Apart from the new portal crashing, it was at least encouraging that it was due to strong interest in the government’s bicycle purchase subsidy scheme and not just down to incompetence.
The massive interest in the scheme is likely down to a number of reasons. It’s an opportunity for foreign permanent residents who either cannot afford to buy a bike or those who are used to cycling in their home countries. On top of that, with the price of petrol set to skyrocket due to the energy crisis, and even more when the ‘green’ fuel tax comes along, people may be rethinking how to get to work without having to depend on cars or public transport. Or there are those who just may just want to do their bit for the planet.
There are currently two types of cyclists in Cyprus. There are people who ride in groups for fun or exercise. Then there are those who use bikes as their means of transport.
It’s all very fine to introduce a scheme to get people on bicycles but the infrastructure to make it safe as a mode of transport is still not there. Sure, there are cycle lanes within some municipalities, which are great for families cycling for fun. But getting around a city for work with only sporadic bicycle lanes is a massive risk.
There are also two kinds of drivers in Cyprus; those who think cyclists have no right to use the roads and those who are rightly scared of hitting someone on a bike because sometimes cyclists are just as dangerous as motorists. Many don’t use proper lighting or wear light-coloured clothing, fluorescent vests or helmets, and a driver can’t know if a bike will suddenly swerve in front of them. Group cyclists are safer in that respect as drivers tend to give them a wide berth.
But individuals who depend on their bikes to get around and go to work do not have many options when they need to get from A to B, either cycling along unsafe main junctions or back roads where possible. And, while the main roads are dangerous due to traffic, many of the back roads, at least in Nicosia, are an absolute shambles, full of potholes and lacking proper lighting in parts, all of which is another recipe for an accident.
The Nicosia municipality has created gigantic pavements on some streets such as Kallipoleos Avenue. These are wide enough to cycle except they are blocked by parked cars and wheelie bins, more danger. Drivers 1: Cyclists 0.
So, yes, it’s great that people want to cycle but more thought should have been put into the infrastructure in terms of real functionality. If the authorities foresee a future for biking, they will need to address the issues with city streets or there will just be more road casualties if the number of cyclists increases.
Right now, to a seasoned cyclist at least, the new scheme as well-meaning as it is, is just another case of running before we can walk.