He who pedals is lost

Eugenio Galli, presidente Fiab Ciclo Hobby Milano

The way to beat the smog in our towns is by riding bicycles. In Milan, there are incentives for smog. Those who pollute the most, are free to drive into the town centre in their cars and poison the air, as long as they pay. This idiocy on the part of the municipality has been called the Ecopass, or the ecological pass. Those who choose to cycle into town instead, risk their lives due to the lack of cycling lanes or any other form of support. Many residents of Milan die each year, riding their bicycles, when they get run over by the cars and trucks. There is an old song that says that no flowers grow in Milan, but now, neither do bicycles.
Riding a bicycle is one of the few activities that have not yet been banned by this P2 government. That is why I am going to ask all the residents of Milan to go to work or to school by bicycle on 14 November, or even simply to go for a ride. Even people living outside of Milan are welcome to come and visit the city. I will be there, with a flaming red bicycle powered by my imposing mass of muscle. Let’s take back the air in our towns and cities.
Listen to the interview held with Eugenio Galli, president of Fiab Ciclo Hobby Milano and, above all, take a look at Milan’s cycle paths shown in the video.

"In 1980, the City Council of Milan approved the plans for the creation of a 330-kilometre network of cycle paths, which, according to the proposers, was significantly less than the average for the more advanced European cities. What has happened since then? Very little, if the truth be told! Today, the total distance covered by cycle paths, even including the odd few centimetres that are spread around here and there, amounts to a total of about sixty kilometres. The truth, however, is that Milan has no such thing as a network of cycle paths. What we’re talking about are cycling paths. I want to briefly return to this topic at a later stage in order to clarify something that we believe is important regarding Fiab. The bits and pieces that have in fact been created are pathways that are more or less in the protected area. In Milan, there is only one route that is protected and complete, one that has an origin and a destination, which goes more or less from “San Siro” to “parco Lambro”, in other words about twenty-five kilometres. The rest of them are literally bits and pieces all over the place, one hundred metres here and two hundred metres there, which are totally unconnected and, therefore, do not lend themselves to be used. Essentially, they are nothing more than a total waste of public money, in the cases where public money was used to build them. In many cases, however, these bits and pieces were not built by the municipality, but by companies, as a way to discharge certain town planning obligations. So, the net result is that what has been created is a sort of Milanese-style stew, as we like to call it here.
The existing network of cycle paths poses a whole range of significant problems, which include: significant lack of continuity since the cyclist is suddenly abandoned mid-traffic, for example in “piazzale Lotto”, and with a false sense of security! One of the many requirements for any cycling lane is that it should ensure the cyclists’ safety. Maintenance problems, problems relating to illegal occupation, because people use it to go from the florist’s kiosk back to their illegally parked cars. Problems caused by building sites. This problem has now finally been overcome, but for many years a large building site affected the cycling lane in “via San Marco” (the building site for the renovation of the building housing the “Corriere della Sera” newspaper and others), all in all a variety of obstacles, resulting in the lanes being unusable. Obstacles that may even have been temporary in certain cases, such as on market days. And then there are the design problems, for example where there are sharp bends. There are also construction problems, such as places where the materials were laid incorrectly. The cycling lane in “via San Marco” is paved and treacherous and could not be more unsuitable for use by cyclists. In many places it is weaves back and forth, another planning defect, meaning that whoever it was that planned and built the cycling lane simply failed to take into account the actual needs of the people who use it, the end-users, namely the cyclists. Those who travel in a straight line. Sometimes there are steps, humps that may be easily overcome by a motorcycle or motorcar with shock absorbers, but that pose a problem for the cyclist. This merely shows that on the only true cycling lane in the Milan also has a long list of problems, while the rest of the lanes consist of nothing more than bits and pieces. This is literally money down the drain. Furthermore, cycling mobility is not simply a case of cycle paths. This concept is one that needs to be overcome by the politicians, by the technical experts, by the media and by the residents. If the truth be told, the politicians talk so much nonsense, even those in very senior positions, that nothing surprises me any more. There is a phrase that was later retracted, but was nevertheless said. I am certain that in Milan, but not only in Milan, there are those who believe that bicycles are okay, as long as they don’t get in the way of the cars. This is nonsense though, because a pedestrian can also get in the way of cars and, in our opinion, the city needs to decide what it wants to do. Do! In other words, whether we want to create a city designed around cars or one designed around people. It is an absurd situation, which becomes even more absurd if you think that, as far as cycling mobility in Milan is concerned, we have been at a virtual standstill for the past thirty years. We are talking about serious blame here, however, since it is no use crying over spilt milk, what we are trying to do is to dialogue with everyone concerned, irrespective of political allegiance, and by “we”, I mean the Fiab Ciclobby Association. However, the objective of virtuous collaboration is to get to the point where whatever is created satisfies the existing needs and requirements. This is where the discussion regarding what Milan will do, or as happened last week, what Milan will not do, becomes an exercise in futility.
It is a major mistake to think that the use of bicycles, a means of transport that causes no hindrance, does not pollute the environment, makes no noise and offers advantages that many people are aware of today, or have already been aware of for some time because we utilise them, simply by through using bicycles, can be promoted simply by dealing with the issue of cycle paths. We are not simply asking for cycling lanes, what we’re asking for is a city that is bicycle-friendly in its entirety. For example, while we understand that we cannot expect cycling lanes to be created throughout the entire road network, what we do expect is to be able to ride our bicycles safely on the entire road network. What needs to be done? In addition to cycling paths, we are also talking about proper cycling lanes. In other words, lines painted on the tar surface. These exist all over Europe and they are becoming increasingly common even in Italy, notwithstanding the fact that there are greater bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, created above all by ministerial technical experts who apply an extremely restrictive interpretation to an issue that then becomes a sort of totem of security, which is then restrictively applied to weak mobility users, or the so-called soft users, namely the cyclists. Cycling lanes are extremely easy to create and cost significantly less than cycle paths. They can be created virtually anywhere. I am thinking, for example of the “artery”, a route that Milan residents know very well and use extensively, which goes from “viale Monza” and “via Padova” to “Corso Buenos Aires”, on to “corso Venezia” and then onwards into the city centre. Milan is a city built on a network shaped somewhat like the wheel of a bicycle and, it must be said, this “artery” is extensively used and also extremely dangerous! “Piazzale Loreto” is one of the points with the highest accident rate as regards both fatalities and injuries. This “artery” could be made safer by the creation of a cycling lane, and not so much with cycling paths. So bicycle mobility must be addressed by means of cycling lanes, cycling paths and some attention to signage. Then there is the issue of parking: Anyone arriving at their destination, be it the theatre, the cinema, the bar, the restaurant, the office or where they do their shopping, must be able to find a place to park. At the moment, people are parking anywhere, even illegally. Bicycles are locked against streetlight poles, traffic lights and parking prevention barriers, often even hindering people on foot. This situation of armed people one on one, soft users one on one, really makes no sense at all. What we need, therefore, are suitably equipped parking areas. These too must be well thought out: the kind of equipment that locks the wheel in place is not good enough, what we must have is the kind that locks both the wheels and the frame. Any cyclist knows this very well, while the designers of this kind of equipment often don’t know this. Then there is also the issue of intermodality, in other words the combined use of different modes of transport. Cyclists must also be allowed to take their bicycles onto public transport, such as the underground and street-going vehicles. This is how it works in Strasbourg, this is how it works in Vienna and this is how it works in Berlin. In Milan, and in Italy in general, the rules are very restrictive. Just today, Fiab held a press conference to latch onto the issue of dogs on trains, and we are asking what we need to do in order to enter into some sort of productive dialogue with the parties that manage the transportation system, who remain totally oblivious to the need for sustainable mobility. Utilisation of public transport also means having parking areas located near the stops. The “Milano Centrale” train station currently has provision for forty-eight bicycle parking spaces. How many will there be in the future, you ask? Well, that depends! In November 2007, in other words almost a year ago, I as regional representative of Fiab for Lombardy, together with V.a.s., wrote to Mayor Moratti, specifically with regard to the renovation work in progress at Milan’s “stazione centrale” and asking that a bicycle park be created. Just a few weeks ago, please note the delay, we received a well mannered reply, agreeing fully with our proposals, our objections and our observations, but also stating that the project in question dates all the way back to former Mayor Albertini’s administration (let’s not forget that he had a totally different level of interest for this topic, namely no interest at all) and is, furthermore, already in an advanced state (of decomposition, in my opinion) progress, at least as regards the implementation, meaning that: “Look here, it won’t be done, however, in future there will be no less than seven bicycle parks, one at each of the railway stations and even one at Linate Airport ". That’s great, but it’s a pity that we are talking about some time in the future, perhaps not even our children’s future but rather that of our grandchildren. I say enough is enough! Our association’s founder, Luigi Riccardi, recalling a phrase often mentioned by an economist, said that "The future is that time when we will all be dead". The latter aspect is the one that applies to user services: bike sharing, maps, signposting for cyclists and interactive maps are additional services that would all be extremely useful for interested users. This all points to the fact that anyone who tells you that: "Bicycles equal cycling paths", is leading you by the nose. Don’t believe them." Eugenio Galli, President, Fiab Ciclo Hobby Milan

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 07:46 AM in | Comments (2)
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This blog on bike lanes and bicycles is not about rejecting all forms of transportation, but bicycles. That would be silly and impossible. This blog is about sharing more of the the road with bicycles. Just like they've encouraged the use of cars, now it's time to encourage people to use bicycles when possible. In the last forty or fifty years people have been brainwashed into believing that the only means of transportation is the car. Consequently, any obstructions to the free flow of traffic has been done away with, cut-down, modified and re-built for the worse. Case in point: a river running through Palermo has been encased in cement for cars to travel on it. When I arrive in Italy, I step out of the airport and am astonished by the volume of cars moving in so little space. It's too bad that many Italians have come to believe that the more cars, the higher their standard of living. But I know that a lot of Italians wish their streets, boulevards and squares were more bike-friendly. I think that giving more space to bicycles will make a huge improvement to the quality of life of Italians. After all, much of that space belonged to cyclists in the first place.

Posted by: lou pacella | October 6, 2008 12:26 AM

Yes and maybe we should all buy a magic carpet as well!
The statement that investing in bicycles can effectively reduce the city pollution is made on the assumption that all road users are commuters that travel to and from home with a little bit more that themselves and a notepad.
But the article fails to consider the thousand of road users have to use a car/van/truck to carry out their job.
Think about sales reps, plumbers, builders doctors and many more.
Rather than investing in miles of scarcely used bicycle lanes Milano should encourage the use of electric/hybrid cars or public transport cross the border.
People commuting into Milan from the interland should have the possibility to use a “park and ride” facility conveniently located in the city outskirt.
Although bicycles do remain the only truly carbon free way of transport, their limited practicality will always limit their use.

Posted by: andrea ceccanti | October 5, 2008 06:29 PM

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