‘This is Cyprus. We need our cars!’ | Cyprus Mail

September 22 is World Car-Free Day. But can anyone on this island manage without their vehicle for 24 hours asks Alix Norman

 The average Greek walks roughly 2.8 kilometres per day. People in Turkey walk more: roughly 3.4km per day. Brits do 3.6km; Russians 6km; and a resident of China walks roughly 6.2km each day.

In Cyprus, no numbers are immediately available. But they’re unlikely to be high: this is a nation that loves its automobiles! Over 90 per cent of Cypriot residents prefer cars over other types of transport. And a recent Nicosia municipality report reveals that public transport is responsible for just three per cent of journeys, and bicycles for 1.5 per cent. All of which means that it’s unlikely too many of us will be trying this Friday’s global event: World Car-Free Day.

Every year, on September 22, countries across the globe encourage motorists to give up their vehicles for 24 hours to highlight the benefits of reduced air pollution, decreased traffic congestion, and a safer society. Now, in terms of pollution, Cyprus is isn’t too bad: our urban areas register 13.8 μg/m3, just above the EU average, but well down from 14.5 μg/m3 five years ago. Traffic congestion is also manageable at many times of the day – unless there’s a presidential motorcade on its way. And road deaths have recently fallen by 20 per cent. Still, it would be rather nice to have an entire car-free day across the island. But is it possible?

Once upon a yesteryear, our ancestors went everywhere under their own steam. But today, we don’t all work in the nearby fields or village shop, so our daily commute tends to much longer.

There’s also the faster pace of life, multiple private lessons for the kids, and supermarkets the other side of town. Throw in the monthly Ikea trip, and it’s easy to argue that owning a car in Cyprus is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Perhaps this is the reason the recent petition for once-a-month car-free Sundays in central Nicosia seems to have fallen through?

“Look, this is Cyprus. We need our cars!” declares 34-year-old Andreas, a banker who suggests that time constraints are the main factor. “Tell me how I’m meant to get from Lakatamia to Acropolis each day without a car? And what about my meetings in Limassol? I need to get there on time; the only way to do that would be in a taxi – that’s just a car that costs a day’s salary!”

Limassolian George is also unlikely to go car-free come September 22. But for this 44-year-old bachelor, it’s more about the driving experience. “I have a Porsche Boxster, a Fiat 500, and a vintage Jaguar my Dad gave me. I love cars, I love driving. I’m not going to give that up even for a day!”

George’s rate of car ownership, it transpires, is not overly abnormal. According to recent data, Cyprus has 785 vehicles per 1,000 residents, and ranks 12th on the list of cars per capita. But we’re still well below Malta, Gibraltar, Guernsey, San Marino, and Lichtenstein – all countries with more cars than people!

It’s notable that most of the top 10 are small, picturesque nations – places that aren’t large enough to generate a public transport infrastructure, and probably have a great many rental vehicles for visitors. At the other end of the spectrum, we see factors such as poverty, lack of roads, and a higher rural population coming into play: of the 10 nations with the fewest cars per capita, all are in Africa or Asia…

“When I was growing up in Sri Lanka, nobody had a car,” says 61-year-old Sandya. “We all walked. Some rich people had a bicycle. In Cyprus I walk from my madam’s house in Strovolos into town each Sunday for church and friends. It is nothing.”

For some, of course, walking isn’t an option. Those who need to transport heavy loads, move multiple kids, or have urgent appointments are all less likely to try the upcoming Car-Free Day. And a number of us couldn’t manage without our vehicles for very valid health reasons…

“God gave us legs to walk,” says 71-year-old Oroklini resident Petros. “But he also gave us the ingenuity to invent the wheel, thank goodness. I wish these eco-warriors would think about those of us whose knees have given out before they start ranting about the environment!”

Then there’s proximity. Although most of the island’s towns are fairly centralised (except Limassol – if you live on one end of the coastline and work on the other, all is forgiven!), many of the more necessary businesses have moved to the suburbs.

“Back in Yorkshire, we lived in a small village,” says 65-year-old Paphos resident Gemma. “Boots, WH Smith, the clinic and the pharmacy – they were all right on your doorstep. You could go a week without driving. But in Cyprus, there’s no such thing as a high street. So most days, you’re in the car at least once to get everything you need.”

And then, of course, there’s the issue of public transport. Cyprus may not have the trains or trams that are common in large foreign cities. But we do have buses.

“Yes but they’re not only unreliable, they’re expensive!” says Jack, a 24-year-old photographer. “Salaries in this country are abysmal, and when most of your money goes on rent and food, even the bus fare of €2 per trip can be prohibitive. And the car prices here are insane; if I could afford to buy a vehicle, I still couldn’t pay the petrol.

“And so I walk,” he shrugs. “40 minutes to work in the morning, 40 minutes back in the evening. I think that as long as you’re young, fit and live in a town, you can manage. Though, to be honest, if I had the option of driving to work, then that’s what I’d do. Every day. Even on Car-Free Day!”

Source: ‘This is Cyprus. We need our cars!’ | Cyprus Mail

Parliament to Vote on €5,000 fine for blocking mobile traffic cameras | Cyprus Mail

Parliament is to vote on a bill which would impose a €5,000 fine for those blocking mobile traffic cameras from being able to capture traffic violations.

The issue has been ongoing and gained widespread attention after some drivers have gone viral on social media – posting footage of themselves parking behind a mobile camera van and blocking its view.

The Sunday Mail spoke to one of the ‘vigilantes’ in August.

But Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades warned that those obstructing the operation of the cameras are essentially endangering all other drivers.

“It is important for this to stop, we should know that cameras on the streets enhance road safety… consultation on the bill is now finalised,” he said, adding that the fine is expected to be set at €5,000.

The bill is to be voted on in parliament.

Tenders for smart lights installation on October 15 | Cyprus Mail

The tender for the installation of smart traffic lights will be announced on October 15, according to Transport minister Alexis Vafeades.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), he said he estimates that the lights will begin to be installed in mid-2024, with installation set to be complete in 2025.

He added that the lights “will improve traffic”. They will work by using artificial intelligence and sensors to give priority to traffic accordingly, including to buses and emergency vehicles.

“A person will no longer wait at a red light if no one is passing through a green light at the same intersection. The smart lights will recognise that there is no vehicle on the given road and give priority to the vehicle stopped at the red light,” he said.

He also said that studies from countries where smart traffic lights have already been installed show a reduction in traffic between 10 and 35 per cent.

The first smart traffic lights in Cyprus were installed as a pilot scheme back in 2021 on the Ayia Fyla roundabout, with Vafeades now saying the aim is to install them across the island.

Source: Tenders for smart lights installation on October 15 | Cyprus Mail

Nearly 40 per cent drop in road deaths | Cyprus Mail

The police have hailed a 38.5 per cent reduction in fatal road collisions this year.

Police spokesperson Eleni Constantinou explained on Wednesday that the significant decrease in fatalities is marked from 2022 compared to 2023.

She stated that from January 1, 2021, to August 16, 2021 there were 22 fatal collisions with 23 deaths.

The same period the following year, 2022, recorded 26 fatal collisions and 28 deaths.

But this year a significant reduction in both fatal collisions and deaths have been recorded, with 16 and 17 respectively – meaning there were ten fewer than last year.

The reduction works out at 38.5 per cent fatal collisions and 39.3 per cent deaths respectively.

Constantinou attributed the marked change to the police force’s and other state authorities policies as yielding results.

That, she said, has been achieved by stepping up of awareness campaigns – such as multiple programmes for conscripts in the national guard – and seminars in schools, and other public institutions.

But officers on the ground also played a major role, Constantinou stated, adding that the force’s continuous checks for compliance with the traffic code is also a key factor.

She added that recently installed traffic camera system – which went live in October 2021 – has also played a crucial role in reducing traffic collisions.

The primary culprits identified as leading to fatal collisions include drivers being distracted (mobile phones), speeding, driving under the influence, and not wearing seatbelts or crash helmets.

She concluded that the public’s awareness of the severe and fatal impacts of reckless driving has been highlighted in the media and public discourse.

Constantinou’s figures covered the January-August period, and a recent report Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) published in June recorded a similar downward trend in road fatalities.

It reported that the number of road deaths dropped from 45 in 2021 to 37 last year. That shifts the island’s ranking from 17th place in 2021 to 9th place among the 27 EU member states in 2022, the report released by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said.

Close to three years ago the fines for many traffic violations were increased significantly, such as fines for motorcyclists not wearing a crash helmet more than doubled to €200, while those not wearing a seat belt now fork out €150 – raised to €300 for a repeated offence within three years.

The fine for not wearing a helmet increased from €85 to €200 and then €300 for a second violation.

Using a mobile phone while at the wheel now costs €150 (if caught), instead of the previous €85, with the fine potentially rising to €300 in case of a second violation within three years.

The fine for parking in a spot reserved for the disabled rose from €85 to €300, as did the fine for those running a red light.

Source: Nearly 40 per cent drop in road deaths | Cyprus Mail

Limassol traffic camera network expands with four new cameras | Cyprus Mail

The traffic camera network is being further expanded as from Monday Limassol is set to have a further four cameras in operation.

The police announced on Friday that the cameras to become operational from next week are at the intersection of Makarios Avenue with Despinas and Nikos Pattichis and Archbishop Leontiou.

The police reiterated that there are also 20 mobile camera units operational daily throughout the government-controlled areas.

The announcement comes just a month after six new cameras were installed in Nicosia.

They are along the length of two throughways, specifically, three at the traffic-light controlled junctions of Strovolos Avenue and Machairas Street, and another three at the intersections of Arch. Makarios, Spyros Kyprianou and Digeni Akrita Avenues.

 

Source: Limassol traffic camera network expands with four new cameras | Cyprus Mail

Scooters causing havoc in Paphos | Cyprus Mail

  1. Electric scooters are causing problems in Paphos, police spokesman Michalis Nikolaou said on Tuesday, since local authorities have not made provision for their conditions of use.

In the past year, police have issued 90 fines he said for scooter users committing various traffic violations. Although their use in several areas is prohibited, confusion reigns as authorities have not designated lanes or determined safe circulation areas.

Speaking to Cyprus Mail Nikolaou clarified the scooters in question are the step-on type, usually battery operated.

“The municipality needs to decide on which streets the scooters are allowed and paint lanes for them,” the police spokesman said, adding that though they may use paved areas, some streets with a designated speed limit of 30kmph could also, potentially, be open for them, provided lane markers exist.

Police have had to respond to complaints about the scooters from Kato Paphos drivers, including their frequent use by minors who sometimes use them to tow rolling seats, which is prohibited.

Nikolaou noted that on July 28 last year the laws governing the circulation of bicycles and other personal mobility devices, such as step-on scooters, were published in the Official Gazette of the Republic.

Referring to some of the legal prerequisites, he said use of scooters is only permitted for persons aged 14 and over, riders must wear a protective helmet, and during the night they should wear clothing with reflective strips.

Nikolaou also said transporting any passenger is prohibited, except in certain conditions and for certain vehicles, where the passenger is 12 years or older and seated.

He said that although the use of scooters under the influence of alcohol or drugs is forbidden, scooter riders are exempt from third party insurance.

Source: Scooters causing havoc in Paphos | Cyprus Mail

New traffic cameras in operation in Nicosia | Cyprus Mail

 

New traffic cameras are in operation in Nicosia as of Wednesday.

Six new cameras installed along the length of two throughways have been turned on, specifically, three at the traffic-light controlled junctions of Strovolos Avenue and Machairas Street, and another three at the intersections of Arch. Makarios III, Spyros Kyprianou and Digeni Akrita Avenues, in Nicosia.

Within the month new fixed cameras in Limassol are also expected to start being operated.

 

Source: New traffic cameras in operation in Nicosia | Cyprus Mail

Checks on bike, e-scooter users to be stepped up | Cyprus Mail

Police on Monday launched week-long awareness campaign for e-scooter and bicycle users.

The campaign will include increased checks, they said.

“Members of the police will provide information to the public about the risks involved from the non-application of the relevant legislation,” the force said in an announcement.

The campaign will last until Sunday.

Under new regulations that came into force this year, e-scooters are only permitted in designated spaces.

Only those aged 14 and older are allowed to ride an e-scooter and if it allows for another passenger, the second individual should be above the age of 12.

There is a mandatory requirement to use a helmet as well as clothing with fluorescent indicators. At the very least, the e-scooter should have brakes, lights at the back and front, as well as a bell, the transport ministry said.

Additionally, the maximum speed should be at 20km/h. When riding in a square or on the pavement, the speed should not go higher than 10km/h. Priority should always be giving to pedestrians.

Use of an e-scooter in a square or pedestrian area is only permitted if there is an indicative horizontal or vertical signpost, the transport ministry specified.

Municipalities or communities carry out an assessment on the impact on road safety, particularly for pedestrians. If authorities determine it is safe enough to allow e-scooters, signposts will be placed accordingly for both their use and parking.

Published in the government gazette on December 30, the law details e-scooters can be used on roads that have a maximum speed limit of 30km/h, cycling lanes or paths permitted for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

In addition, cyclists now face a €50 spot fine for not wearing a helmet but this can rise to €500 if the issue ends up in court.

Four cyclists and one e-scooter user died last year on the roads, none of whom were wearing helmets.

Source: Checks on bike, e-scooter users to be stepped up | Cyprus Mail

Over 700 traffic fines in 48 hours | Cyprus Mail

Police on Monday said they issued 744 fines for traffic violations in approximately 48 hours during checks in the government-controlled areas.

More than half concern speeding, one of the main causes for serious and fatal road accidents.

The checks were carried out between the early morning hours on Saturday and 6am on Monday as part of the prevention of road traffic collisions.

Police said the majority of the fines concerned offences which are proven to be the main causes of serious and fatal road traffic collisions. Of these, 400 complaints were made for exceeding the speed limit and 61 complaints for drink driving.

Another 78 fines were issued over vehicles driven without a licence and 25 for driving without the relevant certificates.

There were also 23 people who were fined for failing to use a seat belt in the front and rear seats. In addition, another 157 fines were issued for various other traffic offences.

Moreover, seven vehicles were confiscated in a campaign of the Famagusta traffic police for the prevention of road collisions and traffic offences, conducted between 2pm -12 midnight on Sunday in Ayia Napa.

The vehicles were four cars one moped and two motorcycles which were seized for various traffic offences.

Members of the Famagusta traffic police issued a total of 76 fines, including four for forgery of a driver’s license and use of a fake driver’s license, three for driving with an expired student driver’s license, five for worn tires and two for driving a stationary vehicle.

During the checks, six persons were also found illegally residing on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus and were arrested.

Targeted traffic police checks continue on a daily basis, throughout the twenty-four hours, on all the road network throughout the country, police said.

They added that the sole objective is to instill a proper road awareness among all road users and to prevent fatal and serious traffic collisions.

Source: Over 700 traffic fines in 48 hours | Cyprus Mail

Three remanded after reportedly paying €1,000 for driving licence | Cyprus Mail

Shady dealings have been uncovered and the police have made arrests for driving licences having been issued on the basis of fake residence permits.

The case has led to three arrests so far, all migrants, who were remanded for eight days on Wednesday after they paid backhanders to get their driving licences. They are understood to have been delivery drivers.

The police have in their sights another 17 people who paid for such services, while they are focusing on two people as being the key suspects behind the ring.

The case emerged after a worker from the Limassol citizen service centre reviewed the driving licence applications – which were granted – and found that the accompanying residence permits (MEU2 documents) were forged and falsified.

The first suspect claims that he paid an acquaintance €1,000 who then secured the licence for him within a week.

The second suspect says he went to an office in Limassol and paid €800, again getting the licence within a week.

The third suspect says he went to the same office and paid €750.

All three denied any knowledge as to the details of their seemingly forged residence permits.

So far, investigations are centred on 20 such applications linked to forged documents – of which 16 are tied to the Limassol main office and four to the Agros centre. The cases in question took place between early December and early March.

Daily Phileleftheros reported that police believe two people are the key suspects behind the ring in dealing forged papers. It is understood that driving licences are issued after an official reviews the applications and the details therein should be verified in person. For foreigners and third-country nationals, the residence permit must also be verified.

The case was also confirmed by the police who were quizzed on the matter during a CyBC news programme on Tuesday.

The latest scandal emerged shortly after the Cyprus Mail exposed unscrupulous agents as having bought up migration department appointment slots in bulk and then selling them individually for up to €200.

Source: Three remanded after reportedly paying €1,000 for driving licence | Cyprus Mail