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Rome Bike Paths

May 1, 2021

I’ve been reading a lot of critiques of the repaving of the Tiber bike path — or rather noticing a lot of photos with snide comments — so I decided to go for a ride myself this morning. I’ve used this route occasionally although its location below the city with few ramps and no lifts makes it inconvenient as a route to actually get somewhere. I was glad when it was asphalted in 2008 since biking on sanpietrini is extremely hard on the body. I had noticed if the asphalt was in disrepair although given the heavy car and truck traffic in the summer I wouldn’t be surprised.

This morning I found the fresh asphalt smooth and relatively continuous, making for a comfortable ride. It still lacks signage and the asphalt is pretty black, but it hasn’t been completed yet.

I guess what is most troubling is what seems to be the lack of a project, especially where it touches Piazza Tevere which is an important public space in the city’s cultural identity thanks especially to artists Kristin Jones and William Kentridge. I may be wrong but the asphalt seems to have been applied without consideration of the border, unless the consideration was more transavanguardia than urban placemaking, more Enzo Cucchi than Carlo Scarpa.

A culture that produced Cosmatesque mosaics, cocciopesto, and SanPietrini themselves, in a city with 20,000 architects, should be able to invent a low-cost, ecological solution for paving a bike path.

Enzo Cucchi, Omaggio a Testori
Carlo Scarpa’s Castelvecchio Museum Verona

But this “problem” is so tiny relative to the rest of the city. Like the repaving of Piazza Rotonda, which was in fine state needing little repair, there are dozens of examples where I wish common sense would prevail. Why are heavy trash and delivery trucks crossing pedestrians spaces like San Cosimato and San Lorenzo in Lucina, damaging the paving which was designed for foot traffic? Why are cars allowed to park illegally on 99% of Rome’s public streets? Why are there parked cars and homeless camps in the public river park on the Tiber’s left bank? Why is Via dei Fori Imperiali a dangerous street for pedestrians and cyclists? (answer: a few speeding government vehicles flaunting what they probably see as privilege rather than presumptuousness).

In fact, when you look at the official map of bike paths in Rome it appears to have been conceived by crazy people.

Parks seem to be webs of bike paths that go nowhere (yet we know these are simply places for recreation). If we use this criteria — equating pedestrian paths as bike paths — then we should label much of the historic center with red.   Then there are paths like Via Portuense or Viale Quattro Venti which end suddenly, disconnected from any network. Why isn’t Via del Corso shown as a bike path, considering it is closed to traffic between Largo Chigi and Piazza del Popolo? Or Via Coronari? Or Via Capellari? Is it perhaps because even the pedestrian streets are, defacto, filled with cars?

Rome’s Center Bike Plan

It would be relatively easy to design a logical bike system, such as the GRAB when it was designed by cyclists. Tough decisions are being made, especially thanks to Enrico Stefano and a few others like him, but there is so much more that could be done by simply applying the rules of common sense and the rules of law.

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