Italy’s gigantic bicycle path

Italy is admired for its exquisite cuisine famous in every corner of the world. Nonetheless, the ongoing turmoil in politics has led to a partial loss of Italy’s popular reputation. Italy is still experiencing the largest post war recession. But there is reason to be optimistic. Recently, the government has announced new investments into its own country’s infrastructure. One slice of the money, roughly 80 million Euros, could be used for a massive 679 kilometres long bicycle path connecting Turin with Venice.[1] An overdue enhancement, many think, of Italy’s rusty bicycle infrastructure that has been lagging behind other countries for a long time. Others are more doubtful about the project.

A gorgeous trip

In 2012, Italians bought 200.000 more bicycles than in the previous year. While this is quite impressive, it could be the signal for a major mobility change in Italy. Only 4.7% of all journeys are made on the two-wheeler in Italy, a shockingly low value compared to other European countries like the Netherlands (31%), for example. But it is so obvious why: due to deeply enrooted cultural reasons, Italy is still too dependent on automobiles and motorcycles, causing metropolis like Rome or Naples to be clogged up in smog. This puts off bicycle lovers. They are reluctant to choose their sustainable travel companion simply because it is not safe at all. With what is referred to as “VenTo”, Italy plans to build one of the largest bicycle paths in the world. Connecting Turin in the Piedmont region with tourist magnet Venice, cyclers would travel along the river Po visiting a handful of historic cities such as Pavia or Ferrara on the way. The bicycle path also integrates the fashion capital of Milan. The project would enable one of the most beautiful regions in Italy to be seen entirely by bicycle. Mr Bray, minister of culture and tourism, said that the project could be interpreted as a major step towards sustainability for Italy as a whole.

Bicycle fever or bicycle farce?

The “VenTo” is a brilliant idea but will probably rather serve the tourist than the average Italian bicycler. Estimations are not mistaken that the 80 million Euro required for building could be earned back within only one year due to the increase in tourism. It is further predicted that the project will create more than 2,000 jobs within the region.[2] It all sounds very well, however, whether this will have a more spread out effect for Italy is to be doubted. After all, officials are very aware of the fact that Milan will host the world famous Expo exhibition in 2015. Nonetheless, with the current bicycle trend and successful implementation of the “VenTo”, Italy could soon experience a new found excitement for the bicycle.

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