How have Italy’s cities changed under coronavirus lockdown?

FOR two months under Covid-19 lockdown, Italy’s cities fell silent. Traffic was drastically reduced as only absolutely necessary trips outside the house were permitted. Shops and restaurants pulled down their shutters and non-essential businesses halted production.

Wildlife and nature took advantage of the lull and began to reassert themselves, with dolphins swimming in Cagliari’s port, geese waddling in the middle of roads in Treviso, and a bear scaling balconies in Trentino.

More importantly, perhaps, air pollution has been dramatically reduced and cities have become much more people-friendly rather than the domain of vehicles.

On May 4, Italy took its first steps towards returning to normality, with over four million people returning to work, visits to relatives allowed, and greater freedom for outdoor exercise. But Italy is determined to avoid its cities relapsing into chaotic, polluted centres.

In Milan, in the worst-hit region of Lombardy, authorities hope to transform the city into eco-friendly space. They have begun work on 35km of bicycle lanes and widened pavements that will favour cyclists and pedestrians over car traffic.

The scheme has been named ‘Strade Aperte,’ open roads, and it will also introduce 30 kph speed limits in some areas and pedestrian and cyclist priority streets.

Rome has also announced that it has pledged €3.8 million in order to construct 150km of new cycle lanes in the capital.

The government is backing the environmentally friendly changes by potentially giving up to €500 to people in cities who purchase bikes (including electric-assist), and up to €200 for scooters or car-sharing.

Venice may not have cars, but its pollution levels remain high due to motorboat traffic and cruise ships. Under lockdown, rowing boats were used to deliver shopping. While this is not feasible in the long run, campaigns and petitions are hoping to introduce stricter speed limits and controls on boat traffic and are pushing for eco-friendly bio-fuel to be obligatory.

These initiatives are hoping to combat the problem of how to travel while maintaining social distancing post-coronavirus lockdown. Public transport such as buses and trains will be running at 30 per cent capacity meaning many people will have to look for alternative modes of transport. To avoid people resorting to car travel, cities hope their environmentally conscious schemes will encourage more cycling and walking to work.

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Written by

Rebecca Ann Hughes

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