In a press conference held at the ministry recently the Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Tolga Atakan, announced the launch of the project aiming at a safer traffic and transportation system in the TRNC. Below is Minister Atakan’s speech where he explains the works to be undertaken by his Office:
A traffic safety and transportation system that will serve our people has long been overdue.
Today, we are gathered here to announce that change in traffic safety, on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot community, has begun. This change was inevitable but had been delayed for many years.
As you know, we recently celebrated another traditional “Traffic Week.” I would like to emphasize that we will be on duty to bring about traffic safety 52 weeks a year, not just a mere week.
Today, licensed and professional traffic and transportation engineer Mr Taner Aksu is here with us to represent his team, with which we have been working together for some time. Later on, I will elaborate on why Mr Aksu and his team are here with us.
For many years, we have been aware as a community that the lack of a traffic safety and transportation system has brought us to today’s state of affairs, which is beyond grave. All traffic safety statistics and daily news attest to this truth.
It is very saddening to see that former administrations did not exhibit any awareness and did not even want to contemplate the changing of this beyond grave situation. Since we are here to bring about a change never done before, I see no need to talk about the past from here on.
For us it is impossible to accept fatalities and serious injuries in our roadway traffic. Thus, I would like to underscore our strong need to change both as a community and state system. However, changes are hard, but we are determined to achieve this difficult task. We have created a team experienced in traffic safety and transportation that will work scientifically, and we have already begun our efforts that will contribute to the change we hope to create.
It is time to tackle the issue of traffic safety and transportation system in a holistic manner. For this reason, we have started working on different areas in parallel in regard to traffic safety and transportation.
The goal in question here is not to build more roads or similar constructs for our people. The crucial point is that, while what is necessary is being done for the welfare of our community, saving lives and preventing serious injuries should be the primary goal for us all. And this is the exact meaning of “traffic safety.”
Despite the fact that many countries in the world have adopted “Vision Zero”, a traffic safety and transportation approach started by the Swedish Parliament in 1997, it is unfortunate that, as a country, we are far from being ready for “Vision Zero.” Thus, in order to adopt “Vision Zero,” we first need to go through a very serious and difficult preparation process.
As shown in the diagrams we have shared with you, the Traffic Department under our ministry is at the root of this very important and essential change. While establishing the correct structure for the Traffic Department, the necessary working system for the Traffic and Transportation Services Commission will also be determined and implemented.
Starting with education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency services–the 4E system–implemented successfully in the rest of the world, we have launched efforts to establish the traffic safety system shown in the charts as 7E, which is composed of seven items in total. However, in every step we take, education will be the fundamental ingredient of change.
Now I would like to inform you on how we are planning to implement our plans.
Starting from the very first day we took office, we launched a study with the traffic safety and transportation experts. We have formed a professional team that will provide expert advice to our Ministry under the guidance of Mr Taner Aksu, who worked in the US as a licensed traffic and transportation engineer and has been contributing to the formation of a traffic safety and transportation system in North Cyprus for many years.
This professional team is composed of engineers and architects who possess the requisite education and experience in traffic safety and transportation engineering, besides being capable of conducting practical research in the field with a high level of traffic safety awareness. In addition, under my leadership, Mr Aksu will take on the role of a fully authorized advisor to the Ministry in all our efforts related to the traffic safety and transportation system we plan to establish.
With priorities in mind, we have launched our efforts after classifying the projects to be implemented as “very short,” “short,” “medium,” and “long” term.
Now, I would like to provide a few examples to the projects we are planning to implement in the very short term. We have been receiving a lot of rightful inquiries and complaints with regards to the way speed cameras are being used in North Cyprus. We need to implement a standard with respect to the use of speed cameras such that speed cameras can serve their purpose, instead of being used either as traps or cash cows.
Placing billboards in central refuges and roadsides is an incorrect practice that negatively impacts traffic safety. We must abandon this practice immediately. Especially the billboards that advertise alcoholic drinks will have to be removed. We are planning to undertake the necessary efforts to remove all billboards advertising alcoholic drinks, as done in all developed countries.
We have also began to determine problematic junctions on busy routes. In a very short period of time, while working on permanent solutions to these junctions, we will implement temporary improvements with the aim of providing safe flow. Especially, we will eliminate minor deficiencies at these junctions and build proper left turn lanes, where applicable, for more safety.
We will do whatever is necessary for a functioning road and street illumination system, which has been used both necessarily and unnecessarily on our main roads and in our cities. These systems have not been functioning as they should have from the first day of their installation, and the situation is getting worse by the day. Therefore, the current road illumination system is far from providing the necessary service to the public.
We are also planning to upgrade our existing traffic light systems and introduce a modern system in all new implementations.
For the short and medium term, we have started working on the design and construction of all junctions on our main roads currently spreading constant danger and not serving their intended purpose so that these junctions become safe and enable fluid traffic flow. For example, dangerous junctions on the Lefkoşa-Gazimağusa and Lefkoşa-Güzelyurt roads and junctions similar to these are within the scope of this project. The work to completely transform the Alayköy junction on the Lefkoşa-Güzelyurt road into a safer one has already begun.
Another study which we place a lot of importance on has to do with the determination of the exact reasons behind all traffic crashes, primarily those resulting in fatalities and serious injuries, such that we can learn what we must do in order to ensure that such events never happen again.
It is obvious that, from now on, we need to look beyond the notion of “loss of control of a vehicle” as the primary reason for every fatal or serious crash. That is, we need to evaluate all pertinent factors that depend on human, vehicle, and road factors in depth. We have also started working on what drivers must do to abide by all traffic rules, as required by the 7E traffic safety approach. For example, as a priority, we have launched an effort to ensure that seat belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets are used at all times and drivers are prevented from speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, and using mobile phones while traveling.
Another planned short term effort includes the legalization and implementation of necessary temporary traffic control mechanisms such that all construction or repair work areas are safe for the public.
I would also like to announce that we will make sure that roads and junctions that will be built and those which are already under construction are in compliance with world standards, and, most importantly, will certainly provide traffic safety. Due to the lack of official standards, we, as a community, took over many structures that fail to comply with world standards and hence do not serve their intended purpose. We can certainly change direction and stop walking on a course that brought us the grave predicament we face today. Therefore, our standards will be developed and legalized so that they are valid in the entire country. In summary, the time for standardization has come.
There is no doubt that we are planning to work towards a public transportation system, in addition to facilitating pedestrian and bicycle transportation. The country’s transportation system cannot be left to adapt itself to the continuously increasing number of vehicles and traffic volume. It is a given that increasing motor vehicle traffic density takes a lot away from our economy, environment, and health.
Our Highways Department will also play an important role in implementing the change we have mentioned today. With this goal in mind, we have launched a study so that we can enable the Department to function as an integral part a properly working system.
When it comes to traffic safety education, we will continue the serious efforts that have been started a number of years ago, such that we include educating our kids in traffic safety starting from kindergarten level until they graduate from high school. We must even educate our young people who study in our universities. The aim of introducing proper traffic safety education is to ensure that future generations live in an environment that provides true traffic safety. In addition, we are planning to do what we must to help raise the traffic safety awareness of our people.
Among our priorities is the implementation of the traffic safety projects that were conducted by the European Union on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot community about eight years ago. We will also be fixing any deficiencies of these projects, if any exist, before implementing them. These projects covered the vehicle inspection system, driver licensing system, driver training system, police enforcement system, and black spot determination and elimination, but, unfortunately, these projects have not been implemented in a way that would serve the public.
We will pursue the efforts launched in the past with the aim of improving our vehicle insurance system, so that we can bring it to the level of the EU standards.
We are also planning to work intensively on legal amendments required for implementing the change in question.
One of our most important tasks will be to create transparency through informing the public as we progress in our work.
As a last note, I would like to say that those of us who work on the system side have enormous responsibilities. On the other hand, every individual living in our country also has serious responsibilities. I would also like to emphasize that our media has a very important role to play in the change that we have mentioned today. We all should know that we can have a safe traffic system if and only if all of us fulfill our responsibilities.