Italian cities still not very suitable for cycling

According to the Clean Cities, Fiab, Kyoto Club and Legambiente dossier, Italy invests in cars almost 100 times more than in bicycles

Italy invests in cars almost 100 times more than in bicycles: 98 billion euros for the automotive sector and road infrastructures against just over a billion for bicycle bonuses and urban and extra-urban cycle paths. That’s not counting excise duty cuts and other environmentally harmful subsidies. The result is that Italy, in terms of cycling, is the rear of the European context: Italian cities have an average, according to Istat data, of 2.8 km of cycle paths per ten thousand inhabitants, with large territorial disparities, from zero km in many central-southern capitals to 12-15 km in Modena, Ferrara, Reggio Emilia, considering the average, higher kilometers of Helsinki (20 km/10,000 inhabitants), Amsterdam (14 km/10,000 inhabitants) or Copenhagen (8 km/10,000 inhabitants). This is the starting point from which Clean Cities, Fiab, Kyoto Club and Legambientehave left for the realization of the dossier ‘Italy is not a country for bikes’a document that shows how, to bridge the gap with the rest of Europe, Italian cities need 16,000 km more of cycle paths (compared to 2020), for a total of 21,000 km by 2030.

From a conservative estimate of the economic needs, the investment should be at least 3.2 billion euros over the next seven years, equal to 500 million euros a year, or just 3.5% of what has already been allocated for the automotive sector and connected infrastructures, but much more than what has been prepared up to now for cycling. The proposal of the organizations addressed to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MIT) and to the new Parliament is therefore to integrate the General Plan of Cycling Mobility, approving an extraordinary investment plan for cycling in the next budget law, with an allocation of 500 million euros per year until 2030.

“Our analysis tells us three things: one, that we spend many, too many of our taxes to subsidize the use of the private car, and little change to give everyone the possibility of getting around by bicycle; two, that our cities still have very little cycling, and that a large part of the current development projects for cycling are not sufficient to allow a real leap in quality; three, that to make our cities cycle-friendly it would be enough to invest just over three billion euros, as much as we are spending every three months to lower the price of diesel and petrol a little”, observes Claudio Magliulo, Italian manager of the campaign Clean Cities.

Organizations also propose: the creation of a technical structure hinged on the MIT, with a dedicated budget, which coordinates the national plan for cycling; funding for sharing mobility in unattractive cities for large bike-sharing operators; the establishment of a fund for the promotion of cycling with reductions, ad hoc incentives and mobility management agreements with companies; the obligation for new infrastructure projects to provide for intermodal connections; the promotion of bicycle access to regional trains with an adequate supply of seats and discounts on season tickets; a major awareness campaign on the bicycle as a means of transport for daily trips to work and study; a training and awareness program for local authorities on recent legislative developments on the subject of cycling.

For the preparation of the dossier, the organizations analyzed, starting from Istat data, the kilometers of lanes or cycle paths per ten thousand inhabitants in 2020 and the additional kilometers foreseen by Pums and biciplan. In comparison with the big European cities, some Italian cities stand out positively, but over half of the provincial capitals have few or very few cycle paths and are in class F or G in the proposed rating (where A+ is the highest level, G the lowest). . Cycle paths grew by 20% between 2015 and 2020, but over a third of municipalities did not build a single extra kilometer, or even removed some of them. The territorial disparities are enormous: in the top 10 there are only cities in the North, while at the bottom of the ranking there are almost only cities in the Centre-South. The good news is that many Councils have ambitious plans which in some cases would see them scale up to five classes in the proposed analysis.

For Raffaele Di Marcello, councilor of the Presidency of fairy tale, the Italian Environment and Bicycle Federation, and Head of the Fiab National Study Center, “the infrastructural situation of our cities, as regards cycle paths, still needs to be improved. Few cycle paths, often not connected to each other, and lack of a vision that combines urban planning and sustainable mobility, make it difficult, and often impossible, to use the bicycle as an alternative means of transport to the car”. Gianni Silvestrini, scientific director of the Kyoto Club, underlines that “the data from the cycling dossier clearly show that our cities have to fill a significant gap compared to the more advanced European realities. In our urban areas, fossil fuel vehicles still dominate. A real ‘cultural revolution’ is needed which places active mobility, pedestrian and cycle paths at the centre, rethinking the use of spaces in our cities”. “We need to change the paradigm of mobility in cities, planning road space with new hierarchies: more space for pedestrians, cyclists and intermodality and less for private travel by car. But certain resources and stable incentives are needed that allow efficient connections to be created, as taught by the bicipolitana that is spreading throughout Italy”, explains Giorgio Zampetti, general manager of Legambiente.