Milan announces major expansion of cycle paths after lockdown

Milan announces major expansion of cycle paths after lockdown
Cyclists working for a food delivery company ride through the empty square in front of Milan's Duomo. Photo: AFP
Milan hopes to emerge from lockdown with cleaner and greener transport options in place, as the city announced an expansion of bike and pedestrian paths to protect commuters from infection risk and stop a spike in car use as lockdown is eased.

Local authorities announced on Tuesday that 35 kilometres (22 miles) of city streets will be made more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists in the coming months, as it begins a major project to transform roads in the city centre.

The ambitious Strade Aperte (Open Streets) plan aims to reallocate street space from cars to pedestrians and cyclists, making it safer and easier for people to leave their vehicles at home once lockdown is lifted.

READ ALSO: Italian PM set to unveil lockdown 'phase two' plans this week

It will include temporary cycle lanes, new, widened pavements, pedestrian and cyclist priority streets, and reduced speed limits in the city centre, officials said.

Under the planned “phase two” of Italy's lockdown, businesses are expected to start gradually reopening from May onwards.

But there are concerns about the virus being transmitted in crowds on public transport as people get back to work, particularly in compact and densely-populated Milan.

Milan transport authorities say metro services in the city will run at 30 percent capacity in order to allow social distancing.

This means that, instead of transporting the usual 1.4 million passengers per day, the Milan metro will only be able to carry 400 thousand people daily.

The fear is that this could result in a spike in car traffic.

A near-empty metro carriage in Milan on April 9th. Photo: AFP

“We cannot think of this meaning a million more cars on the road,” Milan transport councillor Marco Granelli told Radio Lombardy on Tuesday.

“To avoid this, we will have to strengthen two-wheeled transport. This is why we're putting in place an extraordinary plan to create new cycle paths,” he said.

Milan city hall is “preparing documents and plans to add about 35 kilomtres of new cycle routes to the little more than 200 already existing,” he said.

Work on the project is expected to begin as soon as May on the usually busy Corso Buenos Aires, and will continue over the summer, he explained.

it is hoped that Milan's scheme will be used as a roadmap for other cities in Italy, and around the world.

The economic capital of Italy, Milan is also one of the most heavily polluted parts of the country. Huge swathes of northern Italy have long suffered serious problems with air pollution.

 
In Italy, cars remain by far the most-used means of transport. 65.3 percent of all journeys are made by car, according to environmental group Legambiante, with the emissions from some 38 million cars choking Italy's towns and cities before the nationwide lockdown began.
 
Italy has repeatedly been reprimanded by the European Union for regularly exceeding the bloc's recommended limits on air pollution.
 
Many towns and cities struggle wth congestion and pollution as public transport provision and cycle lanes remain inadequate.

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Air pollution has long been a serious concern among Milan's residents, and international studies are now trying to ascertain whether there's a link between air pollution and high Covid-19 mortality rates seen around Milan.

Lombardy, the region of which Milan is the capital, is the part of Italy by far most seriously affected by the coronavirus outbreak.


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