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'Animals treated better than cyclists' says Maltese Tour winner

Forced to train abroad due to potholes, abusive drivers and lack of hills

The first woman to win the Tour of Malta has spoken out about cycle safety, saying that the lives of animals are often better safeguarded than those of cyclists.

“Cyclists are very vulnerable on the road,” Marie Claire Aquilina told the Times of Malta.

“Cyclists and drivers need to respect each other and be more cautious. It would be nice to create a sense of community and look out for each other.”

The former accountant, who has been competing since 2004, won the 22nd Tour of Malta aged 39.

She said it was “definitely a very good feeling to win at a sport she only took up at the age of 26.

She has to travel abroad to train, due to Malta’s relatively flat terrain, and, she says, dangerous potholes.

She says that cycling in her home country also leads to harassment, which she says is a “horrible feeling because it increases riders’ anxiety”.

She added: “It often feels as if horses on the road are respected more than humans. No one honks at a horse, but cyclists are often harassed.

“We need better traffic management to make it safer for cyclists. Accidents can and will happen anywhere, but the risk decreases with adequate systems,” she said.

Back in 2014 we reported how cyclists in Malta were getting spiky over signs that sprung up around the island warning local drivers to watch out for hedgehogs, while there are none telling them to look out for bike riders.

The Mediterranean country’s cycling campaign organisation, the Bicycling Advocacy Group, say they have nothing against the little mammals – nor indeed any other wildlife.

In fact, it was cycling advocates themselves who put up unofficial ‘Mind the Hedgehog’ signs as a satirical response to signs that appeared in Sliema telling cyclists aged 12 and above they were banned from  riding their bikes on the promenade there.

While the ‘Mind the Hedgehog’ signs clearly struck a chord with the authorities, calls for ‘Mind the Cyclist’ signs to be erected on the town’s Tower Road, as well as installing sharrows – painted logos on the road alerting motorists to the presence of bike riders – have been ignored, say campaigners.

One said, “It’s really bizarre. Malta has the worst cycling culture in the EU, a really oddball pedelec law that has pedelec riders wearing helmets, yet ordinary bikes don’t need this.

“Malta also has some of the worst congestion problems in the entire EU, yet little is done to encourage cycling. So splashing out on 60 Mind the Hedgehog signs is bizarre!”

A report found that Malta has some of the highest levels of the highest levels of personal car use in the EU, and it also has some of the lowest levels of cycling – just 0.5 per cent modal share for commuting in urban areas in 2010.


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