Open letter to Rome city hall

Dear Rome city hall,

Rome’s administration has decided to revolutionise traffic in the city centre, hoping to reduce the number of cars and increase the number of bicycles.  I’d be curious to see what fate is in store for mopeds, and I’m afraid that funds won’t be available to fix the surface of the roads which are often ruined or full of potholes. But it’s still good news while we are waiting for this and other decisions. 

I’d like to suggest an informal referendum on an aspect which is already the subject of frequent discussions: is it safer to ride in the opposite direction to four-wheeled traffic or to proceed in the same direction?  But watch out: in Rome, there’s no simple answer.  With the first option there’s the advantage of being able to see the approaching danger and have time to get out of the way or stop.  But in some narrower alleys there’s no room for these manoeuvres, especially between two (at least) lines of parked cars and motorbikes.  And then you need to watch for pedestrians crossing the road and looking only in the wrong direction, like Italians in London for the first time or like Brits the first time they come to Rome (if they’re not already paralysed by the absence of warning signs).  And then, riding in the same direction as the rest of the traffic can cause an unbearable concert of honking horns.  And that’s the least of it, because you risk being followed by an absent-minded driver, one of the many who drive with one eye on the road and the other on their smart-phone.

Considering the scarcity of real bike lanes, the conclusion is that it’s impossible for a cyclist to avoid all risk in Rome.  So it’s better to look danger in the eye – or rather, in the headlight.

Revisor