Commuters, Ahoy!

Travel time studies are important for transport geographers, especially on island archipelagos. Small islands like Gozo depend on outside links for their infrastructure. My (Marthese Cini) research study focused on Gozitan commuters working in Malta and the recent discussions on ‘connecting’ the islands. Specifically, I studied whether a ferry or a tunnel would be more suitable for their needs.

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Reorganising space for the climate emergency


Author: Miguel Azzopardi

Merely counting greenhouse gas emissions will not address climate change. The solution is closer than we think: our own use of space. Look at land use: switching to a flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diet is one of the greatest individual contributions. To produce meat, the industry puts heaps of land aside for animals and their fodder. Plant-based diets would mean less land is used for agriculture. Economising space can apply to other areas. 

Our transportation model is heavily dependent on car usage. Segregated bus and cycle lanes are rare in Malta, even if these modes of transport allow more people to travel using the same space. Car-pooling in Malta is picking up, but not yet mainstream. COOL is one example of car-pooling initiatives that are slowly gaining traction. Various eNGOs, like Extinction Rebellion Malta, are lobbying for the government to further incentivise public transport. This way, there would be no need to sacrifice agricultural land for road-widening and car-mania. Instead, Malta could start looking into reforestation and rewilding.

Miguel Azzopardi

Our approach to urban planning would benefit from environmentalist reorganisation. In Malta, developers enjoy a free-for-all. Numerous charming one- or two-storey buildings are choked by neighbouring high-rises. In some instances, people have installed solar panels on their roof only to have them covered by shade. Shade has wasted away gardens and affected mental health — all on a sunny Mediterranean island. Proper planning would allow more uniform streetscapes, urban greening and better utilisation of roof space. The environment minister Aaron Farrugia’s ‘green revolution’ should encompass all planning on the Maltese Islands.

Land reclamation has been proposed as a possible solution to Malta’s limited space. The process does not create space, it repurposes space that already exists. In Malta, this means more environmental destruction as we bury natural habits like meadows of protected seagrass (Posidonia oceanica), which are also valuable carbon sinks. Reclamation is not an option due to the climate crises and widespread presence of Posidonia around our shores. We should be protecting and restoring natural habitats, not destroying them. 

Maltese authorities have ignored spatial planning suggestions. Faced with the crisis, Malta needs to acknowledge that if we want to meet ambitious climate emission targets we need to have coherent planning policies and direction that give the environment the priority it deserves.  

Miguel Azzopardi is a history student at the University of Edinburgh and an activist with Extinction Rebellion Malta.

Sharing a love for cycling


Author: Suzanne Maas

It’s not even a stereotype — the Dutch are practically born on a bicycle. I received my first two-wheeled friend as a birthday present when I was just three years old, and I have never looked back. From age ten onwards, I cycled to school and everywhere else on my own, and when I was a student, I used to spend one and a half hours every day cycling to my university campus in Utrecht. I only learned that cycling is not such an obvious choice as a mode of transport once I started travelling to other countries, and that hard truth particularly hit home when I moved to Malta seven years ago. Cycling changed from lifestyle to a research interest.

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Function, form, safety, and environment. SYLO is a family of hybrid cycle rickshaws that fulfils all four design pillars to deliver good performance and a smooth ride.
SYLO is designed for short distances, catering to commuters and delivery services. What sets it apart from its counterparts is its mixed-propulsion technology, using both photovoltaic panels and pedal power. Adding to its ‘green’ points is the fact that recyclable plastics have been used for the body. This helped from an engineering perspective because it kept the vehicle light, allowing it to serve its function despite the difficult terrain it must operate in.







What sets it apart from its counterparts is its mixed-propulsion technology, using both photovoltaic panels and pedal power.

Form was an especially important factor in the design process. As the aim was to use this vehicle both within the historical context of the capital city, Valleta, and in cosmopolitan spaces such as Paceville and Bugibba, it was essential for the vehicle to complement its built environment, be it classical or contemporary. Towards this end, bold lines were used, making the vehicle look distinct without looking alien.


SYLO was the product of 10 mechanical engineering students supervised by academics from the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering,Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta as partof a third-year engineering design project.

Time to go

Kristina Mifsud
Kristina Mifsud

The start of a new scholastic year can bring about feelings of excitement to some and dread to others. After the relatively quiet summer months, children need to start making their way to school in the mornings. The result is traffic, an ugly monster that brings Malta to a standstill every morning. One solution could be the grouping of school trips to and from homes.

Kristina Mifsud (supervised by Ms Amanda Borg) decided to investigate the issue of traffic congestion caused by school transport by studying a hypothetical scenario in which the free school transport policy for government-run schools was extended to church and independent schools. First she conducted a survey: parents who have children at church and independent schools answered a questionnaire. These parents drove their children to school using their private vehicles. The results were very promising with more than 70% of mothers indicating that they would switch to the government-provided school transport if it was implemented. Those who said they would not take up the service gave three main reasons for this: mistrust of minivan drivers, their children being too young, and that the drive to school was a distraction-free time with their children.

Then Mifsud estimated the benefits and costs for the service using the take-up percentage from the questionnaire. The list of benefits was plentiful; time and fuel would be saved, while air pollution and environmental costs would be reduced. The costs included the initial investment (minivans), fuel, maintenance, and staff payment. When compared, the total estimated benefits far exceeded these costs! For every €1 invested by the government into this school transportation system, society would reap €2.66 in benefits. Additionally, the direct cost (time and fuel) of individual school runs per child per year amounts to €993.22, based on the average time taken per child of 48.8 minutes per school day. Given that the average fee by minivan drivers for a year worth of school runs is around €600, the minivan school transport option is much more sensible, economically speaking, and all the more so with regards to protecting our environment and solving the traffic headache.

This research was carried out as part of a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics at the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy, University of Malta.

To drive or not to drive

Rush hours, feasts, festivals, beaches in summer, Paceville on Saturday night, all have one thing in common: traffic. Malta has one of the largest traffic problems in the world. Researchers at the University of Malta are trying to figure out what can be done to ease road rage and reduce drivers’ lost time.

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