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Fat and Lazy: And then we wonder why traffic is an issue in Malta

Traffic is everywhere in Malta during autumn, on the roads, on my newsfeed, on the newspapers, on the radio, in my daily conversations…literally everywhere. With each passing year, the situation becomes more troublesome and aggravating, yet how can we expect to solve this issue when Maltese people are too lazy to change their lifestyle?

Malta Traffic

Traffic during a not so sunny day (Photo credit: MaltaToday)

Malta is the laziest country in the world – FACT. According to a study conducted by The Lancet, Maltese people are 71.9% inactive, the highest rate for any country in world. In addition, Malta is also the most obese country in the European Union bloc, and the third fattest European nation after Andorra and Turkey. Even though I did scrutinise this study in relation to other health issues in a previous post, I did comment about how defensive Maltese people get when the original study emerged.

However, it is unfortunately true: Maltese people are lazy and don’t care about physical exercise. Couple this with a sense of entitlement, such as “I have a right to own a car and use it, so I shall!”, and then we wonder why we have a traffic issue in Malta.

Everyone wants to own a car, everyone wants to use this car to go to work, and then everyone proceeds to complain about how much time they are wasting in the early hours of the morning playing Candy Crush in a metal box behind other metal boxes also containing people playing Candy Crush (or soda Crush perhaps).

We often condemn the lack of infrastructure, when we should be really blaming ourselves and our inability to try and change our bad practices. No amount of EU funded junctions and road widening projects will solve the traffic situation in Malta unless people accept they they need to change their behaviour and start walking, jogging or cycling to work.

Not all Doom and Gloom

To avoid being too negative, and possibly offending some ‘fat’ and ‘lazy’ people’s ‘fat’ and ‘lazy’ hearts, here are some things that you can do to make the traffic situation more bearable for yourself and your fellow commuters – SIDE NOTE:- I am assuming that common courtesy and chivalry are not dead…

Don’t Drive your Kids to school (For F***s Sake)

Children have been waking up early for school for decades, but it seems that 21st Century children might spontaneously combust if they wake up before 7am.

Whinging parents will always use the ‘Vans are too expensive’ excuse, yet mummy and daddy are not willing to cut down on smoking, television sport packages, fancy gadgets, nail and hair appointments, online shopping, alcoholic beverages and so on and so forth.

It’s 2015, car pool already

I was one of the first people amongst my friends to have a car, so my first year as a driver was pretty much spent as a chauffeur. This wasn’t as bad as it seems, because it engrained a car pooling mentality that I still use with my same friends today. But obviously, everyone loves to have the freedom to “leave and return when I want, without having to wait to drive other people home”.

I used to car pool during my day at the University of Malta, and they have since launched a green travel incentive that has been horribly marketed (if at all). People from the same household who work in localities that are close to each other should consider car pooling. Please do, pretty please!

Bike/Walk/Jog It!

Lack of infrastructure, it is too dangerous, what if it rains?, too much exhaust, it is too far away, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, i’m so unfit, my legs hurt, qtugh ta laham – NOPE you are just lazy. The only legitimate excuse is if your employer does not have showering facilities, especially when travelling during summer. Having said that, most people at the European Commission cycle to work, and they do not particularly smell after their morning cycle.

But a typical Maltese person would be like “Mela ma tarax nimxija minn San Gwann sa tas-Sliema?”.

Ask to work from home?

This is more practical rather than travel related. If you are consistently getting stuck in traffic in the morning, ask your boss if you can work the first hours of the morning from home. Some work can be conducted remotely, such as replying to emails, drafting reports and so on. If companies start staggering the starting times of their employees, it would not only benefit the productivity of their employees, but also other commuters.

Try your luck with Public Transport

If everyone complains at how shitty the Maltese public transport system is, no one will use it and it will just get worse. We are inadvertently making public transport worse by not using it and creating more congestion through which buses cannot pass – typical negative feedback scenario.

And to be perfectly honest, Maltese people do not like to use buses because they are lazy: “Why would I catch a bus to work when I can park directly in front of the office?”. Or else, “Ugh, the bus stop is too far away. Can you imagine having to walk 7 minutes in the morning when it rains?”.

What can the Government do?

A recent study by the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development from the University of Malta showed that unless the government and transport authorities improve public transport, reduce private car ownership, and change school hours, increased traffic will cost Malta a total of €317 million by 2020.

car exhaust

(Photo credit: TimesofMalta)

This figure represents a total of €89 million in costs related to traffic accidents, €15.3 million in air pollution costs, €51.2 million in climate change costs, €10.4 million in noise costs, and a whopping €151 million in costs resulting from traffic congestion.

In terms of school hours, I personally do not believe it would make such as big difference. It would be more beneficial if the government could subsidise school transport for those families that actually cannot afford it (even for those ones that can but wish to pretend that they cannot). As mentioned above, there is so much that can be done on the subject of Public Transport – people need to use it, and from that aspect the Government is providing incentives for people to do so.

The area where the government can and should work on is that concerning private car ownerships. Ideally, it should start taxing the number of cars per households. There is no need for more than two cars in a household of four individuals. If people can afford to pay for and upkeep an additional car, then they can also afford to pay a tax on it as well. However, this idea would be unfavourable with voters, so no political party would ever consider it.

Furthermore, the government should also enforce the point system with which people can lose their licence. This will reduce private car ownership and also cleanse the streets of negligent and selfish drivers.

Join the discussion

  1. Adam Brincart

    Pure genius or rather the hardest thing for blocked heads is to hear the truth! A well put article!

  2. Michelle Vella Wood

    As a person who prefers to cycle and bus rather than drive, I agree with you except for a couple of things:
    1. The buses are unreliable. I have missed appointments due to all the information at the bus stop being wrong (in one case, that a particular bus passed from this place – and waited for it for nothing). I have made the relevant complaints. I still keep trying to use buses, but only when I can afford to be late – or it’s a direct bus that I’m sure of.
    2. I have no issue with one adult owning more than one car – as he cannot actually use both at the same time. No need to tax those really. How about giving families a card that they can swipe at petrol stations for the first so many litres to be at one tax rate, and then afterwards at a higher tax rate?

    But yes, people are lazy. Here in Siggiewi they drive their kids to the local school – some live barely 500m away!

  3. Neville Thomas

    Or – ride a scooter. This fear that many Maltese have of bikes borders on the pathological. You don’t need a 200bhp monster to get you to work on time. Even a 5bhp 50cc little Vespa will do the job perfectly well and as long as you’re vigilant and always assume that anyone in a car has the right of way, you’ll be safe. I have a car that has been on the road since 2008 and it’s only clocked 18k miles. The rest has been done on a scoot – and the excuse that the cost of insurance & licenses remove the incentive of buying one is total bull. The money you save on fuel alone more than covers these costs and eventually, even the cost of buying the bike itself. And if money isn’t the issue, think of the hours you’d gain per day because you won’t have to worry about traffic or parking problems.

  4. James

    Most of what you said makes a lot of sense but you went totally wrong in your last paragraph particularly:
    ‘The area where the government can and should work on is that concerning private car ownerships. Ideally, it should start taxing the number of cars per households. There is no need for more than two cars in a household of four individuals.’

    Since I am car enthusiast I own and pay license for 3 cars .. BUT … I barely use 1 of them as a daily cause since I work 3Km away from home and opt to walk it. Why should I be taxed for just owning 3 cars? Still .. I can’t drive 3 cars at the same time so the number of cars I own does not much make any difference in traffic, noise, pollution and so on.

    What would make more sense is a ‘pay per use’ scheme where they can carry out a deep study of the average Kms a car does in one year and create brackets where drivers pay different license amount per Kms they do with their cars like paying 50% of their annual license if they travel fr less than 4000Km in a year.

    • Antoine Borg Micallef

      As a non-car enthusiast myself, I’m not sure exactly how insurance and taxes work for those individuals that own multiple cars under their same name and use them every so often. I personally think it is an excessive luxury to own multiple cars, but when it comes to hobbies each to their own! I enjoy travelling, which also has a negative environmental impact so I really cannot judge (although living in Mainland Europe makes it easier to use less harmful alternative).

      What I was referring to was a family of four adults in a household which has four cars (so one car per person). This is where we desperately need to improve private car ownership.

    • James Craig Wightman

      Well all 3 are on public land and we have made tow way streets with parking on one side into one way streets with parking on both sides. Great for parking, for cars being able to move around, not so much. But the answer is simple. Reduce car tax and add parking meters. Use your car a lot you pay more. Use it less you pay less.

  5. Mark Cucciardi

    For most of this article yes, you’re right. I am a University, student I have a car, I do hate the bus especially for their negligent service (especially for simply issuing a student card which took me over a month), but I still use the bus frequently. I only use my car in the weekends or sometimes, midweek in the afternoon. Yes, we have to admit, most of us live a lazy lifestyle and this is typically causing inconveniences. Car pooling seems to be a very great idea. I experienced it briefly,

    With all due respect though, I really do not agree with the penultimate paragraph you just wrote. Taxing households for every car??!! So we’re paying road tax which is just as expensive. We’re paying insurances which is also costly. And now you come with this “brilliant” idea of taxing households for each and every car?? What about car enthusiasts like me and others?? Sure they might have three or four cars, but isn’t it fishy to think that one can drive two cars at once?? In reality some people use what we call it, their daily car, whilst the second or third owned car is left at the garage, most likely to enjoy it in the weekend.

    If we need to change the mentality of the maltese we can’t simply put a law or tax prohibiting to use an additional car. We do need a long-term plan/project that will help us in the long run, such as building a monorail, or if possible; underground.

    Now to the blogger who wrote this, whilst I do agree on the realities mentioned and some facts, for me this article is a bit let down by the paragraph I mentioned earlier…

    • James Craig Wightman

      Garaged cars apart there are plenty of people with multiple cars parked on the ‘public’ street. You actually pay circulation tax which is all about how much cars pollute not a season ticket to park on public road. At 22 extra cars a day there soon won’t be much space to drive.

  6. Keith Vella

    A subway system will solve all these problems once and for all. They can start with one lane and work their way up. As for children and schools, they should be dropped at places such as local council and then picked up by organized coaches.

  7. James Craig Wightman

    Most villages are a few minutes apart by bicycle, even if you could only get such short trips onto bicycles it would remove an awful lot of traffic virtually for free and would help others who needed to drive to do so.
    By the way if you ride slowly (cycling at walking speed is 3 times as fast as walking) you don’t need to shower and if you do a wash basin works just as well.

  8. Philip Jackson (@eternallyskint)

    I do about 17k from Mellieha to Mater Dei in about 1 hour, My leg muscles have increased in size dramatically, unfortunatly my beer belly has not shrunk much

  9. Chris Grillo

    I agree with most points, and I love walking and cycling, which I do a lot of… just not for commuting… I can never tell what the day will bring with it and the level of exhaustion it entails… Sometimes, in summer, I finish at 2pm… sometimes at 3pm… now in whatever world does a Dane, an Englishman, or a Swede walk 4 km home in 40 degrees temperature at 99% humidity… I only have 4km of clear roads to drive through. I will continue to go to work using my car, and walk and cycle for recreation… perhaps that is something that many are not seeing… why cannot we fix the effing buses?

  10. Michael Tabone

    I have to honestly question this study by the University of Malta. It makes no scientific nor statistical sense. You can’t apply a cost to climate change and noise. Climate Change should be measured in Co2 level increases and basically overlaps with air pollution anyway, since they are one and the same in this case. An increase in Co2 levels will increase the number of people with respiratory issues which means health costs will increase for the health service. That would be considered a credible cost. But €15.3 million sounds pretty low when it has been assumed noise will cost the country €10.4 million which I can’t possibly quantify as it makes no sense in relation to the increase of decibels, but even then, how is that a cost? I can’t help but feel this study is questionable to say the least…

    But I completely agree with the article. Doesn’t help that the bus services stop so early that I remember students had to rush for the last bus at the end of their private lessons. It’s crazy how the public transport system doesn’t fit today’s need which is one of the things that needs to be addressed.

  11. Joe Gatt

    I think both the government and society is tackling this traffic issue wrongly. People are indeed lazy but if pushed, like what happened during the Valletta summit when the roads were clear, they do take action.
    Action 1. Close the roads near schools further away so that people are pushed to walk it from home and it does not make sense to start the car and drive a few metres only to be stopped by a closed road. This way parents will be constricted to walk their kids to school and there will be less congestion.
    Action 2. The government is Malta’s largest employer. He should create incentive programs such that government departments assign employees to a nearby locality when possible and not having to cross Malta to go to work. It does not make sense to see the hoards of employees from the north driving to the south and vice versa.
    Action 3. Create incentives for those organisations/departments that employ a huge amount of people, like Hospitals, govt. departments, the university and Mcast etc. We have to make incentives so that people walk, use bikes or scooters to commute to these organisations for example by only allowing bikes and scooters to park in their parking areas but not cars.
    These are my ideas, but the focus is not on building infrastructure in an area challenged country, but by being smart and doing your own part first before expecting others to do something. Charity begins at home.

  12. George Debono

    Prosit for an excellent article and sensible suggestions.

  13. Pingback: Why Malta is doing absolutely nothing to mitigate Climate Change | The Malting Pot

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