Cypriots should stop driving to work and other daily tasks and instead switch to public transport to reduce traffic congestion, Transport Minister Alexis Vafiades said on Saturday.
The traffic problem is long-standing issue and a strategic plan for the next five to ten years needs to be drawn up with the involvement of all relevant bodies to resolve it, the minister said.
He said this is mainly caused due to the higher rate of cars being purchased compared to the rate at which road networks are being built.
Hence, public transport is the answer to traffic problems, congestion and pollutants, the minister explained in his address at the Nicosia sustainable mobility workshop co-organised by the Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (Etek) and the Cyprus Association of Transport Engineers.
Transportations is responsible for 50 per cent of the pollution, Vafiades said, sounding the alarm on the environmental risk and highlighting the need to “change our habits”.
Today, there are 750,000 vehicles on the roads and by 2030, at this rate, they will increase to 800,000. And the solution, according to the minister, is not electric cars.
“Soon this will translate into buying green credits and we will probably be paying 100-200 million a year”, he said, noting that this money can be spent on building schools and hospitals.
“This means that we have to find alternative modes of transport and the alternative modes of transport are none other than public transport and our cities depend on them,” he noted
Public transport should be the arteries through which everyone can get from one point to another, he said, adding that cooperation between all stakeholders will enable the creation of sustainable cities.
Local authorities, the minister said, have an “essential role to play” in this effort. He referred to the adoption and implementation of part of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan by the Nicosia Municipality, noting that “we as a state must support this effort”.
For his part, Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said that unfortunately, compared to the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, Cyprus records the highest levels of background ozone in the world.
Every year about 700 deaths are recorded in Cyprus due to air pollution, according to the annual reports of the European Environment Agency, but also to data collected by the Cyprus Institute.
Driving a car to go to work and for all daily tasks is a mentality that should slowly change, the mayor said.
As far as the Nicosia Municipality is concerned, the issue of sustainable mobility has been put high on the agenda, Yiorkadjis said, to ensure “for all a future that is sustainable and free from environmental pollutants”.
On the municipality’s actions to support this goal, the mayor said the municipality was the first to highlight the Nicosia Integrated Mobility Plan of the Ministry of Transport as a state policy.
Meanwhile, all the projects implemented in the municipality in the last decade, adopt the principles of sustainable mobility, he added.