The Sliema Strand has become a cowboy’s paradise

Transport Malta’s decision to keep traffic lights permanently flashing on amber has turned the Strand into a dangerous free-for-all

TM’s crass irresponsibility has rendered the Strand into a highway of permanent danger
TM’s crass irresponsibility has rendered the Strand into a highway of permanent danger

Updated on 19 September to add right of reply by Transport Malta

Yet another terrible accident at the Sliema/Gzira Strand has taken place. 

A 50-year old woman has been run over by a car and is in critical condition. Just a few weeks ago a 26-year old man died after being run over by another car on the same road. 

Such accidents have their own individual merits, and I will not go into this. 

But I want to remind everyone that Transport Malta recently decided to keep traffic lights permanently flashing on amber. The Strand is now a dangerous free-for-all devoid of responsible traffic management.

The official reason for this, and I am quoting correspondence during this summer between TM officials and myself as Sliema Local Councillor, was that:

“The pedestrian crossings along The Strand where switched to flashing amber by order of the Roads Department due to the works at Kappara junction. This was done in order to relieve traffic . At the moment we are looking into the option of activating the crossings in the evenings, to at least be able to provide a safe crossing during that time”. 

As everyone knows, this was not followed up by TM. So don’t hold your breath to wait till the traffic lights are turned to their normal function so as to safeguard pedestrians and cyclists’ safety.

TM are also aware of the dangerous situation on the bus lane at the Strand, where cowboys frequently zig-zag and accelerate into it at all times of the day so as to avoid traffic. Again, I have been raising this issue with Transport Malta and the press for quite some time, yet TM stubbornly refuses to take action.

Like many other Sliema residents, I pass from this road every day, and I have never seen wardens or TM officials stop drivers irregularly using the bus lane. Many moons after the authorities were asked by Sliema Local Council on how many tickets were given on this matter in preceding months, we finally received a reply. The grand total number of tickets given was 12. Yes, 12.

Anyone who frequents the Strand knows that 12 cars abuse the bus lane every five minutes.

TM’s crass irresponsibility has rendered the Strand into a highway of permanent danger.

And let us keep in mind that the Strand is full of other irregularities: ticketing booths, tables and chairs irregularly occupying walking space. Vendors permanently usurping parking spaces. A public car park characterized by private revenue for parkers.

In short, the Strand is a cowboy’s paradise. 

Who will take political responsibility for this?

Right of reply by Transport Malta

Transport Malta changed the traffic lights in the strand Tas-Sliema to flashing amber as part of the plan for the alternative routes for the Kappara Project.  Transport Malta chose the strand as the best route for vehicles to exit from the Sliema area.  The authority changed the lights to flashing amber as continuously-stopping vehicles make the route impractical and block all possible exit routes from Sliema.  

Transport Malta’s plan for Kappara alternative routes has been extensively communicated with all stakeholders, including all Local Councils in the area.  The authority held a number of consultation meetings.  A number of Dr. Briguglio’s colleagues were present.

Traffic lights set to Flashing Amber still provide a safe pedestrian crossing.  The highway code asks drivers to ‘proceed with caution’ whenever traffic lights are flashing amber.  Pedestrians, like in any other crossing, must stop to make sure that oncoming cars have stopped and then cross the road.  Drivers must stop on the crossings to allow pedestrians to pass through.

Dr. Briguglio, in his article, mentions the bus lane.  As communicated through the media and in the meetings, the signs of the bus lanes have been removed and the bus lanes have been temporarily suspended, again as part of the alternative route plan.

Dr. Briguglio tries to imply that the two unfortunate accidents happened as a consequence of Transport Malta’s decisions.  It is unfair to pass such comments considering that the accidents are still being investigated and that the courts will decide on the responsibilities.

Transport Malta, on the other hand, totally agrees with Dr. Briguglio’s concerns.  Irresponsible drivers can cause accidents with very serious consequences.  Transport Malta has increased its enforcement presence but no Authority can be everywhere all the time.  We ask all road users to follow the rules, behave responsibly and show respect on the road.