Grab your tyre pump and get your bicycle ready, because the summer provides a good opportunity to see Rome from a different point of view.
Whats that you say? You dont have a bike? No need to worry, as rental shops are reasonably priced and can outfit you and the whole family, even supplying bike seats for tots. Hourly rates are e3-e4, depending on whether you choose a road or a mountain bike, and from e13 for all-day rentals. Giuliano Colatta at Spagna Rent just outside the Spagna metro stop offers discounts for groups of ten or more and guided tours for groups of 10-15 cyclists. A few days notice is necessary for reserving tours, which cost an additional e30.
Identification is all that is needed to rent a bicycle, and it can be in the form of an identity card, a drivers license or a passport copy. Helmets are not mandatory and are not provided by the rental agencies. Visiting Londoners Kirsty Norton and Chris Allen rented bikes by the hour in Villa Borghese. They thought the prices were very good and, as Norton said, It beats walking. At the parks Bici Pincio rental site, tandem bikes are also available, as are risci, pedal-powered carts for three to six people.
Cyclists in Rome have a variety of reasons for riding rather than motoring around the city. Austrian Clarisse Maylunas said: Its easier. She then corrected herself by adding: Its not easier, but it is less polluting and quicker than looking for a parking place.
Italian Silvia Maddalo, who rides everywhere she can, says she likes the ecological aspect of bike riding. Cycling is more energy-efficient, especially for short trips, according to Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit group promoting environmentally-friendly transportation.
Laney Sigrist from Pennsylvania was enthusiastic about cycling in the city because we can go faster than a car or moped. Fellow cyclist Nils Wachtmeister from Sweden had been in Rome for only two weeks of his year-long stay when his bike was stolen. He now has a new bike, purchased at the Porta Portese outdoor market, and cautions that it is necessary to chain the bike up properly. If it has a quick-release front wheel, take this off and place it near the back wheel. Then run the cable through both wheels and through the bikes frame. Finally, secure it to a solid railing or to a post firmly attached to the ground.
Barbara Bessi says it is easier to ride in small towns like her native Florence, and that the greatest difficulty is that cars non rispettano le biciclette. A Roman family pausing in Campo de Fiori was looking for streets without cars and a place for lunch. Francesco Cartolano said the children ride on his bike and he leads because the boys want to see where they are going.
Marty Bushue from Anchorage, Alaska, is amazed at how unaware people are of cyclists in Rome. Pedestrians will step right out in front of you, he said. Bushue, who rides to work almost every day, is not alone in his sentiments; other riders also mentioned pedestrians as a common hazard.
Bushues wife, Sherry, loves cycling in Rome. Im more comfortable riding a bike than driving a car, she said. She likes the feeling that youre out the door and immediately on your way.
For those ready to venture out on their own but needing some direction, pick up a copy of Roma in Bici, a guidebook written specifically for cyclists. The first volume is Roma Centro-Nord and volume two, which hit newsstands and bookstores in April, covers Roma Centro-Sud. These guides in Italian include several itineraries, detailed maps and clearly marked routes, so language need not be an impediment.
Lastly, its worth remembering the advice Colatta at Spagna Rent gives his customers: Drive with six eyes: two in the front, two in the back and two on the sides.
Spagna Rent, Vicolo del Bottino 8/e, tel. 339/4277773. 09.00-19.00, every other Mon closed. Bici Pincio, Viale di Villa Medici and Viale della Pineta (both in Villa Borghese), tel. 066784374. 10.00-sunset.
Roma in Bici is published by Lozzi & Rossi, is available at bookstores and newsstands and costs e9.50. Transportation Alternatives. For more information see www.transalt.org.