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CITY FOR CYCLISTS Powered By Docstoc
by Gianni Stefanati

Ferrara is the Italian city of bicycles where use of this means of transport is among the highest in
Europe: in 1991 the percentage use was 30.7 against 30% in Copenhagen and 27.8% in Holland. In
2000 a survey carried out by DataBank on a representative sample confirmed that 30.9% of
Ferrara’s inhabitants use bicycles. (Data refers to total number of journeys).

The awareness of not only being the Italian city with the greatest number of cyclists but of
occupying a position at European levels led to comparison with similar cities and to the exchange of
information for improving the quality of cycling mobility. Of particular significance is the
membership of the European network of Cities for Cyclists that currently links 30 cities from 14

In 1999 the DG XI European Commission published the volume “Cities for Bicycles, cities for the
future” in which Ferrara is quoted as an example to follow. Ferrara is currently included in the SAVE
II-IN TANDEM Cycling Proposal programme for the promotion of the optimum energy use in
individual transport, conducted by the WHO (WHO-Centre for Urban Health) and in the BYPAD
project co-ordinated by the ECF for evaluating the policies adopted in different European cities for
promoting the use of bicycles.

In 2000 the Ministry of the Environment gave an award to the city of Ferrara for its promotion of
the use of the bicycle in town through the setting up of the Bike Office for Sustainable Mobility.
Upon the recommendation of the Ministry of the Environment Ferrara was included as a practical
example of sustainable mobility in the guidelines drawn up by the UNECE (UN agency for the
environment) in view of the 5th Ministerial Conference in Kiev in 2003 for the its promotion of
bicycle use.

Within the Urban Traffic Plan an operative and planning instrument for the improvement of the
conditions of cycling mobility, Bici Plan, has been included. In Bici Plan the historical centre has
been considered as a part of the city that favours cycling, while for the outskirts of the town
separate radial cycle tracks (7 in the planning stage, 2 already completed) that allow cyclists to reach
the outlying areas have been thought out.

The problem of the accident rate has obviously been the most serious we have had to face up to and
in order to reduce the risks we have decided to operate upon criteria of traffic-calming and
separation. The historical centre is surrounded by a city wall, on the outside of which a cycling ring
road has been constructed. Work on raising the road level for vehicles passing through the gaps in
the wall is in progress, which means continuity of the cycling route and at the same time a slowing
down of the traffic flow.
The primary objective is making the points of conflict, identified in the urban Traffic Plan, safe.

Main initiatives undertaken:
• 18th February 1995 “Il Sole-24ore” Report. Ferrara proves to be the city in Italy with the
    together with 14.5% of public vehicles and 20.1% of movement on foot, the sustainable mobility
    rate is 65.3%)
•   1995 BICICARD: the strategy for transforming visitors and tourists into cyclists starts. The
    Bicicard is launched. It lets them park their cars in car parking spaces outside the historic centre,
    to hire a bicycle and to enter free of charge the civic museums, to get discounts at temporary
    exhibitions, in hotels, restaurants and listed shops. The Bicicard has been adapted over the years
    and is still in use.
•   1995 CITIES FOR CYCLISTS: Ferrara joins the Cities for Cyclists circuit (today it connects 31
    cities in 14 European countries) and stands as host for the 1997 edition of VELO-CITY, later
    given to Barcelona.
•   1996 BIKE OFFICE: a professional figure to refer to for the handling of the project to promote
    the use of the bicycle is officially appointed at Environmental Department of the Council.
•   1996 CITIES FOR CYCLISTS CONFERENCE: Ferrara hosts the conference and the annual
    meeting of Cities for Cyclists. For the first time the experiences of cycling mobility in Italian
    cities are compared to what has been done in the principal European cities.
•   1997 EUROPEAN BICYCLE DESIGN CONTEST: the EBDC, the European award given by
    SHIMANO for the best prototype of a city bike, is held in Ferrara.
•   1997 THE BICYCLE CHARTER: the mayor publicly signs the Bicycle Charter which pledges
    the council administration to promoting the use of the bicycle and to removing all obstacles that
    might slow up development of this goal. The Charter, drawn up by the European Cyclists
    Federation, already has thousands of signatories all over Europe; local and national authorities,
    personalities from politics, culture and industry.
•   1997 BICITURISMO: 1st exhibition on what’s on offer to tourists with regard to the bicycle,
    stands exhibit ideas, provinces and two-wheeled pedal power transport.
•   1995-2000 VELOCITY: Ferrara takes part with reports and contributions at the editions of
    VeloCity (95 Basle SWITZERLAND, 96 Freemantle AUSTRALIA, 97 Barcelona SPAIN, 99
    Graz AUSTRIA, 2000 Amsterdam HOLLAND.
•   1998 BICIPLAN: the Urban Traffic Plan is approved, within which is introduced the Biciplan,
    innovative in its content as it is not limited to determining a cycling network but lays the
    foundations for planning the interventions in favour of cycling mobility that goes beyond traffic
    models, for example the access to parks, public spaces and schools permitted with priority use
    for the bicycle.
    AND CYCLISTS drawn up with the collaboration of the FIAB (Italian Friends of the Bicycle
    Association and the association of pensioners and distributed to all the families resident in
•   1998 OFFICIAL BIKES: The mayor and councillors are given Official Bikes to limit their use of
    cars and to give a message and example to the citizens.
•   1999 CYCLING RING ROAD: the 9.5 km cycling route below the city walls that surround the
    historic centre is completed. Two of the seven radial cycling tracks provided for by the Biciplan
    are also created, one of these connects the city to the River Po by way of the Parco Urbano park
    and then on to the cycle track on the embankment (148 km of which 110 for the exclusive use of
    cycle traffic, currently being completed by the provincial council) which is part of the European
    EUROVELO circuit.
•   1997-2000 PROMOTION OF THE USE OF THE BICYCLE: numerous interventions and
    popularising actions for favouring the use of the bicycle (from distributing bulky signs with
    information for cyclists to laying out new cycle parks with various levels of use and protection,
    from the Bike taxi service to the Bici Bus, from the courtesy bikes at hotels included in the price
    of the room to the service bikes for council employees.
•   1999 FERRARA CITIES FOR CYCLISTS: a road sign is placed at all the main points of access
    to the city indicating Ferrara as the city of bicycles and the words of the network “Cities for
•   2000 FIRST PRIZE IN SUSTAINABLE CITIES from the Ministry of the Environment for the
    setting up of the Bike Office for sustainable mobility
•   2000-2001 SAFETY ON BICYCLES: Ferrara prepares to intervene with criteria of traffic
    calming in order to guarantee maximum safety to cyclists. The interventions are made possible by
    the application of Law 366/98. Two of the radial cycle tracks provided for by the Biciplan are
    being created and the supply of bicycles to hire is increased.
•   2001 OPERATION BICYCLE THIEVES: an operation to limit bicycle theft by voluntary
    marking bicycles and placing bicycles as bait was set up in collaboration with local police forces
    and the whole thing was accompanied by an information campaign.
•   2001 CYCLING MAP OF FERRARA: a map with street guide for tourists and residents
    indicating the cycling network, correct cycling behaviour, traffic signs for cyclists and
    information on repair services, deposits, sales points, bike hire and public pumps.
•   2001 AGM CITIES FOR CYCLISTS: Ferrara is host for the second time to the representatives
    of the European cities most committed to in-town use of the bicycle.
•   2001 “LET’S BREATHE IN THE CITY” PRIZE for the promotion of the use of the bicycle,
    organised by the magazine Quattroruote in collaboration with WWF and ASSTRA

Initiatives in the planning stage:

•   BIKE-BUS-KEY System of “public bicycles” linked with public transport: 198 bicycles
    positioned in special bike racks are available to the passengers of the out-of-town bus service in
    five points around the city. After registration they can use a special key to take a bike for free
    use for journeys in the town when they leave the bus.

Internet sites with information about Ferrara, City for Cyclists:,2393,18820,00.html User Name: LyonsW Password: LyonsW1 pp.28-29
                    Gianni Stefanati
             Bike Office for Sustainable Mobility
                     Cycle Coordinator

       Comune di Ferrara - Assessorato Ecologia Urbana
          Viale Alfonso d’Este 17 – I 44100 Ferrara
         Tel. +39.0532.66547   – Fax +39.0532.740291
   http://www.              .org/progetto.
              cittasostenibili                       =4

Lo Fanno Tutti

"Il professore lo fa, i suoi studenti anche e le anziane signore pure, così come i ragazzini quando
ovunque in Italia girano in scooter: tutta Ferrara gira in bicicletta." (1)

Complice un territorio assolutamente piatto e un rifiuto netto ad ogni forma di rinnovamento che
possa stravolgere antiche e rassicuranti abitudini, i ferraresi vanno da sempre in bicicletta, dalla notte
dei tempi e non è un caso che il logo scelto per la Bicicard, una card che consente ai visitatori di
lasciare l’auto, prendere una bici e usufruire di sconti in negozi, hotel, ristoranti, mostre e musei, sia
un’improbabile kylix rinvenuta in una necropoli e raffigurante un avo greco-etrusco ovviamente in

Ferrara del resto vanta l’atipica origine di non essere stata fondata dai romani come le altre città
emiliano-romagnole, questa diversità la si registra anche nel ritmo della pedalata, un incedere lento e
compassato che sconvolge gli osservatori dei paesi nord europei con la loro media di viaggio di 20
km/h. Se è per pigrizia che si prende la bicicletta anche per raggiungere il bar sotto casa è anche
vero che il ciclismo, a livello amatoriale o semiprofessionale, è qui tuttora lo sport più praticato con
decine di gruppi e società. "In bicicletta i ferraresi si sentono appagati e al tempo stesso trasgressivi.
La loro tradizionale apatia, connotato fondamentale della ferraresità, fustigata senza pietà da
scrittori, storici, critici che vorrebbero vederla convertire in intraprendenza, sulla bicicletta si muta in
spregiudicata vitalità al limite dell’indisciplina. Sta proprio in questo senso di piena libertà
recuperata il segreto del successo della bicicletta" (2)

Il popolo dei ciclisti ferraresi è l’89,5% dei suoi circa 130.000 residenti ma ci sono anche più o meno
5.000 cittadini che di bici non vogliono neppure sentir parlare.(3) I ferraresi non è che non vadano in
auto, anzi il possesso è superiore alla media nazionale con un’automobile ogni due abitanti e la usano
con assiduità per andare al lavoro poi cercano di parcheggiarla come fosse una bicicletta, attaccata al
muro a meno di un metro dal portone, e per il resto della giornata si muovono in bicicletta o a piedi.
Questo comportamento richiede il possesso di più biciclette posizionate nei punti strategici: il
commerciante la tiene in negozio, l’impiegato nel sottoscala dell’ufficio, molti la portano avanti e
indietro nel baule o sul tettuccio dell’auto. Non è raro vedere decrepite utilitarie o arcaiche
cinquecento con biciclette perfette montate sull’apposito portapacchi. Questo spiega anche un altro
Poi ci sono i pendolari del trasporto pubblico, le cui biciclette sono pennellate di ruggine che si
sovrappongono al fondo rossiccio del cotto dei palazzi cittadini con grumi di colore tendente al nero
soprattutto alla stazione ferroviaria dove il sistema di cicloparcheggio da 850 posti è del tutto

I ciclisti ferraresi li vedi con il cane nel cestino, con le sporte della spesa sapientemente allacciate al
manubrio, due per parte, li vedi amabilmente conversare procedendo appaiati lungo il tragitto, li vedi
con un bambino sul seggiolino davanti, un altro su quello dietro e a volte anche con un terzo
sistemato frontalmente nella parte anteriore dove di solito sta il cestino. Per gli accessori i ferraresi
danno prova di grande ingegno: c’è il gancio per la cartella del professionista, la molla sul manubrio
per cartelle e giornali e cestini di ogni dimensione ovviamente per la spesa. Non è neppure raro
vedere carrelli da supermercato agganciati dietro.

Nonostante l’avvento di ben tre ipermercati (cifra da record per una città di così modeste
proporzioni) la bicicletta per la spesa periodica è utilizzata dal 44% dei cittadini, il 28% preferisce
farla a piedi e solo il 24% usa l’auto. (4)

Di biciclette a Ferrara se ne vedono proprio di tutti i colori, anche qui, sempre con una dose di
ritardo, è scoppiato e si è esaurito il boom delle mountain bike ma la tradizionale biga (5) non è mai
stata soppiantata. Le signore anziane preferiscono la Graziella, quel modello un po’ giù di moda con
la chiavetta centrale che permetteva di ripiegare la bici, ma a casa hanno ancora la vecchia pesante e
nera bigona che usavano per andare in campagna e hanno anche l’olandese vinta alla Festa dell’Unità
o la mountain bike ottenuta coi bollini del supermercato. Avvocati, ingegneri e uomini d’affari
montano la più classica delle Bianchi o più genuinamente la Chisal che è ferrarese Doc. Diffusissima
è ancora la Sportiva con i cambi a leva e a telaio mentre i lavoratori e gli studenti usano le cosiddette
carcassone che sono bici di recupero, gran turismo o americane o ancora assemblaggi inverosimili con
un corredo sonoro che rende ininfluente la presenza del campanello: le carcassone le senti sempre
arrivare per i ritmici cigolii e altri suoni più sordi che si liberano ad ogni pedalata. La fascia dei trenta-
quarantenni è ormai orientata sui modelli city-bike mentre la moda per le ragazze prevede
rigorosamente biciclette da uomo.

Il titolo di città italiana dove viene maggiormente utilizzata la bicicletta autorevolmente conferito da
un rapporto del quotidiano "Il Sole-24ore" (6) ha portato l’amministrazione comunale a cercare un
confronto con altre città europee e ad aderire alla rete Cities for Cyclists: 30 città di 14 paesi
impegnate nella promozione dell’uso della bicicletta. Sull’onda della scoperta che a Ferrara si
andava in bicicletta quanto a Copenaghen (30,7% contro il 30% della città danese sul totale degli
spostamenti nel 1989) o che la media olandese era paragonabile a quella cittadina (nel 1997 il
26,58% a Ferrara, nel 1996 il 26,8% in Olanda) si è cominciato a coltivare questa eccezione
promovendo iniziative di valorizzazione come la Bicicard, la conferenza europea Cities for
Cyclists, il premio Shimano per il miglior prototipo di bicicletta (European Bicycle Design Contest),
il salone del ciclismo turistico BiciTurismo, e diverse altre iniziative.

L’insieme di queste azioni o proposte è raccolto in una pubblicazione edita con il concorso
dell’ANCMA e dell’Associazione italiana Città Ciclabili dal significativo titolo Per una Città Amica
delle Biciclette. Un vademecum con cinquanta consigli pratici per chi amministra le città italiane
distribuito ai Comuni e alle Regioni in contemporanea con l’entrata in vigore della Legge che detta
"Norme per il finanziamento della mobilità ciclistica"(7).

Ma cosa visivamente connota Ferrara come città delle biciclette? Innanzitutto che tutti lo fanno,
giovani e vecchi, ricchi e poveri, tutti vanno in bicicletta. Poi se si arriva in auto, su tutte le strade di
accesso è stato posto un cartello con la scritta <città delle biciclette "cities for cyclists"> voluto
dall’Amministrazione Comunale per sancire l’adesione al network europeo delle città per ciclisti (la
scritta inglese) e non solo per notificare l’eccellenza (la scritta italiana) come si sarebbe portati a
credere, ma per avvisare gli automobilisti non abituati a rapportarsi con i ciclisti che in questa città
puoi incrociare un ciclista ovunque e quando meno te l’aspetti con notevoli possibilità di conflitto e
che se l’auto viene condotta a velocità elevata o con scarsa attenzione possono tramutarsi in
incidenti con esiti pesanti.

Non sono da ricercare a Ferrara soluzioni informatiche per agevolare il flusso ciclistico o piste
ciclabili a regola d’arte con segnaletica efficace e puntuale, no a Ferrara la bicicletta la respiri e la
vedi ovunque decidi di voltare lo sguardo. Gli osservatori stranieri rimangono esterrefatti e
commentano: "La tradizionale circolazione in bicicletta appariva completamente nuova agli Ingegneri
del traffico intervenuti: non c’erano né bikeboxes ad alta tecnologia né fasce d’induzione poste sotto
la pista ciclabile che attivassero semafori per ciclisti. Invece c’era del selciato medioevale sul quale la
gente si muoveva comodamente e con calma. Per valutare veramente ciò che avveniva si doveva
lasciarsi andare al ritmo tranquillo della città e lasciare vagare lo sguardo. Ad esempio all’ingresso di
una banca. Lì tre signori attempati e ben curati nel vestire parcheggiano le loro biciclette al bordo del
marciapiede con movimenti accurati e sciolti, abbassando il pedale rivolto verso il marciapiede finché
questo tocca la pietra. Parcheggiare la bici...così semplice. Ciò che veniva predicato nel Teatro
Comunale alla conferenza Cities for Cyclists può non essere spiegato da queste scene. Ci vuole un bel
po’ di fantasia per immaginare qualcosa di simile nel centro di Francoforte".(8)

Naturalmente ci sono anche le piste ciclabili, o almeno qualcosa di simile, circa 50 km sulla carta,
molte e le più utili che da un raggio di 5-7 km consentono di raggiungere la città storica, sono in
progetto o in fase di realizzazione. Meritano attenzione i nove km che si sviluppano all’esterno delle
mura cittadine.

"Allo straniero può sembrare talvolta che i ferraresi siano nati sulle loro biciclette: sul sellino leggono
il giornale, guardano le vetrine, fanno visita ai defunti, si segnano velocemente quando passano
davanti ad una chiesa pedalando disinvoltamente" (9)

In effetti un detto popolare dice che a Ferrara si impara prima a pedalare che a camminare e la
bicicletta è come un pensiero fisso, un’ossessione, nelle arti è quasi un ricordo-mania: si decide di
fare un segnalibro per un cinema comunale ed ecco un’immagine di Antonioni in bicicletta, si vuole
onorare Rambaldi con una mostra sui suoi effetti speciali, all’entrata non ti ritrovi ET ma la prima
bicicletta con cui Rambaldi,figlio di un meccanico, ripulendola, ha percepito l’importanza degli
ingranaggi e la meccanica che lo avrebbe condotto al successo mondiale. Anche più quotidianamente
se si decide di abbellire con dei murales un cantiere, ecco una bicicletta; se si ridipingono i contenitori
delle immondizie: ecco nuovamente disegnate biciclette. Immancabile la bici nella prosa e nella
letteratura di autori nati a Ferrara e come non dedicare una biblioteca di quartiere a volumi che
trattano nei vari campi di biciclette o un monumento come è accaduto nella vicina Copparo.
bike-service ( o bici di cortesia) presso le strutture turistico-ricettive.

Altra cosa concreta è il Bicibus, un sistema di trasporto bici al seguito del viaggiatore su un bus di
linea extraurbano. Se poi si pensa che indomiti automobilisti non siano portati a pensare alla
bicicletta come sana alternativa in caso di revisione, sostituzione gomme o riparazioni ecco pronto il
servizio bici sostitutiva operativo presso autofficine.

Se c’è un settore che a Ferrara non conosce crisi è quello artigianale dei riparatori di cicli, per un
attività che chiude i battenti un’altra è pronta a rimpiazzarla.

Dulcis in fondo, per una città con tanti elettori ciclisti non potevano mancare amministratori ciclisti:
Sindaco e Assessori sono infatti dotati ognuno di apposita Bici Blu.

                                     Gianni Stefanati
                                     Coordinatore Ufficio Biciclette per
                                     la mobilità sostenibile

(1) Jacko A.Hassenmeier, Ferrara ist eine auBerst metaphysische Stadt, 1998
(2) Alessandra Chiappini, Libri di Biciclette, Ferrara 1994
(3) Comune di Ferrara servizio Statistica, Per le vie di Ferrara. Abitudini ed opinioni, Ferrara 1997
(4) ibidem
(5) "biga" significa bicicletta in dialetto ferrarese mentre con il termine bicicletta si intende un
aperitivo da consumare in due formato da una parte di Campari e una di vino bianco. Anche la
moneta del Regno da 20 centesimi veniva chiamata bicicletta. La bicicletta, intesa come mezzo, può
essere anche chiamata kuarantina o kurénta nel gergo dei ladri o dei muratori, oppure volantina per
indicare una bicicletta incustodita.
(6) Il Sole-24ore, 18 febbraio 1995
(7) Legge 19 ottobre 1998 n. 366, pubblicata sulla G.U. il 23.10.1998
(8) Karsten Klama, Wo liegt das "Konighreich der Radfahrer"?, Radfahren 1/97
(9) Rita HenB, Mit dem Rad in die Vergangenheit, Frankfurther Rundschau, 4.7.1998

 Everybody does it

“The teacher does it, his students also, even elderly ladies. Just like the teenagers who, all over Italy,
go around on scooters, all of Ferrara goes around by bicycle.” (1)

Absolutely flat land helps and a refusal of all forms of change that might upset ancient and
reassuring habits. The people of Ferrara have been using bicycles since the dawn of time and, not by
chance the Logo chosen for the Bicicard (a card that allows the visitors to leave the car, take a bike,
and benefit from discounts in shops, hotels, restaurants, exhibitions and museums), is an unlikely
kilix found in a necropolis showing a Greek-Etruscan ancestor obviously on a bicycle.

Unlike other cities in Emilia-Romagna, Ferrara was not founded by the Romans. This difference can
be noted also in the speed at which they pedal. Their slow and measured pace throws the North-
Europeans, with their average speed of 20 km/h, into confusion. If it is laziness that makes people
here in Ferrara take the bike even to go to the coffee bar round the corner, it is also true that cycling,
at all levels, is still the most practised sport with dozens of groups and clubs. “On the bicycle the
trait of being Ferrarese which mercilessly disapproving writers, historians and critics would like to
see transformed into initiative, changes into uninhibited vitality bordering on indiscipline on the

The secret of the bicycle’s success lies right here in this sensation of fully regained freedom.” (2)
Ferrara’s bicycling population represents 89,5% of its 133 270 citizens, but there are also 5 000 of
them who are not even remotely interested in bikes. (3) It is not that the Ferraresi don’t drive. In fact
car ownership is above the national average with one car every two inhabitants and they use their
cars regularly to drive to work, then they try to park it like a bike, tight to the wall, less than a metre
from the front door, and for the rest of the day, they cycle or walk. This means they need more than
one bike positioned at strategic points: the shopkeeper keeps his in the shop, the office worker in a
space under the staircase of the office, many take it back and forth in boot or on the roof of the car.
It is not unusual to see decrepit runabouts or old Fiat 500’s with bicycles perfectly mounted on
their roofracks. This also explains another unique fact: the average citizen owns 2.8 bicycles. Then
there are the commuters who use public transport. Their bikes are tinged with rust against the
reddish background of the city’s buildings with clusters of colour tending towards black, above all at
the railway station where the bicycle park with 850 spaces is wholly insufficient.

You see Ferrara’s cyclists with the dog in the basket, with their shopping bags expertly tied to the
handlebars, two on each side. You see them talking amiably as they ride two abreast. You see them
with a child on the front baby seat, another on the back and sometimes with a third on the front
where the basket usually is. The Ferraresi show great flair with regard to accessories: there is the
hook for the professional’s briefcase, the sprung clip on the handlebars for folders and newspapers
and baskets of all sizes for shopping of course. You can even occasionally see supermarket trolleys
hooked on behind.

Despite the arrival of three shopping centres (a record for such a small town), the bicycle is used for
periodic shopping by 44% of the townsfolk, 28% prefer to walk and just 24% use the car. (4)

There are all sorts of bikes in Ferrara. Even here, a little late as always, the mountain bike has had
its boom, which latter receded without supplanting the old biga. (5)

Elderly ladies prefer the Graziella type, a little old fashioned, with a central lock that allows the
bike to be folded up. At home, however, they still have the old heavy and black bigona that they
used for going into the countryside as well as the Dutch model won at the Unità Fair or the
mountain bike they got with supermarket vouchers. Lawyers, engineers and businessmen ride the
most classic Bianchi models, or more genuinely the Chisal, a Ferrara original. The sports bike with
gears is still really popular, while workers and students use the “old wreck” (carcassone), made up
of old bikes with their rhythmic squeaking and others more muffled sounds that make a bell
unimportant. The thirty to forty year-olds prefer city-bike models, while for girls men bicycles are
strictly de rigeur.

The fact that the Italian daily paper Il Sole 24 Ore authoritatively conferred on Ferrara the title of
the Italian city with the most widespread use of bicycles (6) led the town council to look for
comparisons with other European cities and join the Cities for Cyclists network, 30 cities from 14
Countries committed to the promotion of bicycle use. Following the discovery that bikes were used
against 30% in the Danish city), and that the average in Holland was comparable to that in Ferrara
(26.58% in Ferrara and 26.8% in Holland in 1996), initiatives were taken to make the most of this
exceptional fact; the Bicicard, the European Conference of Cities for Cyclists, the Shimano Prize
given to the best prototype bicycle (European Bicycle Design Contest), BiciTurismo, the exhibition
on cycling tourism and a myriad of other initiatives co-ordinated by a special “Bicycle Office” in the
town council’s Environmental Department.

All those are published with the help of ANCMA and the Italian Association of Cycling Cities
(AICC) in For a Bicycle-Friendly City. A vademecum with fifty practical suggestions for city
administrators distributed to all Italian Regions and Councils at the same time as the Law for
financing cycling traffic came into effect. (7)

But what visibly marks Ferrara out as the cycling city? First of all the fact that everybody does it,
young and old, rich and poor, everybody goes round n a bike. Then upon arrival at Ferrara by car,
there are signposts on every incoming road with “Città della Biciclette - Cities for Cyclists” written
on them. This is to ratify membership of the European network (the English words) and not only to
point out its excellence (the Italian words) as one would be led to believe, but to warn motorists
who are not accustomed to dealing with cyclists that in the city they can come across a cyclist
anywhere and when they least expect it with a considerable chance of a collision and that if the car is
being driven fast and with little attention this could lead to a serious accident.

No computer-based solutions or cycle tracks with effective and punctual traffic signs are needed in
Ferrara to ease the flow of bicycles. No, here you breathe the bike; you see it wherever you turn.
Foreign observers where shocked and commented: “Traditional bicycle traffic seemed completely
new to the traffic engineers, there were no hi-tech bike boxes, or induction strips under the cycle
lanes that activated traffic lights for cyclists. Instead there was medieval paving along which people
moved slowly and comfortably. To really weigh up what was happening they had to adjust to the
slow pace of the town in order to take it all in. For example, at the entrance to a bank there were
three elderly, well dressed gentlemen carefully parking their bikes on the edge of the pavement,
accurately and with ease lowering the pedal until it touched the kerb. Parking the bike… so simple.
What was preached in the Municipal Theatre at the Cities for Cyclists Conference cannot be
explained by these scenes. You need plenty of imagination to picture something like that happening
in the centre of Frankfurt. (8)

Of course there are cycle tracks too or at least something similar, about 50 km on the map. Many,
and the most useful which finish in the historic centre from 5 to 7 km out, are still being designed or
laid, but the 9 km of cycle track around the city walls are worth a look.

At times it can seem to the foreigner that the Ferraresi were born on their bicycles. They read the
newspaper on the saddle, look at shop windows, go to the cemetery and, pedalling in a relaxed
manner, they make the sign of the cross when they pass in front of a church. (9)

A popular saying in Ferrara says that they learn to ride before they can walk and this is like a fixed
thought, an obsession. In the arts it is almost a mania of the memory: somebody decides to do a
bookmark for a cinema and there is a picture of Antonioni on his bike, even at the entrance to the
exhibition to honour the creator of ET, Rambaldi, the son of a mechanic, you find his first bicycle,
thus led him on to world fame. Even on a more day-to-day basis if they want to make a building site
more beautiful with a mural there is the image of a bicycle, and even on rubbish carts. The bicycle
could not be missing from the writings of authors born in Ferrara and a local library is dedicated to
the works that contain various mentions of it and there is even a monument to the bicycle in a small
nearby town called Copparo.

The bike is in the air but has its feet firmly on the ground with concrete achievements such as the
bicycle hire service, appreciated as much in Italy as in Europe for its flexibility and variety of offers.
Not least surprising is the fact that the body responsible for it is a private concern, Itinerando, a
company with only women partners specialised in tourism services.

And what about the bike-service at the accommodation facilities: there are about twenty in the
Ferrara area and they often include the bicycle in the price of the room.

Another practical initiative is the Bicibus, a bus which can take along your bike on out-of-town
journeys. Then if you think indomitable motorists are not ready to think about the bicycle as a
healthy alternative, the garage will give them a replacement bike when their car is being serviced.
In Ferrara if there is one industry that is not in decline it is the bicycle repair industry. As soon as
one workshop closes another one opens.

To top it all, for a city with so many cycling electors the town councillors could not do less. The
Mayor and the councillors all have Official Bikes.
                                                                                 Gianni Stefanati

(1) Jacko A.Hassenmeier, Ferrara ist eine auBerst metaphysische Stadt, 1998
(2) Alessandra Chiappini, Libri di Biciclette, Ferrara 1994
(3) Comune di Ferrara servizio Statistica, Per le vie di Ferrara. Abitudini ed opinioni, Ferrara 1997
(4) ibidem
(5) “biga” means bicycle in Ferrara’s dialect, while the term “bicicletta” (bicycle) is used for an aperitif to be drunk together
by a couple, one part Campari and one part white wine. A 20 cent coin of the Italian kingdom was also called the “bicicletta”.
The bicicletta, intended as a means of transport can also be called the “kuarantina” or “kurénta” in the slang of thieves and
builders, or “volantina” to indicate an unguarded bicycle.
(6) Il Sole-24ore, 18 th February 1995
(7) Law n. 366, 19 th October 1998, published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale on 23.10.1998
(8) Karsten Klama, Wo liegt das “Konighreich der Radfahrer”?, Radfahren 1/97
(9) Rita HenB, Mit dem Rad in die Vergangenheit, Frankfurther Rundschau, 4.7.1998

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