Bikes Are Part Of Malta's Solution, Not Its Problem
And it's time we understood what the implications of that are
Photo by Tonio Lombardi
By now, it's sadly common knowledge that Maltese roads are not the safest in the world. Through a combination of too many people on the road, and quite a lot of them not really adhering religiously to our driving laws, fatal car accidents have shockingly stopped being a surprise – until one of them hits home. Going out on any given night always gets the same reaction from wary parents; "Be careful on the drive home. It's not you that I'm worried about, it's the other drivers."
In the nine months since new legislation was passed on people driving and using their mobile phones in March 2016, more than 6,000 people were fined for texting and driving. Top that off with 5,000 people who didn't wear their seatbelt and at least one person being fined for driving drunk every week the year before (with so many more clearly going unnoticed), and we've got a pretty dire situation on our hands when it comes to driving safely in Malta. It's all summed up in our surprising collection of traffic fines. Even if new drinking laws were proposed a couple of weeks ago and reportedly only a couple of people were stopped for driving under the influence over the holidays, the problem is far from solved. And it only took 2017 a couple of hours to remind us of this ugly truth.
Add to the mix that with this absolutely batshit statistic that, up till August 2016, there were more than 350,000 vehicles on the road. To put that into perspective, that's way more than one car per adult legally allowed to drive on the island. And to make matters even worse, the stock of license vehicles frequently hits an increase average rate of 36 vehicles per day.
The truth is there is a way to alleviate these vehicular problems, and that's to have more bikes on our roads. Scooters and motorbikes are better for the environment, drastically decrease traffic congestions, and are also extremely fun to drive. Admittedly, they come with a level of danger to a degree which a car doesn't, but that arguably helps in increasing self-discipline on the road. The real problem, of course, is the lack of discipline and respect that someone who would be interested in trying out biking confronts on a daily basis.
"Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of people whose perception of bikers is based on a single asshole on a loud motorbike who gave them a fright once while they were half asleep at the wheel", a Lovin Malta wrote in last week. Which seems pretty much on target.
There aren't enough people outside the biking community who think bikers are a good thing. And the people who could (and should) be getting interested in the prospect of trading in their car for a motorbike are either shunning it away because of stupid misconceptions, or rethinking it because of shockingly frequent tragedies.
You know we've got a serious problem when this is an actual thing a human being said in 2017:
"Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of people whose perception of bikers is based on a single asshole on a loud motorbike who gave them a fright once while they were half asleep at the wheel"Lovin Malta reader
The problem is there are too many cars on the road at any given time, and most of them don't really respect one another to the degree that they should. Bikers are more often than not the only ones that end up taking the brunt of it all. And unfortunately, that brunt is not only emotional and psychological with people hurling abuse at what they consider are "reckless bikers with a really bad attitude" – it's also physical.
Of course, it goes without saying that the same amount of restraint needs to apply from the side of the biking community as well. If you've just learnt how to ride a bike and you're aware of the current situation on Maltese roads, then maybe you shouldn't be considering buying a super bike just yet.
If that doesn't really occur to you, then maybe you shouldn't even be legally allowed to think about it for now until the situation gets at least a bit better. The bottom line is we all need to be pulling the same rope, because at this rate, our roads are only becoming an even worse and more fatal tug of war.