In the end, Nicosia municipal council voted against banning private cars from the redesigned section of Makarios Avenue, which is set to be re-opened on December 7. Much speculation preceded this decision, with reports suggesting that the municipality was undecided over whether to make the road one-way or two-way but accessible only to buses.
For now, it will be one-way with a bus lane and another lane for cars. Nicosia mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said this was a temporary measure. In an announcement issued on Thursday, the municipality cited two reasons for not implementing the original plan which envisaged a two-way road for buses and the cars of people living or working in the area.
First, there was “no institutional framework for the traffic lights system and second, there was a lack of the basic infrastructure for the implementation of the provisions of the Integrated Mobility Plan that would render its implementation successful.” This is official-speak that, by implication, acknowledges the weaknesses of the mobility plan.
For instance, the narrowing of roads leading into the centre of Nicosia from three to two lanes, creation of bicycle lanes and wider pavements has drastically increased congestion because of the lack of basic infrastructure, but the municipality still considers this a success. For this part of the plan the municipality was not concerned about the absence of a framework for the traffic lights system and the lack of infrastructure.
This is because the Integrated Mobility Plan cannot be implemented in one go. It has to be done in stages, and the inconvenience to the public is inevitable. As there would be public discontent whatever the arrangements, the municipality should stick to its plan rather than opting for half-baked solutions.
Nothing illustrates this better than the original plan which would allow access to Makarios Ave only to people who live and work there. How would the municipality have ensured drivers respected this rule? Would it have a policeman at the entry to the road checking if drivers had permits to enter? And why should people working on the road be entitled to drive their cars there? Are people that work or live in Ledra Street allowed to drive on the street?
Speaking on the radio on Thursday morning, Yiorkadjis said the decision to allow all private cars on to Makarios Ave was “temporary”. But it is it? Once people are accustomed to driving along it again, there would be much bigger resistance to banning cars, whereas at present, Makarios Ave is no longer part of people’s route because most of it has been closed for two years. People would have been much more willing to accept its closure to private cars now.
The problem is that the majority of municipal councillors are not committed to the Mobility Plan, hence the half-baked arrangements, termed temporary.