Bicycle lanes: progress halted by legal loopholes
By Anna Hassapi Cyprus Mail
CYCLISTS in Cyprus are facing a multitude of obstacles, with little help from government bodies despite the obvious environmental advantages of increasing traffic on two wheels.On Thursday, the Commissioner for the Environment, Charalambos Theopemptou, met with Andis Hadjivassiliou, the president of Podilatokinisis, an organisation for the promotion of bicycle transport, to discuss the problems cyclists faced in Cyprus.
Hadjivassiliou presented the main obstacles, including cars using bicycle lanes as parking, the lack of maintenance of lanes as rubbish, rocks, bushes and even electricity poles stand in the way of cyclists, and the fact that there are no outward bicycle exits from town centres.Despite the serious public transport and traffic congestion problems facing urban areas in Cyprus, the bicycle option is yet to receive necessary support from the state.
Not only are cycle lanes sporadic and insufficient, but there is currently no law that regulates bicycle movement, leaving cyclists exposed.“There is no legislation on the movement of bicycles,” admitted Lakis Polykarpou, senior Town Planning officer. “Legislation is necessary to regulate the movement of vehicles e.g. to determine who has priority on the road.
When the legislation on the movement of vehicles was passed there were no bicycle lanes. Now that the bicycle is entering our lives, there is a need to legislate.”
Town Planning officer Neophytoula Angelidou added: “The issues at present are technical, but also legal. The aim is to prepare a draft legislation on bicycle transportation. A private researcher had undertaken this task, but the Attorney-general found the bill inadequate. Therefore, we are still in the process of research and preparation,” she said. Promoting bicycle transport infrastructure has been high on the agenda of the Environment Commissioner Theopemptou, who extols the virtues of cycling. “Riding a bicycle is one way of reducing emissions and improving the quality of our lives,” he said.
Theopemptou believes that the promotion of bicycle transport is not only an environmentally-friendly option, but may also act as a way of sustaining viable local communities. “The bicycle can promote the ‘neigbourhood feeling’. We should take two factors in consideration when promoting the use of bicycle lanes: residents can ride the bicycle to go shopping, go to school, or just to go for a ride outside.
This requires the existence of small shops in neigbourhoods, where residents can find everyday essentials; also, we should try and create scenic routes for a more enjoyable experience,” he said.At present, however, it is neither safe nor practical to ride a bike, due to the absence of sufficient infrastructure and bicycle traffic regulation. “There are some bicycle lanes, but when these reach a crossing, or traffic lights, there’s no way for the bicycles to cross legally. There must be a warning to the driver that a bicycle is approaching,” Theopemptou said.
An EU-funded projectBETWEEN 1998 and 2001 an EU-funded LIFE project was completed to prepare and research the introduction of bicycle lanes in four towns in Cyprus. The project findings have been circulated and essentially recommend “local plans”, whereby bicycle lanes must be included in new town planning projects.The creation of bicycle lanes is the responsibility of Town Planning, in co-operation with Road Works and local government. If a project is identified as having town planning character, then Town Planning is assigned two thirds of the responsibility, and the local authority has one third of the responsibility; this applies to funding as well.Currently there is a total of 50km of bicycle lanes throughout Cyprus, according to Town Planning.
The biggest and oldest bicycle lane is in Ayia Napa. There is also a lane along Limassol’s seafront road, and one at Kyrinias Street in Aglandja.The CTO is planning a project of developing bicycle routes in Cyprus, creating a national network of bicycle lanes, which will be part of Eurovelo, the European cycle route network.
The first phase of the project has been completed with a bicycle lane in Troodos. The aim is to eventually cover the whole island. These routes will in fact cater to bicycle tourism, but also have other uses, such as the transportation of local residents.