IF WE WANTED a practical demonstration of how short-term, slapdash decisions are taken, we only have to look at the constantly changing plans for Nicosia’s Tseri Avenue, on which the final say was eventually given to a few dozen shopkeepers that own or rent premises on either side of the road. On Tuesday evening, Strovolos municipal council voted on the second option, regarding the re-design of the road – the Town Planning department gave two options – and it was blatantly obvious the only concern of the councillors was to satisfy the road’s shop owners, as if the new road had to serve only them.
This was certainly not the original plan for this very busy road, built many years ago when the area was more like a village than part of the town. Original plans envisaged four lanes, with two in each direction and separated by a traffic island. The idea was to improve the traffic flow on a heavily congested road, on which traffic would be even heavier in 10 years’ time as more and more people build houses on the outskirts of Nicosia where land is cheaper. Central planners, quite correctly took the longer term view, working on the assumption that re-design of the road should consider the expected road use in 10 or 20 years’ time.
Tseri Avenue shopkeepers were up in arms, protesting that the plans would destroy their businesses, because there would no space for customers to part outside their shops. Last September they were granted an audience with President Anastasiades and, with elections only a few months away, he satisfied the shopkeepers. In other words, the decision-making for road-building in the town was taken away from the Town Planning Department and given to a bunch of rowdy shopkeepers whose sole concern was their business interests.
They wanted two lanes, without a parting in the middle so that their customers would also be able to drive their cars to the other side and park illegally facing the opposite side of the road. The municipal council on Tuesday night also vetoed an alternative proposal by Town Planning that envisaged a third lane for buses and cyclists – it would have reduced the parking space. It would not be a surprise if the building of pavements was also vetoed.
So now a two-lane road will be built, that will do nothing to ease traffic congestion on Tseri Avenue and by the time it is completed in four or five years’ time, the Town Planning Department will start plans for expanding it to four lanes, because of the needs of the road network. There will be even more cars using the road and much heavier congestion. Surely road infrastructure projects should be determined by the the needs of the town and not the interests of a few dozen businesses.
Central government will be paying 80 per cent of the cost of the road, because it is part of the Nicosia road network plans so why was the final say given to Strovolos municipality, which was guaranteed to take the short-term approach catering for the needs of a few shopkeepers rather than all road users?