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Moving Rome

August 31, 2016
Returning from summer travels, which had me driving an SUV from Phoenix to Los Angeles(!!) but also reconnecting with my sustainable urbanism roots with visits to native American cliff-dwellings and Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, I am beginning the semester back in Rome with a short note of optimism about MOBILITY. 
This week I attended 2 open meetings of Roma Capitale’s Mobility Commission (led by 5-star movement councilor Enrico Stefano‘) during which city officials and technicians listened (really) to proposals by citizens and associations and answered (intelligently) with pretty concrete information. For example, in answer to the decades-old request for a “Bike Manager” instead of saying we are working on it they appointed Paolo Bellino and after years of talk we finally have a single person accountable for urban cycling mobility (poor Paolo!). When asked about the timeline for bike lanes and bike sharing Stefano’ was rightly reluctant to make “campaign promises”  which couldn’t be kept, but simply by speaking about the problems and solutions intelligently he exuded confidence that these solutions are in the works. Simple solutions, like shaving a couple of meters from the wide consular roads to create bike lanes, like eliminating the fake bike lanes on sidewalks and making real ones, like providing bike parking outside transit hubs. And like seriously launching  a European bike-sharing system (the one former mayors promised by “the end of March”). I hope Stefano’ (who also answers tweets!!) and Pietro Calabrese (who co-chairs the commission and actually arrived by bike!)  are indicative of the quality of administrators we can expect in the years to come. 
But what really makes me optimistic is that upon leaving the meeting in the pouring rain which flooded streets and blocked traffic, I biked a few blocks, decided to stay dry and (folding my bike) hopped on the urban rail from Ostiense to Monteverde and was home in no time. Ostiense station, which until last year provided a gruesome spectacle to those heading to Eataly or Italo, was now clean and devoid of the usual homeless encampment.  It almost felt like a modern European city for a change. 
There is still much to be done of course. Later after the rain subsided, as I biked back to my studio, I passed the new tram stop at Porta Portese. After years, the #3 tram actually runs on this line again, cause for celebration. The stop has been redesigned, the street has been repaved. It could use a sheltered waiting area and some benches but that may arrive.
What really catches my eye here, the huge contradiction which I’m sure has its origins in some disconnect in the city hierarchy, is the “temporary” barrier which prevents pedestrians from reaching the tram stop when coming from Porta Portese.  The ramp is literally blocked by barricades and a sign saying “no pedestrians”.  I’m very curious to know what happened here. Did the designers count on a pedestrian crosswalk which no one has yet implemented?  Did someone just say “that’s dangerous” and instead of a solution they put up a sign and walked away?  This one I’ll be monitoring, waiting for the day that people can get off the tram and cross the street to the city’s biggest weekly marketplace without having to climb a fence. Until then, if sustainablerome can be of any assistance to the city’s mobility team, we’re here to help.
Porta Portese: the tram stops here but you can’t get to it!
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