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Bicycles vs. Motor Vehicles, Rome claims another victim

February 4, 2011

Yesterday the streets of Rome claimed another victim, a 70-year-old woman run down by a truck on a normal urban road while bicycling. The city’s bike advocacy groups, traffic safety activists and civic-minded citizens have called for accountability on the part of government officials who have for too long sat back and watched blatant violations of traffic laws ignored. Visitors to Rome may be amused to see the chaos, feeling a thrill of adventure after surviving a street-crossing, and leave thinking that somehow the system works.  I myself used to subscribe to this theory of self-organizing chaos.  But for hundreds of victims of traffic fatalities (Rome has one of the worst statistical records in Rome) there is nothing to philosophize about; the streets of Rome are deadly.

Solutions require some fairly simple steps:

1. apply the laws that already exist. Speed limits are 50 kph throughout the city and 30 kph in many streets, and although average speeds are far lower due to frequent traffic jams, it is common to clock cars going at 80 or 90, but extremely rare for them to be stopped and fined. Similarly, double-parked cars and vehicles parked at intersections all block visibility and force cyclists into the traffic.

2. lower the speed limit to 30 kph throughout the city. Though still weaponized, motor-vehicles travelling at this speed are far less likely to kill or maim.

3. increase bike paths, as every civilized city has been doing for years. Rome has made timid progress but could do much more, at a fraction of the cost of other transit related projects. If a bike path had been included on Via dei Fori Imperiali, Eva Bohdalova would not have been killed there in 2009.

4. given the present-day situation and its disastrous consequences, those responsible should step down, giving way to administrators who are willing to take these politically difficult steps to save lives and make Rome once again livable for people, not just profitable for the petro-auto lobby.


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