For a small country like Malta, the number of cars per capita is very high! A couple of years back the norm was to have one car per household, however during the last decade or so things took an abrupt turn! Nowadays it became a trend to have a car per person and some persons own two or three cars. Individually there is nothing wrong with all of this assuming that everyone bought the car legitimately and is obeying the laws of the country (when it comes to driving)
However when you look at all of this from a collective perspective you suddenly realize that we have a huge problem in Malta!
Our country is too small and densely populated (8th in the World according to a 2011 estimate) to sustain this type of lifestyle! Our roads aren't designed to cater for all this demand. So the government had a decision to take and they decided that some major roads should be upgraded to be able to cater for all these cars. Well that doesn't sound as a bad idea; however they forgot to look at the bigger picture. Just because you upgrade the roads it doesn't mean you are solving the problem. In fact you can be making it even worse because you are encouraging more cars to hit the road!
All these cars in such a small area are the major factors of pollution in our country. With pollution comes a disease like asthma. Many Maltese suffer from this disease and instead of trying to fix it we just buy medicine to temporary relief us from the disease! We accepted asthma as normality!
Air pollution, noise pollution, traffic jams, stress.... all of these are symptoms of our vehicle problem! But what is the solution?
Our government did try to find it by introducing the new bus system. However after a disastrous start that damaged Arriva's reputation on the island, the reform failed to have the desired effect (Although personally I believe that they are now much better than the old service)
Personally I believe that the way forward now is to further upgrade our roads and make them cyclist friendly! Cyclist in Malta are a very rare (with that I mean people who use their bicycle to go to work/school) mainly because our roads and mentality doesn't support them. Whenever we see a cyclist on the road you can see car drivers being angry because they are too slow or because they are in their way! The solution is to introduce bicycle lanes, and when I say bicycle lanes, I don't mean a couple of kilometers of lanes and then they vanish into a main road... but a complete system of bicycle lanes that enable cyclist to use them safely rather then endangering themselves by having to cycle in the traffic or endangering pedestrians by having to cycle on the pavements!Whenever I visited another foreign European country like Sweden, I immediately noticed that the society there is more tolerant and appreciative towards cyclists. They use bicycles much more often than we do and they respect the bell on the bike just as much as the horn in the car!
In a small country like Malta when most of our chores are a couple of minutes away from our house we should consider cycling as our way forward! By introducing a major cycling lane reform and introducing spaces in every locality where one can safely park his bicycle, we would be encouraging people to think greener and use a more sustainable mean of travelling.