The Tyranny of Motor Transport

Photograph: Ras Tanura Refinery, from National Geographic.


Narcy Calamatta

The world knows that motor transport is choking it to death.

Democratic rule is tyrannised by the demands of the road user and no solution appears in sight. Governments know that the more they improve roads and parking, the more the motorists will be encouraged to buy new cars and keep the old ones for nostalgia’s sake — most families have more cars than they really need.

Motors run on fossil fuels and no cooperation or innovation is expected from that sector. The way the fossil-fuel giants have shown reluctance to switch to electric motors shows that no amount of pressure will revolutionise the system. Electric motors are recharged from electricity likely generated by a fossil-fuel-consuming machine. Until a flying skateboard powered by digital microchips is invented, we have to rely on man’s recognition that we need to compromise on our comforts.

We could say yes to using motors, but mostly for those powering two-wheelers. I don’t mean one of those monsters that can go faster than any car: I mean scooters.

Scooters in Sicily: photo courtesy of Dave McKane

In Sicily, an island with limited space, the priest, doctor, delivery boy and vendors all go around on scooters.

I know you are going to point out that they have the right weather for scooters. Well, the scope of this article is to find a way to cut the number of cars on the road: those who come from rainy lands have to adjust — designers of protective wear could have a field day if the demand is high enough.

What if we start changing the four-wheel culture to a two-wheel culture?

Say, come October, all universities make half of their campus parking available only to two-wheelers? There would be a lot fewer cars on the roads during rush hours.

The pandemic has shown that a high proportion of workers can work from home and it caused a little revolution in the economics of running businesses. Suddenly workplaces needed less space, less equipment, less furniture and consumed less fossil-fuel-generated electricity for heating and lighting, a state of affairs unthinkable 10 years ago. Workers working from home did not need to use their cars to commute. Many businesses and public services are now considering adopting the new work-from-home ethic indefinitely.

Commercial vehicles of all shapes and sizes clog up town roads, many of them large vans with supplies to be delivered to small shops or restaurants. How about not allowing them on the streets before, say, 3pm, after lunch? I propose the morning should be left free for shoppers. Deliveries are often competing for parking road space with their own customers: the shop they are taking the supplies to.

How about restricting these delivery vehicles to a quarter ton, or not to be bigger than a small pick-up or a family car? Often a delivery truck carries around enough stock to supply several small shops in different locations for a whole day. Smaller vans might create more jobs for drivers and delivery people, their work could become more efficient — smaller vehicles are more manoeuvrable and they do not block the traffic as much as the lorries.

Artics are overwhelming

All the giant trucks, tractor trailers, concrete mixers and other monsters should not be allowed on the streets in the day time: restrict them to night hours, from 7pm to 6am. The artics are overwhelming: they cause noise and air pollution and terrify older drivers in their family cars.

Downtown shopping areas, especially in historical towns, should close to traffic after 6pm. I saw this happening in Frankfurt in Germany around the area of their State Opera House. A very busy traffic hub in a few minutes becomes an entertainment quarter with outside dining, planters and stands selling craft and jewellery, with artists painting portraits and reading tarot cards: there’s a holiday atmosphere in a jiffy. I think every community should be allowed to enjoy its main street without traffic for a few hours in the evening.

The Old Opera House © Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Photo: Stefan Maurer

Town leaders of the world unite! Make your governments give you the power to control the soulless army of motor users, manufacturers and fossil-fuel peddlers. Your fellow citizens who strive to create the character of their town with love and care deserve to enjoy its joyful panorama at least for a few hours each day.

Town leaders: encourage your fellow citizens to scale down their transport to scooters and bicycles — give them the privilege of always finding somewhere to park near a rain shelter.

What I am recommending is not easily achieved, but I think you can help — maybe write a letter or design a poster with this message? Working to improve the life of your community is enjoyable when you do it from home.

What is that I just heard? Must have been an artic crashing into a concrete mixer. Now this junction I live on that is usually full of traffic will have none all day tomorrow!


Narcy Calamatta is a veteran writer, designer, actor and director on stage, TV and film. A militant in social causes, he regularly contributes to local print media in Malta in English and Maltese.

He has been editor of a left-wing political satirical bi-weekly gazette and a stringer for the international issue of the Hollywood Reporter. He was the drama and art critic on the first local electronic newspaper,

His essays on the tourism and film industries have been published in a guide book in three languages and he has published a book with a collection of four of his plays in English and their translation in Maltese.

Recently he published a dissertation on Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame and its translation into Maltese. He is the editor of two books; Survivors II by international photographer Joe P Smith and Somebody Up There Loves Me, his brother Peter’s saga in Maltese on his fight with cancer. Narcy has also written three scripts for award-winning short films and he wrote the scripts for seven episodes of a TV comedy series. His dissertation on The Beheading of St John, the Caravaggio masterpiece that hangs in St John’s Cathedral in Valletta, was published locally and he delivered it as a lecture at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.

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