Italy TravelCurbing Rome’s Car Habit

Curbing Rome’s Car Habit
Published on Friday, April 24, 2015 by

via-urbanaVia Urbana, a quiet cobblestone street, will be the first car-free street in Rome after a municipal council vote to make the street a wholly pedestrian area. Anyone who has ever visited The Eternal City will testify to its eternal din from scooters, cabs and honking cars of all shapes and sizes. But the noise is a secondary ill; the real problem is safety, since aggressive drivers weave in and out almost heedlessly, causing real danger to those on foot and bicycles.

The proportion of cars to people in Rome is much higher than in other European capitols, and that’s also causing traffic delays, air pollution, decay to buildings, chaos for local businesses, and good old stress. Part of the problem—as previous visitors will also testify—is the lack of good public transportation in Rome (of course you can take an escorted tour and not have to worry about it at all!) With just three subway lines (one won’t even be done until 2020) and a seriously deficient bus system, many Romans have opted for individual car ownership.

One of the organizers of the Urbanamente movement (for the Via Urbana), Renato Gargiulo, wants to extend the car-free peace to nearby Via Leonina, Via Madonna dei Monti and Via Panisperna, pointing out how pedestrian zones can increase the influx of boutiques, cafes and other small businesses to Rome’s twisty small neighborhood vicoli.

A few days before the municipal council voted “yes” on the measure, Gargiulo and fellow protesters held a flash mob of walkers and cyclists with the express purpose of blocking would-be drivers from zooming through and/or parking on the street. “We want Via Urbana to become a model not only for the rest of the rione (districts), but for the whole of the centre of Rome,” Gargiulo says.

His model is the formerly poor Piazza della Suburra, at the Via Urbana’s metro station end, which is now lively and hip, after a necessary pipe repair forced the area to close to traffic. “We noticed that with the forced closure of the road, revenue has gone up 30% across the street,” says Gargiulo. “Before, with all the cars that were parked and the fear of being hit, people didn’t even see the shops. Now they do.”

By Kathy McCabe

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Photo by woodfirer,

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