Malta – small island with a big car problem
I’ve moved to Malta. For everyone who doesn’t know where it is – I don’t blame you. It’s a tiny Island in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily, Tunesia and Libya, which once belonged to the British Commonwealth. You’ll need to type it in Google maps to see it on the map.
I’m here voluntarily and generally I’m not complaining. There are already 9 sun-hours per day in April and if I stand on my balcony, I have a nice sea view. It’s definitely not the worst place to be for a while.
However, in terms of environmental protection and sustainable lifestyle things are – mildley said – quite different and some situations just put me to the edge of sympathy. Especially compared to the city I lived before, Leipzig, where living alternatives was easy.
Therefore, I’d like to introduce to you the TOP X (don’t know yet how many it will be) environmental problems I am facing here in Malta.
Let me start with the moste severe issue: Cars
Given the fact that Malta is just 316 km² tiny (longest distance bewteen North/South is not even 40 km), you could basically go by bike or foot everywhere. Could. Because Malta has a serious car problem. It’s not only one of the most populated countries worldwide, it’s also one of the country with the hightest car number per person in the EU.
In 2016 there where close to 350.000 licensed vehicles on the roads, whereby most of them are passenger vehicles. In fact, private car population in Malta is over half the size of the human population – almost 600 cars per 1000 people – and the number of licensed vehicles keeps on rising.
Certainly other European countries do quite bad as well. In Germany for instance, every second person owns a car. However, you also need to put this into relation to the country size! Whereas in Germany there are around 227 people per km², in Malta 1330 people are squeezed in the same area – together with their 800 cars!
As a consequence, it took me over 2 hours by bus to get from Mellieha (where I currentlly live) to the capital Valetta – which is just a distance of around 22 km. A medium skilled runner could do this in the same time.
The Problem is that people obviously think, they need a car to be flexible and faster. Of course this is an illusion, since it’s not only the busses which get stuck in the traffic madness.
Laziness + poor public transport System = traffic madness
People are going by car everywhere. Partly this is related to laziness: People are to comfortable to walk to the supermarket, restaurant – or the gym. Still, the public transport system and infrastructure is not really helping to improve the situation either. For instance, there is no direct bus connection from North to South, some villages only have a bus every hour and in the evening there is almost no chance to get back home without a taxi. Also, bus schedules are not really reliable – which probably goes back again to the bad traffic. Additionally, many routes don’t have pavements which makes it difficult to walk.
In the end car addiction of inhabitants and the poor public transport system are amplifying each other towards escalation.
What about cycling?
Going by bike is an option – if you are interested in committing suicide. ‚Cycling path‘ is a foreign term, roads are narrow and cars drive ruthless. There are some brave people who go by bike. They are rare, but they do exist. Basically you could almost refer to them as activists.
The situation is especially sad, since it could be so easy: just leave away the cars, give each person a decent bike and improve public transport system. Everyone would be faster, happier and healthier. However, if not the government puts an effort in changing this situation, I highly doubt people will change their habbits.