Commentary: On priority lane strategies for Malta

Malta priority lane - smallOn 11 November, the following question was posted by James Craig Wightman‎, one of the leaders of Malta’s hard-pressed cycling activist program, to the World Streets Facebook site.

Not sure if this is worthy of the Worst Practices page so thought I’d ask your opinion. As of tomorrow bus lanes in Malta will be open for car pooling cars and electric vehicles as well. While it’s a laudable notion, it remains to be seen how this will effect cyclist and motorcyclist rider safety. Up to now we knew the only cars that would (or should) be passing us were Taxi’s. Motorcycles were also allowed to use the lane. We knew that other private cars were not allowed and this meant we knew who to look out for (the idiot breaking the law and dangerously trying to squeeze past). Now its not so clear, neither is it clear how this will be enforced (a big problem in Malta) and managed. So I’m deeply concerned about cyclist safety with higher traffic volumes on the bus lanes, and particularly electric cars creeping up silently on cyclists. While you need to ask why other two wheeled traffic lost out (that will now filter down files of traffic).

The editor of World Streets responded with the following recommendations:

There is such a long and unambiguous track record on all this.  The lesson of (painful) experience is . . .

(1) Policing and enforcement is all.

(2) Yes, bicycles, but only with passing room for buses and well maintained sides of the road.

(3) No motorcycles (they are valid as personal solutions but not social solutions).

(4) No e-cars (mixed motives: e- or not, they are still cars with an average of 1.3 persons per vehicle max, hence not sustainable.

(5) and yes, cars with 3+ passengers.

And finally (6): Draconian policing and enforcement (otherwise it is a pitiful joke and will self-destruct in a quite short period of time).

As you know there have been many, thousands of examples and variations of HOV high occupancy vehicle lanes.  The literature is very rich on the topic.  With all this experience at hand there is no reason not to get it right.  But as always, it is important to think it fully through and not just import what looks to be a good-enough idea.

But you know this.  So good luck Malta! And congratulations for your devoted, persistent work in support of more and better cycling for all.


Follow-on message of 12 November:

Actually in my above commentary I forgot two final important things that are critical part of the policy package:

(7) Intensive training courses and licensing for all drivers of motor vehicles with access to the reserved lane (taxis, buses, police and emergency vehicles.

And just in case this is not clear enough

(8) Draconian policing and enforcement (otherwise it is a pitiful joke and will self-destruct in a quite short period of time.)

Insist, insist and insist.

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About the Bicycling Advocacy Group Malta:

malta bicycle Advocacy groupBAG (Malta) is an advocacy group for Maltese commuting cyclists. The group servers as a platform for cyclists to air their views on cycling improvements, discuss common problems and difficulties. The Group also provides training for new cyclists, carries out advocacy work, political lobbying, networking with other organizations. Anyone interested in the bicycle advocacy group should join our facebook group  Organization statute can be found here –


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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is a public entrepreneur specializing in the field of sustainability and social justice. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest work focuses on the subject of equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions -- and in the process, find practical solutions to urgent climate, mobility, life quality and job creation issues. More at:

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