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First six Maltese villages with car-free zones named

No less than six Maltese villages have been named as the first to go car-free as part of a COVID-19 inspired plan to temporarily pedestrianise squares and roads across the country.

The project is set to begin with the following villages: Żejtun, Żurrieq, Safi, Dingli, Mqabba and Qrendi, according to local councils association president Mario Fava.

The concept was first announced in May last year and was inspired by the sight of empty villages and squares, during the first few months of the COVID-19 outbreak and the initiative is planned to be much wider. Urban development studies on pedestrianised zones have been completed on 43 local council areas.

What does the initiative entail?

Well, to be able to have pedestrianised zones, the first step is to reduce the speed limit on roads leading to these areas, explained Fava. Proper line markings, safety and other mitigating measures would also be required, as well as adequate signage.

Preliminary studies were carried out to understand the realities, needs and priorities of each localities – a process that began last October. At this point, the groundwork for the applications is underway and the target is to begin the last phase of implementation during the next couple of months. The project is on-going. Localities will start off with two or three zones and then gradually include others.

Back in May 2020, local councils had the opportunity to nominate streets and squares they wanted to be free of cars for a period of time on certain days, with vehicles diverted elsewhere. As an incentive, the ministry promised to embellish areas in the local councils that signed up for the project.

The aim of the pollution-cutting, traffic-reducing project is also to discourage the completely unnecessary use of cars to get to places within walking and cycling distance. This idea goes hand in hand with the fact that empty spaces are, again, few and far between, with tables and chairs encroaching public areas.

What do you think of the initiative?