Active travel signage has recently been installed on the University of Malta main campus and will be soon installed in four surrounding localities, namely Msida, Gzira, Birkirkara and San Gwann. The information poles, which contain updated information on walking and cycling distances from University to surrounding localities and vice versa, have been funded by the H2020 CIVITAS DESTINATIONS Project, and constitute the first attempt for an active travel signage network that can potentially be extended all across Malta and Gozo, if further funding opportunities arise.
The University of Malta’s Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development (ICCSD) spearheaded the project following the research undertaken by a pair of doctorate researchers at the Institute in conjunction with the University Green Travel Plan Coordinator. This initiative is also linked to an ongoing participatory research on walkability in Malta, where pedestrians can contribute with information about their walking experiences to identify which areas are more pedestrian friendly and which requite attention and improvement. The research also identifies the elements of the walkable environment that influence pedestrian mobility in a positive or negative way for the Maltese context.
During an inauguration ceremony that took place on Wednesday 19 February 2020 at the University Quadrangle, UM Pro-Rector for Student & Staff Affairs and Outreach, Prof. Carmen Sammut said “The more daily journeys we switch to active travel within our university, the better. We strive to not only improve the health and quality of life of the 15,000+ community members who travel to and from campus on a daily basis, but to also enable optimal work travel with less congestion, pollution, and collisions for other local road users. Such initiatives are a brilliant example of how our excellent researchers are applying their thinking to everyday life.”
Carlos Cañas, the researcher on pedestrian mobility in Malta said “Google Maps and other route services are rapidly improving their information for pedestrian mobility, but they still use the road network to calculate walking routes in many cases. As a result, they often advise pedestrians to walk on busy roads with no pavement and people may end up risking their lives, framed between fast traffic and long walls. To avoid situations like this, we need local research and local solutions to walkability issues in Malta.”
In the event, Carlos also said “Obesity, coronary diseases, mental health issues, traffic congestion, shortage of parking, air and noise pollution, social inequity and isolation… These are very complex issues that Malta is currently facing, which depend on many different factors. None of them has a single and magic solution, but they all have something in common: more people walking and cycling is a very efficient and affordable measurement to tackle and improve such problems.”
Suzanne Maas, the researcher on cycling mobility in Malta, commented that “cycling is a very efficient way to move in the urban area: it offers freedom and flexibility. The average trip distance in Malta is a mere 5.5km, which can be easily cycled in less than half an hour. However, to really promote cycling as a feasible alternative, we need to invest in creating a safe and connected network of bicycle lanes and traffic calmed zones, as people are concerned about their safety.”
“This initiative is great as it would change the perception of actual distance and time to commute around UM boundary localities. This will eventually encourage people to experiment more with their daily travel and switch to alternative modes which have a better impact on the environment and their health and wellbeing” added Raphael Mizzi, the University’s Green Travel Plan Coordinator.
More information about this Active Travel Signage project spearheaded by the University of Malta may be found on the ICCSD website. Moreover, for further information and to collaborate with the ongoing research on pedestrian mobility in Malta, please visit the website or follow walkingmalta on social media.