Bicycling in Rome

by Aysha Griffin on June 14, 2017

Common sense dictates that – with Italian drivers owning the reputation as the most aggressive in the world, coupled with poorly maintained roads, baffling traffic signals, millions of visitors milling about and no bike lanes or paths – bike riding in Rome is a ridiculous and dangerous undertaking.

This is true. And there is a group of dedicated bicyclists and safe-access advocates who challenge this monthly. At each full moon, hundreds of bicyclists of all ages meet at Piazza del Popolo around 8:30 p.m. and ride through the city together.

bicycle Rome

Monthly full moon bicycle ride through the streets of Rome.

You can rent a bike earlier in the day, as I did, and join them for a beautiful way to see Rome at night. It’s free and a remarkable experience of community spirit. It is also an act of civil disobedience.

Some of the veteran riders use their body and bike to block traffic at major intersections for the stream of bicyclers to pass. Car and bus drivers honk angrily as they wait, and aggressive motorcyclists roar ahead at any opening. “It’s dangerous to be a blocker,” explained my friend Giussepe Teano, an avid Roman bicycler, “but important.”

There are 27 associations, foundations and other organizations in Rome that have organized around issues of mobility and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, according to an interview I read online with Alfredo Giordani, a 53-year-old pubic servant turned activist. When his good friend was killed in 2011 while riding a bike, Giordani devoted himself to this cause of safety and access on the streets of Rome. (#VIVINSTRADA ROMA)

bicycling Rome

Pedalata di Luna Pierna, taking over the streets of Rome

In typical Italian bureaucratic style, the city administration requires individuals to participate in proposals for change via associations, organizations and institutions. All of these groups have been bringing attention and advocating to address “serious urban problems” like the conflict of roads and public spaces for bicyclists, pedestrians and those with limited mobility.

Giordani and others have proposed a number of solutions to transform Rome in a bike-friendly city and will propose them again at the next municipal budget of October – November 2017. “We have a program that could significantly transform the life of our city,” he says.

But, really, what are the chances for change now in a city where motor vehicles rule, laws are so convoluted that no one understands them, and national elections and unemployment are more on people’s minds than bicycle safety?

“Nobody can say if this will be a good time to take the human aspect to the streets of the capital. But there has been a great effort by so many, and this leads me to a moderate optimism,” concludes Giordani.

Personally, I am not optimistic and remain amazed that anything functions in Rome, or any major city in the world. Rome, with the friendliest population I’ve found, is a great walking city, supported by good tram and bus service and several metro lines (you can’t dig too deep or in many places, as history is buried everywhere!).

When it comes to bicycling urban streets, Amsterdam and Paris are two cities I’ve enjoyed renting bikes. Rome, not at all.

But if you find yourself in Rome on a full moon night, get yourself a bike and join in the Pedalata di Luna Piena. You may be rewarded with such a breathtaking moment as this:

full oon over the Colosseum, bicycling Rome

Full moon over the Colosseum, Rome (June 2017)

 

 

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