Cyclists in Malta are getting spiky over signs that have sprung up around the island that warn 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 recent 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.
In response to the ‘Mind the Hedgehog’ signs, some cyclists have suggested that people on bikes should wear hi-viz vests with the silhouette of a hedgehog on the back – to give them greater protection on the road.
Nature Trust president Vince Attard told the Times of Malta that 91 hedgehogs had ben saved during 2014, but maintained that drivers needed to display “more awareness” about them.
He said: “Sometimes a mother is killed and its babies stay next to her in an attempt to get milk and end up dying anyway.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.