NICOSIA mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis, responding to criticism about traffic congestion in the central streets of the capital, said there had been a four to 10 per cent increase in the circulation of vehicles between 2015 and 2018. In numbers, 34,000 vehicles entered Nicosia, 3,300 more than three years ago. The figures confirmed the great dependence on private vehicles he said, noting that many households have as many cars as their adult members.
Yiorkadjis also revealed the existence of a 2010 study by experts, the Nicosia Integrated Mobility Master Plan (IMMP), which envisaged an increase in the use of public transport by making main roads one-way and creating bus lanes as well as the creation of bicycle lanes and roads. He admitted, however, that only some parts of the plan had started being implemented by the municipality and transport ministry, citing budget restrictions and other issues for this. Attempts to improve public transport, through the creation of bus lanes and one-way streets were not only delayed, but in some cases undermined, he claimed.
Even the modernising of the road system, which is one of the reasons for the traffic congestion at certain hours, was a short-term solution, he pointed out and nobody could disagree with him. The number of vehicles on the capital’s central roads will keep on rising, public transport will remain the preserve of foreign workers and the elderly while air and noise pollution will steadily worsen. The only answer, according to the mayor, was to encourage the use of public transport while also making car use costly. He is right, but the reality is that government would not dare take such steps, because they would be unpopular.
In fact government policy – and Nicosia municipality is not without blame – seems to facilitate car use in the capital. A perfect example is the huge, free parking areas created in the centre of Nicosia so that public employees have space to park their cars close to their work. The land on which the old GSP stadium was situated was meant to have been turned into a green area, but is now a vast free parking space, primarily used by finance ministry employees. A few hundred metres up the road, a wooded area was cleared and another giant car park was created for interior ministry employees.
If there was to be a policy of reducing car use in the centre of town, the first thing that should have been done was restrict parking spaces, instead of increasing them. Surely, this would have been the easiest and most effective way of making car use costly. Why is the municipality building a multi-storey, underground car park adjacent to the revamped Eleftheria Square? Is this how the mayor aims to discourage car use, encourage people to use public transport and limit car pollution?
Neither central nor local government has the political will to take on car owners. This is this gist of the problem, which will not be tackled as long as politicians fear alienating drivers.