Wednesday 30 September 2020

Watch out for that tree

This column first appeared in Malta Today

We now have it straight from a Mayor’s mouth: “…trees are a killer if cars crash. Cars wrap around the trees on impact”.

Well, gee whiz. Who knew?  If you slam into a tree you are likely to be maimed or killed.  Thank goodness someone pointed this out, otherwise I might have been tempted to do a test run and speed towards a tree at 100 km per hour,  you know, just to see what would happen.

In the same thread she also said that “the pavement is there for people who want to walk to Luqa, but if people do not walk it is always safer.”  

I could continue making sarcastic jokes all day about the Mayor of Santa Lucia’s comments in which she justified the way the new road linking Santa Lucia to Luqa was built at the expense of chopping down quite a number of trees.  But it is not a joking matter when you have someone, who seems to be a well-educated person, bending over backwards to toe the party line so badly that she insults people’s intelligence.  Her lame replies did not work though and many called her out on them. Frankly, I cannot believe she actually thought she could get away with these absurd remarks.

I am still trying to understand the logic of “trees are a killer if cars crash”…uhm no, actually it is drivers who kill themselves (and others) when they are speeding or drink/driving. It is tantamount to saying, “let’s chop down all the trees so that drivers won’t crash into them.”  As one person pointed out we might as well remove all walls, because drivers crash into them as well. And let’s remove roundabouts, lamp posts and centre strips and even the parapets of people’s homes, because cars have been known to end up smack outside of someone’s front door with the force of a collision or, to use that infamous phrase, “after losing control of their vehicle”.

Oh, and let’s eliminate pedestrians while we are it – after all, they tend to be pesky critters who have a habit of getting themselves in the way of an oncoming car. Why they even have the nerve to be crossing the road on zebra crossings and to be walking on pavements, so they really only have themselves to blame for getting run over. Surely they should know by now that the only real means of transportation in Malta is a car? Those who are walking, cycling, using scooters and motorcycles, you are all just asking for it and really should stop all this provocation. 

But the trees, man those trees, they are the real trouble makers. They are dangerous, unpredictable creatures, and just keep jumping out at vehicles without any prior warning, planting (ahem) themselves squarely in the middle of a car’s path, taunting the driver with the sneers of a schoolyard bully, “come on, come on, hit me, you chicken, go ahead and try, let’s see who wins this one.”

No, Ms Mayor, no one dies in a car crash because there are trees on the side of the road. The real answer is to make sure people drive carefully and within the speed limit.  It should be obvious that if you hit a tree you are going to get injured or die but it is speed/recklessness which is the number one killer in Malta and that is the only reason that cars “get wrapped around a tree”. 

And when vehicles collide with the full impact of the speed at which they were going into a tree, in what world can anyone say that the best possible solution is to chop down the “offending” trees? That’s some great logic at work there.  With that argument I guess every single country in the world has it wrong then because there are trees everywhere, even on main roads, which is why many people have taken to travelling more frequently in order to be able to catch a glimpse of limitless greenery. On an already barren island like ours, it is preposterous that the best Infrastructure Malta can do is to chop down mature trees and plant fledgling saplings in a pathetic attempt to mollify us. 

I have also noticed a recurring dismissive tone used by those who stick up for the Labour Government at every turn – their latest mantra is that the environment, protection of trees, the need to cut down on traffic and car emissions and other related issues are a mere fad;  a bandwagon which we are just hopping on to as the latest trend. In their scramble to justify everything, they have understood absolutely nothing.  

The recent ceremony and fanfare to mark the opening of the first flyover could not have been a more symbolic embodiment of where this administration’s priorities lie – who cares about our lungs, when there is so much gleaming tarmac to be worshipped? 

But rich irony has a way of presenting itself to us as a gift, tied up with a perfect ribbon. Just days after all the inaugurations and the speeches and the patting ourselves on the back for #GettingThingsDone, we are regaled with the  news of the usual traffic jams when school started.  Because ultimately, no matter how many trees you chop down and how many roads you widen and how many PR stunts and press conferences Ian Borg can cram into one day in his attempt to convince us that he has found the magic solution to solve the traffic problem, you just cannot argue with cause and effect.

As predicated, wider roads, more lanes = more cars, more traffic. It is a fact which has been proven all over the world.  And although we hate to say we told you so, we really, really have to say it. 

We told you so.

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