Steve Cassar Montebello graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Built Environment Studies from the University of Malta in 2014. He is currently reading for the Master degree in Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Malta His academic and professional interests include how to provide high urban environmental quality in cities, with particular focus on sustainable urban mobility, and the effect that mobility has on our cities. As a prospective urban designer he understands the important role that citizens and communities play in how livability is defined contextually.
The research deals with the practical application of emerging trends in participatory urbanism, as applied to the understanding of the urban environment issues of active mobility in Malta. Through citizen science, neogeography and the crowdsourcing of volunteered geographic information (VGI), the research seeks to analyse if and how community knowledge can be considered a viable option for understanding the urban environment issues for bicycle users.
Central to the research has been the implementation of a citizen science initiative entitled bike&map, which consisted of a workshop during which physical mapping was complemented by a digital interactive online mapping exercise. The case study, carried out over 14-days, attracted 342 VGI contributions, relating mainly to Malta’s Principal Urban Area (PUA). The practical application of community knowledge to the research question led to an in-depth on-the-ground understanding of the urban environment issues that bicycle users encounter.
The research suggests that community knowledge can bridge the gap between technical knowledge and on-the-ground reality. The outcome of the research is therefore that there are multiple forms of knowledge that can influence the understanding of the urban environment in a meaningful manner, amongst these, both technical and community knowledge. The citizen science process, through the implementation of participatory science, neogeography and crowdsourcing in an urban design context, can therefore be termed mutualistic urbanism.