Cycling cities – The Reggio Emilia way – Part 3: a ‘real ride’

Inspired as ever by the great Bicycle Dutch blog, and in particular the posts describing ‘real rides’ to various places, like hospitals, I am going to show you a ‘real ride’ in Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy, that I did at the end of May when I was last there, and whose destination also was a hospital.

I already described cycling in the Centro Storico and in some parts of the city’s network of cycleways. In those posts you can find info about the city, so I will not repeat them in this one. Here I am showing you some other parts of the networks, and well, you can do a little game of ‘spot the difference’ with the Dutch case (and sorry but my posts are not very frequent so quite long…).

The hospital I needed to go to is not the main one but a smaller private one where I went to see a specialist, who is a family friend, for a check-up.  In the map below, elaborated from the wonderful openstreetmap.org you can see the location of the hospital (B) and the approximate location from where my trip started (A). Route (1) is the one I took to go there, Route (2) my way back. On the right side, where the green circle is you have the city centre, so this was a ride through residential and industrial areas (I’ll come back to this point at the end).  My apointment was at 3.30PM so at a relative quite time. The distance, according to Google map, was about 5km (but by car, as the cycling option does not exist in Italy….).

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I went by bike to that hospital a couple of other times before but always coming from the city centre, so this was a sort of new ride for me, although across areas I did know, or I thought I knew.

Ok, so here are some of the cycling network highlights of my way there. I showed a couple of them already in my previous post, but I now have a much better camera…

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Above, I am along Via della Canalina, and the cycleway is certainly pleasant, trees do help (it was about 27 degrees that day). People cycling have priority over the side streets, although paint is fading away…

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The side streets lead to a residential area as well as a sports centre, where some local basketball, rugby and American Football teams play, and generally drivers do respect the priority (and most of them also use a bicycle). Maintenance is indeed an issue, as you can see in the pic below taken a bit further ahead in proximity of the intersection between the cycleway and Via Fenulli

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after about 100 yards, and a roundabout, the cycleway runs next to the main road…

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Note that about 15 years ago traffic regulations in the area were changed, and all the side streets were made one-way (either in or out) so to decrease potential conflicts. Little bollards (you can see one of them above right next to the crossing) narrow the way right before the point where cars arriving from side streets need to give priority to cyclists. Again you can see the state of the tarmac. In fairness the street next to it is not much better. Vegetation is also an issue, but on the positive side plants do have a cooling effect….

At the end of Via della Canalina there is a big and generally busy roundabout and you need to go on the other side of the road to continue straight. A short video for that:

Drivers ‘generally’ give priority to bikes and pedestrians at roundabouts (not always at a crossing far from an intersection), but obviously it is very important to look, especially when the approach is a double lane street. After the roundabout, I continued along Via Dante Zanichelli (for everyone ‘Il Lungo Crostolo’). The same type of separation as before, the small cement bollards (not sure it is the technical name), is used in the first part but then separation becomes a bit ‘heavier’, and you certainly feel very protected. Below is of one of the best bits, which goes for quite a while, wide and with nice flowes and plants (on the other side of it there is a river, ‘Il Crostolo’).

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a bit ahead, I turned left into Via Monsignor Pietro Burani which is a one-way street with cycling contra-flow. The are many of them in residential areas, although unofficially all of them are (this means that you’ll have people cycling from any directions) and very officialy cycling has been permitted in both senses in all streets of the Centro Storico since 2005.

Those are very quite residential streets, with a 30kph speed limit (about 115kms of them in and around the city), and you can ride (or walk, note there is no pavement there) along your little lane

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which is sometimes separated and with a different surface…

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Some other times on a raised pavement…like below in Via Pietro Mascagni which passes through an industrial area so it can be a bit busier (note that lorries of more than 7.5t cannot circulate in and around the city unless on specific road or if they have a permit)

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After a bit on a couple of quite streets without any separation, I reached the main road Via Emilia, where I had to cross and turn left. I then pedalled along it with no physical separation for about 100 yards or so…

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Before finding another roundabout…and here you have another short video

The crossing there is facilitated by a traffic light. I did press the ‘beg button’ but I was convinced it did not work, so once there were no vehicles I started crossing but then realised the light did work and also made a sound! And yes a car did stop on it..

I continued along the Via Emilia and the building on the right side in the pic below is the site of the consortium of producers of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan cheese for you, but certainly not for us as it eliminates the Reggio bit…), il ‘Re dei Formaggi’ (the ‘King of Cheeses). You can buy it in Reggio Emilia either at the farms or supermarkets at a price of around 10/15 Euros per kilo depending on the age (never go anywhere near those pieces less than 24 month old that are sometimes sold abroad.. and never buy anything less than a kilo, so it can last for a week at least..), so you’ll understand why reasonably sized cheese wedges are the main things I smuggled into the UK every time I come back from Italy

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But back to the cycling infrastructure, I crossed the road at a traffic light a bit further ahead and continued on the other side…

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things went tight for a tiny bit….

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and I did use the right bit of it rather than slaloming around the barriers and almost finding myself in the living room of that house. The cyclways was back to a normal width after the house above and after a couple of minutes and crossing the road, I arrived at my destination…

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There, to my surprise I could find no specific bike parking, and had to leave my bicycles against a wall next to a moped. Parking your bicyle against a wall is very local thing to do anyway, as you can see from my tweets below…

I did ask inside the hospital whether there was a place for bicycles and I was told “no, because they get stolen”. I thought the lady was referring to the bicycles and gave her a weird look, she actually meant the bike racks, those low quality ‘rastrelliere’ similar to the ones in this pic I took earlier on that day in front of a small supermarket (and you have a Graziella type of bike, very popular in Reggio Emilia)…

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Anyway, the whole trip took me 22 minutes (you would not believe given the amount of words I spent on it here…). After the doctor’s visit, which went very well, I came back first along the Via Emilia, but kept on the right side this time. There were some roadworks going on, so I encountered different vehicles on the cycleway like below…

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The gate you can see above on the right is the one leading to the main site of Max Mara, the fashion company, which I am sure you do not know is also from Reggio Emilia (I’ll avoid telling you how much those famous ‘they’ll last for at least 10 years’ womens coats may cost at the local outlet, especially if you settle for the previous year’s collection ones, in case you have just spent more than £3000 on it, but I agree with Vogue, it is a very good investement nonetheless, so well done), but back to the road works, things were a bit tight again at some point…

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When I arrived at the same roundabout I showed you in the last video (but I was on the other side), I decided to turn right and continue along Via Federico Chopin (below) rather than go straight. I knew there was another way back, perhaps a bit longer, but possibly more interesting…

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sudendly, the path along Via Chopin became narrower, a bit more rural, and I was taken towards the West…

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the surface was still pleasant and smooth enough for a simple ride and the cycleway continued to have priority over the grass (more or less) and above all, the side streets…

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I turned left at some point as I needed to go more South, knowing roughly the direction back to my parents’ place and then, to my surprise, a cycling/pedestrian bridge…

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…with my trained professional look, even from a bit of a distance, I soon understood that the bridge was in no ways similar to the one I rode a couple of months before in the Netherlands…

….but there was no time or reason to be picky and I climbed it nonetheless…

and then, another surprise, another bridge…and this time no climb involved…

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I had taken a longer route, I knew it, but well I discovered an area of my city I did not really know. After crossing the park (dedicated to Nilde Iotti, a local from the city who, in 1979, became the first woman president of the lower house of the Italian Parliament), I continued around some nice greenspaces…

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and then into a residential area, where I rode along some very quiet (really no traffic at all) but also uninteresting streets before finding another little park. Then, I reached Via Gorizia, a fairly busy street where I could ride along a separated path…GH023036-4.jpg

I needed to turn right into Via Inghilterra and before the roundabout bikes were directed to a residential street first and then to a path separated from the road by about 10 metres of vegetation…

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I needed to cross at some point to go left, and this time, no zebra, no traffic light, no bridge, but an underpass (shall I show you one in the Netherlands? no…not this time…)…

what an exciment, I had encounted almost all possible cycling crossings in one single ride…After the underpass, with barriers separating bicycles and pedestrians, I was in more familiar territory, closer to home, and I rode a raised path along the main road…

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then along a supermarket car park…and then crossed another roundabout to turn into Via Unione Sovietica (the city has always been very left leaning, the Italian Comunist Party was always very strong, and strong relationships were maintained with the Soviet Union…).

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there I rode along a narrowish but fairly pleasant path, again with trees and grass around me…

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at the traffic light I turned left and continued along Via F.lli Rosselli on a variety of infra….first with trees and grass as a separation….

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then a raised path….

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before arriving to Via della Canalina almost in correspondence of the first roundabout I showed you at the beginning of this post…

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from there I was home quickly riding past some free floating Mobike  (a public bike sharing system started in the 1990s if not earlier but then stopped some years ago, and after a successful one-year trial, and 19,000 people registered to it, Mobike has just decided to stay in the city)

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The way back took me about 28 minutes, so only 6 minutes more than the way there, despite me not being too familiar with that way and exploring a bit.

Ok, that’s it, what do you think? Here are some considerations:

  • the network is fairly integrated and while most cycleways radiates from the city centre, there is quite a lot of them in residential and industrial areas, so you can ride there for vast majority of time separated from traffic even on more circular ways
  • obviously the quality is very far from Dutch standard, from plenty of aspects, surfaces especially can be a bit rough, but this does apply to the road as well (funds are tight for everything, it is a bit of a consolation), but it is still fairly pleasant and safe enough to ride
  • most paths are shared with pedestrians, that is no good but, on the other hand cycling is calm and slow, simple old bicycles, and perhaps it is because I am used to it, but I have never found it a big issue in practice (but surely a better separation would improve the situation). Thins would be much more complicated in certain areas with non standard bikes like my cargobike though, so this is another point to be considered (and perhaps one of the reasons why cargobikes have never been popular?)
  • a bit of space has been removed from motor traffic in the city (for example lanes have been reduces and cycle lanes on the main roads have been added, for faster cyclists, even when a separated shared path is present) but more could certainly be done
  • cycling trips are 23% of total (2015), and figure has been going up, 48% is the cycling share for trips to the city centre, but car ownership and usage is still extremely high…

That’s it, thanks for remaining with me until this point. Please do use the box below if you have any comment or question.

All the very best

Alberto

8 July 2019

All opinions expressed in this post are my own and I have received no incentive whatsoever from any of the companies, organisations or businesses mentioned above

Here you can read about me, this is a bit about my research, and here you can see my publications. You can follow me on twitter here

 

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