Decade from Cliff Micallef’s tragic death, cyclists still apprehensive about road design

Maltese roads unsafe for everyone, says Bicycle Advocacy Group president

Clifford Micallef was killed in a hit-and-run on the Coast Road on 30 July, 2009, by drunk-driver Anthony Taliana
Clifford Micallef was killed in a hit-and-run on the Coast Road on 30 July, 2009, by drunk-driver Anthony Taliana

The state of Maltese roads remains an unsafe prospect for cyclists and the population at large, but especially for those who do not use cars, the president of the Bicycle Advocacy Group told MaltaToday in thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the untimely death of Clifford Micallef.

The cyclist and father-of-three was killed in a hit-and-run on 30 July, 2009 by drunk-driver Anthony Taliana, who was driving his girlfriend back home to Bugibba at 5:15am, after a night out in Paceville.

Michelle Attard Tonna told MaltaToday that cyclists suffered from the wrong perception that only cycling was connected to the danger on Maltese roads. “In reality, our roads are dangerous to all those who use them, be they pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, and this is evidenced by the frequent amount of accidents we witness on a daily basis, most of which go unreported in the media.”

Attard Tonna said roads had to be safer for all users. “Unfortunately, this is not the case, because of poor design in some areas, and also lack of enforcement.”

She said the most vulnerable of road users, those who either do not use or own a car, were usually “the ones exposed to danger the most, through lack of pavements, suitable bus stops, safe pedestrian crossings, and segregated cycle lanes on major thoroughfares as well as a lack of signage or other infrastructures which would make cyclists more visible.”

Attard Tonna said Malta lacked policies specifically developed for cyclists, something which she said BAG believed was urgent. “Where legislation is in place, it remains unclear, and does not give cyclists answers as to how they should avoid being involved in accidents.”

Attard Tonna said there are three areas that need to be urgently prioritised for road users: safe infrastructure and design, enforcement and education.

“Motorists need to learn how to behave when they see cyclists riding next to them; they need to know how to open a car door properly, how to go round a roundabout when there is a cyclist; how to keep a safe distance, and so on.”

She said that BAG continuously lobbies for safe infrastructure, which would decrease the amount of danger one was exposed to, as well as put more people on bikes. “‘Build it and they will come’ is a principle which has been researched in most places which experienced a modal shift from car dependency to other sustainable modes of transport. When the authorities provide feasible options for mobility, people will use them.”

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