Floriana's St Anne Street is a major high-emission zone with traffic flowing in and out of Valletta on a daily basis. Photo: Denise Scicluna/Mediatoday.
Environment minister Mario de Marco said his ministry is studying the impact of commercial transport in high-traffic intensity localities, and to see which time-frames generated the most traffic.
Unveiling a series of activities for car-free day, which also coincided with funds disbursed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to NGOs who will participating in the events, De Marco said the public tended to ignore the impact of commercial transport.
"We tend to forget that commercial transport is a major contributor to air pollution. We are now studying how to implement time-frames when high emission zones can be used for commercial vehicles," De Marco said, without expanding further on this measure.
The minister also said the government will be providing more alternatives in the form of hybrid and electric cars, and the prospect of a public bicycle-sharing system like similar systems used in London and Paris.
"Car-free day should incentivised local councils through community ownership," De Marco said of the 16 September activities that will be launched in Naxxar, Mosta, Xewkija, Fgura, Nadur, Hamrun, Floriana, Birgu and Mellieha.
"Streets like Floriana's St Anne street see a lot of cars, so this will be the main area where car-free day will be concentrating upon, with marathons and the use of bicycles prominent throughout the day."
NGOs participating in the events include Inspire, Friends of the Earth, the Don Bosco Oratory, Clear Dimension, and the Bicycle Advocacy Group.
"Car-free day will help people reflect on how the excessive use of transport create pollution and affects our health as a result," De Marco said.
With over 743 vehicles per 1,000 population, Malta ranks 5th in the world and 2nd in Europe when it comes to car ownership.
The Chief Executive Officer of MEPA, Ian Stafrace thanked the participating local councils and voluntary organisations for their initiative and encouraged the public to participate in the events.
Information on activities organised on Car Free Day 2012
Keen to get their residents moving, the nine Local Councils participating in the event will be organising a host of activities ranging from 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 while the Nadur and Hamrun Local Councils will also be organising a variety of traditional children's games such as boċċi (marbles) and passju (hopscotch).
The Birgu Local Council will close the core of the city to traffic and encourage cycling or walking, with the added bonus of taking in the gems of this historical city. Activities in Fgura start early, with healthy breakfast served from 7.30am, followed by sports activities for all ages. One of the busiest streets on the island, St. Anne Street in Floriana, will be closed to traffic and transformed into a fitness centre, with an outdoor gym and various activities, while the Mellieħa Local Council will be organising bicycle races, a fun run and guided walks to promote alternative modes of transport.
Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth invites amateur photographers and writers to send in photos and articles providing lively impressions of travel around the Maltese islands using alternative means of transport, to develop a documentary which will be shown on the organisation's website (www.foemalta.org), blog and Facebook page.
The concept of 'Cycle for a Cleaner Future' will be taken to new levels by NGO Inspire, which will hold a 15km cycling event and a 10km fun-run, with a fun twist as participants are encouraged to come up with original modes of environmentally friendly transport.
The Don Bosco Oratory will base its activities, which range from street football to a photo treasure hunt with bicycles, in Victoria and Marsalforn in Gozo.
Clear Dimension Training Centre will bring art and dance together to highlight the concepts and objectives of Car Free Day, while an adult training session aimed at those who have never developed cycling skills will be organised by the Bicycle Advocacy Group at Ta' Qali.