Our first month in Malta

Who are we?

Hi there, we are Adam and Hillevi. We are living in Malta until June this year as we write our graduation thesis’ with Rota! Originally from Australia and the Netherlands, we both have a passion for cycling and are using that to fuel our research on commute cycling and active travel in Malta. The beginning of our stay revolved around Gzira where we were able to appreciate the quaint streets of Valletta and busy Sliema promenade. But we mostly concentrated on re-familiarizing ourselves with the sunshine that is lacking in the Netherlands this time of year.

But as windier (and sometimes rainier) days came, the streets began to fill with cars and our attention went from the dolphins in the harbour, to the elderly man who needed help stepping up onto the curb of a busy street. Apart from our newly established tourist experience in Malta, we encountered some main differences that we are not used to while exploring. We have summed them up below in the form of a few simple questions that we kept asking ourselves.

Do you see me walking here?

We enjoyed walking the promenades because it was an efficient and fast way to get around. Walking on the shopfront side of the same street is another story. Every street we needed to cross was a potential danger where cars would speed until the stop sign, and without looking for pedestrians or stopping join the main road. Often, drivers would stop and let us cross the street, but this was an exhausting guessing game. Authorities should not be afraid to use zebra crossings but see them as a tool to set the prioritized mode and make pedestrians feel safe.

Pedestrian Crossing Sliema

Where are the cycle lanes?

While moving to Buggiba after two weeks, we encountered our first bicycle lane while driving on the main road down the coast. The bicycle path was about 1m wide and discontinuous. We looked at each other anxiously while the taxi driver took the inside band with 90 km/hour crossing the bicycle path. Would you want to cycle here? It seems like a lose-lose situation for both cyclists and car-drivers.

Why are they not stopping?

It was brought to our attention quickly during our first wander, that drivers do not often stop at stop signs. The narrow sidewalks make it difficult for drivers to see traffic coming from the side which make the signs somewhat redundant anyway. But if people do not stop their cars at marked crossings or stop signs, it leaves little hope for the proposed infrastructure projects that seem riddled with signage interventions. These are often proven to fail, such as in the United States where the frequency of ‘sharrows’ (shared road arrows) is not enough to facilitate cyclists on shared roads. A lot of signage, but not a lot of direction.

As of now, our search for secondhand bicycles continues. Soon we will be able to explore Malta on two wheels and are excited to share those stories too. We are looking forward to our future stay and the knowledge we gain along the way.


Written by Adam Styzinski and Hillevi Boerboom