Free bike sharing is seen as a measure against pollution in big cities, a bit like ‘car-free Sundays.’ At least this is how it is seen in Milan.
At first glance, this seems to be a type of incentive to leave the car parked in an outer area of the city and discover the convenience and charm of the two-wheeled world. In reality there is a subtitle, an almost subliminal message.
To reserve the implementation of these measures for the periods when air pollution exceeds the warning limit, may result in debasing the bicycle to just an effective means of transportation. This message does not actually encourage bicycle use but rather makes a direct association of the bicycle as something to turn to only when there are no other resources to choose from.
In short, it is a ‘refuge for sinners’ which is looked to only as a last resort.
It is in this way that administrations seem to be suddenly rediscovering the bicycle, like they are playing their last card in a desperate attempt not to lose a game that is already lost.
Indeed, a government who does not encourage bike use on a daily basis, will lose this game.
It is the game of those who have never thought about putting this magnificent means of transportation into a real and serious political agenda, and have abandoned it to the fate of sporadic initiatives entrusted to councilors or some motion aborted even before being presented at a city counsel.
Yet, by now the issue of mobility should be clear to everyone and public spaces should be designed in a new way to make it easier to get around big cities. It is more urgent than ever in order preserve our quality of life.
Instead, the issue is put on the sideline and brought back onto the field only when the first line players are not available. And so administrations decide for car-free Sundays and free bike sharing, in order to drop an excessive percentage of particulate , and then cancel these plans if a sudden rain cancels the urgency.
The message sent is clear: the bicycle should only be used as a last resort; the first choice in the city should always be a car or any other vehicle, as long as it has an engine.
This is not just an ambiguous message towards bicycles, it is a message that does not go through at all; an education process has been completely given up because the value of it has not been properly considered and understood.
It is quite certainly a ‘radical chic’ attitude of those who take pleasure in praising the many virtues of using bicycles in the city; however, often this is mostly a gracious concession during conversations, rather than a real interest in establishing a relationship.
Unfortunately Milan is emblematic of this.
Despite being the most modern city in our country it still holds to the concept that the car is the only method of transportation; the only one worthy of a society that makes economic productivity and efficiency its own motto and belief.
Something we should reflect on.