1. Introduce yourself.
I am a 35 year old male who has been driving a private car for the past sixteen years and started cycling (as well as driving) for the past four years with cycling always increasing in frequency.
2. How did you take up cycling? Who or what sowed your love for cycling?
I started cycling occasionally to work some four years ago. Initially it was on and off and mainly limited to the summer months to avoid rain and strong winds. I kind of stopped for a while and then it was only two years ago when I got so frustrated in the “back to school traffic” that I took to cycling again. Never looked back since.
3. Do you commute by bike? If yes, how long have you been doing so?
As I wrote in the previous point, I go to work and back almost daily on a bicycle. This has been going on regularly for the past two years. Errands until now are mainly done by car especially shopping but as time goes by, I’m trying to include more errands by bike, especially those that do not require carrying large items.
4. How do you rate cycling safety in Malta? (Very safe, relatively safe, need to be careful, dangerous at times, dangerous). Doesn’t the occasional accident bring up the thought of ‘That could have been me’?
I believe one needs to be careful when cycling in Malta. I encounter hundreds of motorists who show respect in overtaking or giving way and this has to be mutual. It only takes one however to ruin you, so yes, one needs to stay sharp on the road and kind of expect the worst so you might be able to anticipate a situation before it is too late. As for accidents making me consider my vulnerability on the road; yes at times it does make you think. Than again you could be a pedestrian, a motorcyclist or even a car driver who becomes involved in an accident. I leave that to fate and do my bit by being careful and taking precautions when possible.
5. Would you recommend cycling to work?
Yes I do recommend cycling to work especially to people who live within 6 to 10 km from their place of work. This will only take 15 to 25 minutes. Even more so recommended if you have shower facilities at work or at a nearby gym you can use to shower and change. The benefits of cycling are great. I have lost weight, my metabolism is much better, I arrive to work with a sense of accomplishment and it only takes me two minutes longer cycling than driving to work in normal traffic. In comparison then, driving to work in the “back to school traffic” takes me twice as long as it takes me when I cycle.
6. What sparked the decision to go car-less? Do you think it’s practical to currently do so?
The trigger was the yearly costs to keep a car and considering I use my car perhaps twice a week on weekends mainly, the cost to keep it, compared to the benefits, did not justify keeping the car. Having said that perhaps car-less is not the exact word as if needs be we will have one car in the family to share. It’s just not mine J To be honest I still get doubts whether I will be able to sustain this and I am aware it will take some reorganisation of one’s routine, however I am determined to give it a go and strive to make it work.
7. How do people react when you tell them you’re ditching the car for a bike
The absolute majority react with disbelief and think I hit my head or something like that. However when I explain the yearly costs I incur to maintain a car I occasionally use, most start seeing things from a different point of view so to speak.
8. What short-term improvements do you think should be set for cycling to start flourishing in Malta?
Infrastructure is still lacking and although we hear of projects that include cycling initiatives, most of the time these are impractical to say the least and at times downright dangerous. I believe that decision makers need to steer away from compromise in cyclist safety and truly create good initiatives. A compromise tends to give a wrong message to motorists who then expect cyclists to use the measures in place and do not recognise the dangers it poses. Other initiatives can be made at the place of work. Employers installing showers for those who opt to cycle to work will increase the chances of people taking up cycling. This can be coupled with incentives from the government in favour of such employers. The funds invested in such initiatives will be returned in time through a healthier population (we have just recently ranked second most overweight country in the European continent).
9. Do you believe Malta could ever become a bicycle haven
You want an honest answer to that? No, I don’t think Malta will become a bicycle haven; at least not in the near to mid-term future. If this ever stands a chance to happen it will only be when we start teaching children the benefits of cycling, creating the right conditions where they can experience the benefits and learn of the dangers while still in a safe environment and ultimately hope that they will implement change when they become the next policy makers.
10. Your last words to our readers who drive cars.
Instead of my words I would like to quote a friend of mine who has lived in a number of European countries and only settled here a few years ago. He once asked me why on a country so small we need to go everywhere by car when we are barely the size of a large city. Guess what; he’s absolutely right and I’m afraid (generally speaking) we have been in our comfort zone for so long that we are scared of changing habits. Unless people change the habit of relying so heavily on private car use and be the change that needs to happen, then grid lock in our roads is only being delayed.