Bicycle routes
Bike paths
Oasis or ghetto? Flag

Galleria immagini

Bike paths are a characteristic feature of the central European countries, especially Germany, Austria, Holland and Denmark, and are now [very] slowly spreading into the neighboring countries (Italy, France, Spain). In Italy many bike paths were created during the first years of the new millennium.

The basic idea is to create separate roadways, free from cars, where those who ride bikes can feel a sense of safety; therefore bike paths in cities are to encourage non-motorized travel, and those outside the cities promote recreational cycling. Frequently the roadbeds of decommissioned railroads are used to create the bike paths.

Bike paths certainly provide a relief for urban and extra-urban cyclists, but it should be stated that this is not the answer to dealing with the hegemony of the automobile, when in some ways separate bike paths resemble Indian reservations or ghettos, in which the dominant culture of automobiles tends to confine the slower vehicles.

There are unfortunately rather worrisome indications to that effect; for example, in Holland, the country often cited as the cyclist’s paradise, it is rather disappointing to discover that many dedicated bike paths are not 100% that way, being open to motorcycles, with easy to imagine consequences for cyclists; this applies especially to the bike lanes along those highways where both bicycles and motorcycles are prohibited. In Italy the motorcyclists often end up encroaching into the dedicated bike paths, those in which motor vehicles are prohibited, something that occurs regularly even in Venice, in particular on the Lido on the bike path of the Murazzi, and on the bike path of the pier leading to the lighthouse, but sometimes also on the bike path that runs along the Ponte della Libertà and the bike paths of Mestre and Marghera.

Unlike Italy, in Holland the number of motorcycles is fortunately at a minimum in relation to the number of bicycles, still the concept is very disturbing and threatens to destroy the very idea of a dedicated bike path, perceived no longer as a means to give the bicyclist a chance to ride in peace and safety, but rather as a ghetto in which all the modes of transit that are frustrated by the hegemony of the automobile are confined.

An alternative solution to the dedicated bike path is that adopted in various German cities, for example Berlin and Frankfurt: the Fahrradstrasse, streets for bicycles in the sense that motor vehicles are permitted, usually in a one-way direction, but giving right of way priority to the bicycle. It is not really an exciting solution, more of a compromise, but that works acceptably in a country known for being disciplined, such as Germany, but I don’t know how well it would work in a traditionally undisciplined country such as Italy.

Some long-distance bike paths in ItalySome long-distance bike paths in Europe
  • bicitalia the system of nationwide bike routes; for now it’s only an attractive long-range plan from FIAB.