For anyone who can remember traffic on Ledra Street in the 1980s and Makarios Avenue prior to the changes recently completed, it was welcome news that cars would be prohibited from the main thoroughfare from October 20.
There was a huge backlash at the time to the pedestrianisation of Ledra Street and no doubt there will be some grumbling about Makarios Avenue as well, but would anyone now think to go back and open Ledra Street to traffic again?
As a timely reminder of what they are trying to accomplish, Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis penned an open letter on Monday, in which he made some valid observations that we have pointed out on numerous occasions in the past.
One is that despite the green agenda, the government appears to be trying to solve the traffic problem with more roads. As Yiorkadjis said: “This logic has been tested and failed.
“In order to persuade a much larger percentage of our fellow citizens to use the bus, the bus must gain an advantage over the car,” he rightly says, adding that people’s mentality must also change. It may be a little unfair to put this on the public when no serious effort has been made to create a public transport system that people will choose to use before getting behind the wheel. The bus system was left, and is still to some extent despite some marginal improvement, as a last resort.
Now everyone wants to change people’s mentality, which is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. You must change the system first to change minds, not fail in that respect and then try to guilt people into using substandard public transport. They will feel coerced and inconvenienced because the bus system is still second rate.
If a proper public transport system had been set up years ago it might have eased what is going to be a difficult transition to greener energy, not just in transport but in every aspect of life. Now it seems everything is being rushed to meet the requirements of UN Agenda 2030, the goals of which have been enshrined in the Cyprus Recovery and Resilience plan.
As Yiorkadjis pointed out, it is the responsibility of the state to convince people “and the only way to achieve this is action”.
He added that green growth and sustainable mobility cannot only be included in political discourse. “It is not enough to replace plastic straws with paper ones, especially in Cyprus where the main source of pollutants comes from transportation,” he said.
It also emerged on Monday that Cyprus is pondering the creation of a rail system, something that was thrown out there more than ten years ago but never carried forward. If the government is truly serious about greener cities, it needs to offer more than just one choice of public transport, which at the moment is only the bus.