Transport ministry attempt to alleviate Lija traffic ‘futile’, cyclists' group says

The Bicycling Advocacy Group has called the road widening works currently underway in Lija 'a futile attempt' to reduce traffic congestion

The works serve to create new lanes, with one of them intended for motorists coming from Mosta and Naxxar to drive straight onto the Birkirkara bypass without stopping at the roundabout
The works serve to create new lanes, with one of them intended for motorists coming from Mosta and Naxxar to drive straight onto the Birkirkara bypass without stopping at the roundabout

The Bicycling Advocacy Group (BAG) has reiterated its disapproval for road widening works currently underway in Lija – measure the transport ministry said would alleviate traffic congestion – saying that it considers the project to be “a futile attempt”.

According to the ministry, the works serve to create new lanes on Naxxar Road, with one of them intended for motorists coming from Mosta and Naxxar to drive straight onto the Birkirkara bypass without stopping at the roundabout. The works are expected to improve access to and from Lija, Iklin and surrounding localities and estimated to be completed by August.

Some 2,400 vehicles pass through the road every hour and parts of it are not wide enough to support the traffic, the ministry said on Wednesday.

However, in a statement issued today, BAG insisted that the roadworks would only serve to worsen the situation with traffic congestion, pointing to the phenomenon of induced demand.

The concept of induced demand holds that after supply increases, more of a good is consumed.

“When it [the road] is widened, it will start accommodating cars that don’t yet use this road,” BAG said. “Apart from increasing traffic, this will also increase pollution, noise, and danger and inconvenience to residents. Pedestrians and people on bicycles will find it to be more dangerous as well, which will lead to some of them opting to return to using their car instead.”

BAG added that, from the perspective of pedestrians and cyclists, a wider street in an urban area is more difficult and dangerous to cross.

It also lamented that the ramp being built to deviate traffic away from the roundabout and directly to Triq Dun Karm, will problematic to cyclists heading to Birkirkara, as it will force them to ride in the second lane with traffic passing them on both sides.

BAG described the project as “a futile attempt at easing traffic” that in the long run, will cause traffic to increase, adding that the project is being executed “without any planning.”

Calling for attention to be given to modes of transport other than private cars, BAG said that in order for traffic to decrease, so must the number of cars.

“For the traffic volume to decrease the only solution is to reduce the number of cars. That cannot happen by accommodating cars even better. This would be like treating a diabetic person with an overdose of sugar,” the group said. “Accommodating alternative modes of transport is the way to go and this is in the interest of everybody.”

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