a nod to this year’s theme, Moving in The Right Direction.

With over 743 vehicles per 1,000 population, Malta ranks fifth in the world and second in Europe when it comes to car ownership.

Floriana, Vittoriosa, Fgura, Mellieħa, Naxxar, Mosta, Ħamrun, Nadur and Xewkija councils have pledged their support for Car Free Day, an EU-wide initiative which coincides with European Mobility Week.

Vittoriosa council will close the core of the city to traffic and encourage cycling or walking.

Activities in Fgura start with a healthy breakfast served from 7.30am, followed by different sports activities.

There will be fun runs, bicycle races and zumba sessions in Naxxar and Mosta, a charity car-boot sale and a roaming restaurant serving traditional local food in Nadur, as well as traditional children’s games in Nadur and Ħamrun.

“We are pleased that lots of activities will promote cycling and other healthy alternatives to driving,” Dr de Marco said.

NGOs Friends of the Earth Malta, the Bicycle Advocacy Group, Inspire, The Don Bosco Oratory and Clear Dimension Training Centre are also supporting Car Free Day.

The Bicycle Advocacy Group will be running an adult training session at Ta’ Qali aimed at those who do not know how to ride a bicycle.

The Don Bosco Oratory is organising street football and a bicycle treasure hunt in Victoria and Marsalforn, while Clear Dimension Training Centre will use art and dance to highlight the day’s objectives.

Friends of the Earth Malta is running a photography and writing competition, inviting people to send in photos and articles that provide lively impressions of their travel around the Maltese islands using alternative means.


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