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Green cities, monochrome politicians

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With the presidential elections around the corner and the outgoing administration rushing to complete its outstanding tasks, the eco-friendly culture finally seems to have kicked in with this government.

The Council of Ministers is introducing a measure to reduce motor emissions in the city centres by banning fuel-driven vehicles and imposing hefty fines as a prevention method.

As encouraging as the new regulations are, they are knee-jerk reactions to the pretext of EU regulations, with little vision of transforming Cyprus into a fully-green island.

While the justification is that “this is the norm in most EU cities and capitals”, the difference is that in other countries and megacities, there are efficient modes of transport and thorough infrastructure, with decent walkways, cycle paths and bus lanes.

Despite the drastic improvements in public bus networks in Cyprus, these are still far from satisfactory.

Of course, gas-guzzling vehicles should be banned from the inner cities. But this should have been done a long time ago.

And to accommodate the public, more mini-buses and all-electric should be encouraged to provide more frequent itineraries, starting early in the day and finishing late at night, preferably around midnight.

This will help solve the pollution, as well as the congestion problems in towns.

Unfortunately, public opinion is that this administration is pressing ahead with the mandatory introduction of hybrid and electric vehicles, with a subsidy that hardly makes switching cars affordable, let alone plugging into the home power supply, at a time when the cost of electricity is far higher than a year ago.

More bus routes are needed, as well as a better network of cross-town itineraries and affordable so that people can hop on and off a bus and know they will get to their destination on time.

The concept of park-and-ride is gradually catching on with major parking spaces at bus depots in outlying areas.

The same applies to the new mandatory wearing of helmets for all cyclists.

But first, you need to have a cycling culture; to do that, you need to have decent cycle paths and encourage children to wear helmets from when they are toddlers.

This, in turn, will imprint the notion of wearing a helmet, even as a teenager or adult, which could also spill over into the minds of motorcyclists, many of whom still prefer the macho image of not wearing a crash helmet.

Except for the Transport Minister occasionally riding a public bus or joining youngsters on their school bus, no one else has bothered to break the taboo of “buses are for pensioners and Asian domestic workers.”

Worse still, the government has not invested in an exemplary fashion in electric or hybrid vehicles to replace its fleet of Cabinet limos.

Clearly, the new restrictions and fines will only be valid after the elections, which means the President still has time to be driven into the city centres for the hundreds of ribbon cuttings and inaugurations before he leaves.

It is something for the new administration to consider seriously.

If any of the candidates have an eco-friendly policy, that is.