It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the media. While Justin Timberlake and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte were spotted on bikes, Steve Pace’s opinion, the ‘Myth of village cores’, or the challenges faced by the Gżira mayor’s vision of a slower more livable space were closer to the truth summed up in Peter Flax’s recent tweet: “When you choose to drive in a city, you’re not a VIP beset by inconvenience on all sides. You’re a bull in a china shop asking a lot – and sometimes too much – of the people all around you,” to describe the most ordinary and commonly-abused public space: roads.
Most village cores are now just confined medieval streets that have morphed into high-speed rat runs that no longer offer a safe space to walk or cycle through. All the while, cars get bigger, increasing the squeeze. Neither is it just a case of people buying more SUVs or 4x4s.
Compare the original Mini or Fiat 500 to its modern equivalent and it is pretty obvious obesity is not just a human condition. Compounded by parking at maximum capacity, village streets full ofcars on both sides or parked on already narrow pavements, we have created an incomprehensible labyrinth for anyone trying to navigate by bike or even on foot.
Not content, our planners (who could do with riding a bike themselves) have expanded the formula to re-tarmacking quiet narrow, country lanes that cyclists and farmers are supposed to use as some Quixotic disjointed network. But, importantly, like village cores and residential rat runs, lacking any form of modal filtering, these too are destined to just become high-speed conduits for fat cars. Some, even worse, being narrow are already one way, forcing cyclists into longer detours and unavoidably back onto main roads to come back. These roads, then, seem to be just another myth, about as rare as unicorn pooh, a cycling policy or as likely as someone from Transport Malta getting on a bike and trying it out first hand.
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