Marsalforn atrocity


Marsalforn is a seaside town found in the northern area of Gozo, mainly reachable via the island’s capital city Rabat, making a turn off the main artery Mġarr Road coming from Mġarr harbour and all the villages in between. The road to Marsalforn is a winding, country road leading to what is virtually a cul-de-sac by the sea. Even though this is a main road, traffic levels are very low with the rare exception during the Santa Marija week in mid-August – mostly by Maltese residents travelling over to Gozo for their holiday shutdowns.

The reason why we call it a cul-de-sac (at a broader town-level, not street-level) is because the vast majority of the traffic which passes through this road, is to get to Marsalforn only as a final destination and back. It leads virtually to nowhere else. Minor roads do exist to the side, however with very little to no traffic as they holistically loop back to Rabat. Few people go down to Marsalforn, just to turn to the left by the saltpans to Żebbuġ & Għasri, or to turn right to Xagħra on the right. A road user who is still in Rabat, has other roads readily available well beforehand to both Żebbuġ and Xagħra.

We believe there is no need to widen the Marsalforn Road, and instead use other measures to make the road safer, more pleasant and greener.

We disagree with labelling the road to Marsalforn as “very unsafe for non-motorised transportation”. While it is true that it needs a good resurface, and adequate lighting, it will become mostly unsafe only once this widening is done. The straighter design will invite for more speed and create unnecessary conflict, with most bicycle users likely to simply ignore the facility due to its futility, inefficiency and wrong sense of safety involved in jolting in and out of the road several times in one stretch of road.

Therefore, given the very short road (3km) to the sea, it only makes sense to redesign the road to an actual living street with many traffic calming measures and dieting down the lane widths, which automatically enforces a lower speed limit by design. Lightly segregated bicycle lanes help boost safety, and can be easily attainable by narrowing the oversized road – the opposite of widening by tens of thousands of square metres – and go around the trees where minimal pinch points exist.

The trees must remain there as much as possible, and these should be increased ten-fold to make it an enjoyable, shaded boulevard, as sorely needed in the summer months especially. The need for speed on a tiny island like Gozo, should not come before the quality of life and common sense. Gozo’s extremely short distances has a huge potential to become a cycling island. Commuting routes in between most of the villages are not greatly steep either, however pedal-assisted bicycles will solve that anyway.

Let’s not repeat the same mistakes over again from past and recent examples. Let’s give attention to Mġarr Road by the harbour instead, as flagged as ‘bad practice’ by European Cyclists’ Federation. Refer to:


Our proposal

Assessing PA/03000/19

In present day, the Rabat route is directed by cycling up (1) Triq Fortunato Mizzi & Triq ir-Repubblika, turn a roundabout and go down (2) Triq il-Kapuċċini – then pass by the convent and proceed the next 2.5km to Marsalforn, or vice-versa.

In January 2020, a new road (labelled ‘c’) as marked in red was announced and projected to link up the three quiet residential neighbourhoods Triq ta’ Viani (a), Triq Ġorġ Pisani (b) & Triq Patri Ġaċintu Camenzuli (d), into a one higher speed vehicular route – with the aim to bypass the narrower and hillier old streets of Rabat altogether, and rejoin by the same convent to continue to Marsalforn.

Once past the convent off Triq Camenzuli (d), the same project is proposing the widening of the main road, losing tens of thousands of square metres of agricultural land, hundreds of trees, and damaging the Marsalforn valley – with the aim to transform the low-trafficked main road into a motorway-style highway into a seaside town. Without delving much into the environmental devastation of the project, our report focuses more on the unsustainable transportation aspect of it.

Quoting from reports conducted by ERA, the project:

  • could allocate unhindered pedestrian and cycling facilities along the whole stretch of the route
  • with the “inclusion of a 3m segregated bi-directional cycle lane
  • for the reason that “lack of such facilities makes the arterial road very unsafe for non-motorised transportation”.

It is important to note that the proposed layout shows that the statement “cycling facilities along the whole stretch of the route” is untrue. The entire route is 3.5km long, and the cycling path will cover a section of just 2km randomly plugged in the middle of nowhere to nowhere. There will be almost a 1 whole kilometre missing from the bicycle path where it just stops abruptly, at the Marsalforn-end of the road.

On the Rabat-end of the road, the path starts/stops by the convent, dismissing completely the new bypass link, with the report telling cyclists they may “continue their journey along Triq Kappucini, by sharing the road with vehicles, due to the reduced traffic flow”.

We highly stress that once the new “bypass” road is entirely opened:

  • the respective segments Triq Camenzuli, Pisani and Viani roads that join up the bypass: were, are, and will remain, residential streets where people actually live and need to be equally safely accessible by bicycle.
  • this new “bypass” would become the newly direct, shortest and least steepest way for bicycle traffic that does not need to specifically go up the hill to Rabat and down again, but needs to get to the rest of southern and eastern Gozo. The residential “bypass” would have just around 3% gradient, in contrast of going up the original way with 7% gradient and immediately down all over again.

The Rabat-end of the road:

Other segments along the way:

The Marsalforn-end of the road: