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European Mobility Week = Business as usual in Roma

September 21, 2014
Motor vehicles in Rome's pedestrian zones to celebrate sustainable mobility (?)

Motor vehicles in Rome’s pedestrian zones to celebrate sustainable mobility (?)

Another week dedicated to Sustainable Mobility, another week of embarrassment and disillusion in Rome.  After the press conference at the Campidoglio on Monday I saw:

  • the same disorganized and inefficient bus service as always (extra buses, enforced schedules, courteous personnel all would have been great ways to celebrate sustainable mobility!)
  • the same pro-auto and anti-legality attitude on the part of city officials (i.e. police encourage cars to pass through red lights, putting pedestrians at risk, to help the traffic flow!)
  • the same poorly coordinated communication efforts amongst the associations and the administration (who knew Thursday was “bike to work day”? and how many city officials biked to work apart from the Mayor?)

I attended an event in the pedestrian space by Trajan’s Forum which involved three automobiles advertising “car sharing” programs whose principle selling point is that you can leave your own car parked for free on the streets outside the center and then use a car sharing vehicle to circulate in the city center and park wherever you want.  Apparently in Rome “Our Streets Our Choice” means more cars on city streets.  The ATAC buses had petroleum-burning generators attached  to power the questionable displays and music, marring the otherwise attractive area with both air and acoustic pollution.  When I politely asked the staff contracted by ATAC why they were driving a private car in the pedestrian area (honking for me to move my bike) I was threatened with physical violence.

Apparently in Rome “Our Streets Our Choice” means more cars on city streets.

I joined an event dedicated to encouraging urban cycling at which a piazza was made pedestrian for a day but invaded by no less than four police cars and surrounded by streets where cars occupied every conceivable space, sidewalks, crosswalks, double parked (blocking the passage of a public bus 100 meters from Piazza Cucchi).  Asked by participants if the police could write up citations for at least some of these violations, they responded that today they were going to be lenient because the cars moved from Piazza Cucchi had to park somewhere after all.  During the “bike ride” the police escort held cars at intersections while the few cyclists went through, but ignored dozens of double parked cars on the streets.  Wouldn’t it have been preferable to let the cyclists ride normally, stopping at red lights to let traffic pass, and dedicate the limited manpower to enforcing and not suspending traffic laws? Also in my neighborhood I witnessed children double-park a microcar on the pedestrian crossing outside a hair salon, apparently belonging to their parents who, instead of reprimanding the kids  defended their uncivil behavior as if it were normal. What is needed is a change of fundamental assumptions by the administration, communicated with clarity and creativity to citizens, but also creative and forceful communication by citizens to get their administration to act.

Cities are for people, not for cars. Rules apply to everyone, and cannot be ignored by people with special privileges. Our shared interest is leaving a better city for our children, not getting ahead in the short term at the cost of the common good. IMG_4782IMG_4860IMG_4810IMG_4789IMG_4827

Our shared interest is leaving a better city for our children, not getting ahead in the short term at the cost of the common good.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 21, 2014 23:15

    A sad story for sure. I know my favorite city has lots of failings, but I keep hoping for things to get better.


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