Italy celebrates first Bike Day to boost sustainable mobility

08:13, May 10, 2010      

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Italy celebrated on Sunday the first National Bike Day edition with a series of initiatives aimed at spreading awareness on sustainable mobility, climate change, environmental and natural heritage preservation.

The event was strongly sponsored by Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo. A total of 1,300 cities across the country adhered to the celebrations by organizing bike site-seeing tours, treasure hunts and children games and performances.

Prestigiacomo was very satisfied of the outcomes and high public participation. "This first bike day has turned out into a real success which demonstrates the appeal of the initiative among Italians," she said in a statement issued by her office.

"Bike Day is a national party, characterized by public enthusiasm and clean air. The fact that so many children, youth, adults and old people have taken part in it is the proof that they want better, livable cities with less traffic and smog. Cities that are healthy, with a human-dimension, where well-being and life quality are high," Prestigiacomo stressed.

The minister also said bike mobility not only allows a healthy life style but helps in protecting the environment by curbing carbon emissions and preserving cultural heritage by shielding the monuments from pollution's degrading effects.

For once, most cities' historical centers were declared car- free, roads were closed and thousands of people took to the streets and enjoyed a healthy, sunny bike ride which allowed them to better admire the surrounding nature and artistic monuments, visit free-entrance museums and exhibitions, watch open-air bike performances and take pleasure in shops and restaurants.

Games, guided tours and competitions for children were organized to promote bicycle use and boost a healthy, eco-friendly mobility that substitutes polluting cars and motorbikes.

It was a special and unique experience that allowed citizens to take pleasure in their own towns and visit already known places but in another, calmer and more relaxed way.

In Rome, bikers met at the Coloseum and rode all the way to the beach of Ostia (the capital's main summer destination) along a 27- kilometers path running parallel to the Cristoforo Colombo highway, usually one of Rome's most trafficked arteries. Then, once arrived at the beach, the tour continued along the breathtaking regional coastal trail of the Latium region.

The organizer of the trip, Claudio, told Xinhua that his group arranges such outdoor rides every weekend but that the National Bike Day was a great chance to involve more riders.

"What's amazing is that people of all ages participate in such activities, and the ride from the Colosseum to the beach is pretty tough. Sure, we have to go slowly and wait for the older ones, but it's great fun."

Several towns have been awarded the special Bike Day Prize, according to the length of their car-free bike track.

But it's not just a matter of spreading the right culture on sustainable mobility and limit car use. Italy, differently from other European countries like Holland, unfortunately lacks paths, parking lots and infrastructures for bicycles.

Prestigiacomo highlighted that it's for this reason that Bike Day represents a unique occasion to boost such practices.

Thanks to her personal commitment, on April 30 the government approved a decree which supports sustainable bike mobility by creating in each new public office, train and subway station a specific parking lot for bicycles.

Source: Xinhua
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