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Italy - Cycling

Italy has a high per capita ownership of cars and bikes, yet one of the lowest bicycle injury rates across Europe. Two decades ago, cycling in this country was considered dangerous because of how uneven the terrain was. Fortunately, the Italian authorities have improved cycling conditions to a great extent making it a safe, convenient, healthy and economical way of getting from one place to another. Every year, thousands of foreigners from across Europe take a cycling tour or holiday to Italy. Most of them prefer exploring the countryside and towns on their bicycles. This nation therefore gives a lot of importance to the sport as well as cyclists, whether they are residents or tourists.

Many of the roads all across the country are ideal for cycling. Many Italians are now looking at cycling as more than just a way to stay fit. In the major cities and developed towns, individuals have started depending upon cycling as a convenient way of commuting on a daily basis.

The municipal governments in certain cities levy a ban on motor traffic on specific days, making it necessary for people to walk or ride a cycle. Residents who are trying to reduce pollution are also gradually moving away from cars. Moreover, people who want to travel locally without getting in the way of Italy’s aggressive drivers are opting for cycles. While Italian drivers may have the tendency to honk at other cars, they generally are a bit more patient with cyclists. People can actually reach their destination faster if they cycle a short distance during rush hour. You save on travel expenses like gas and tickets by biking from one place to another. Parking is another factor that has increased the popularity of cycles among the city commuters. Biking is therefore becoming a common practice with locals and expats.

In the cities students, shop owners and skilled laborers are often seen cycling to school or work if they don’t have a long distance to travel. However, office executives still don’t like to show up at work all sweaty from a bike ride. Cycling has therefore still not become as popular a mode of transport with the corporate crowd, as it is in the US and the UK. You rarely see separate paths for cyclists like you do in the UK or certain parts of the US. Even in places that do have bike lanes, cyclists tend to ride on the sides of the streets.

When it comes to cycling, some prefer buying bikes while others rent them for only as long as they are required. On average, a brand new bike costs about €200 or so; a used cycle could cost anywhere between €70 and €150. Many retailers also maintain a new bike for a certain period of time without charging anything extra. For those who prefer renting, there are two options: city-run bike sharing services or private bike rentals.

The bike sharing program leases cycles for a very nominal rate of about €1 per hour. Every city has a number of kiosks, which are operational 24x7. Customers can pick up a bike from any self-service rack and then return it to the same rack or another one as per their convenience. Unfortunately, if a return stand is already full, the customer has to go to another return stand. To make use of this service, people first need to get a “bikesharing card”. The initial cost of the card is €10 of which €5 is the first “charge”. Customers wave the smartcard on the stand in which their chosen bike is locked and the rental meter starts as the bike is released. The same card should then be waved at an empty post for returning the bike, which stops the rental meter. Several mobile apps have also been designed to help commuters locate the nearest bike-sharing kiosk. For more information, log on to http://www.bikesharing.roma.it

Private bike rental companies generally have a wider range of cycles, which are in great condition. Customers need to leave their passport or other documents to rent a bike. The standard price for renting a cycle is €4 per hour but it can go as high as €13 per hour, depending upon the model. Some of the private bike rental companies across Italy include –

Veloce Bike Rental Italy
URL: http://www.rentalbikeitaly.com

Bici and Baci
Tel: +39 06 482 8443
URL: http://www.bibibaci.com

La Spicciola
Tel: +39 02 259 2682
URL: http://www.laspicciola.com

Bici & Radici
Tel: +39 02 8341 8589
URL: http://www.bicieradici.com

Italians are regarded as rash drivers and therefore, cyclists should be more careful when it comes to observing safety measures. All cycles are advised to wear helmets, reflectors and vests. All cycles should have a working bell/ horn and light.

On the downside, cyclists in Italy don’t adhere to any specific road traffic regulations. They are often seen zipping between cars during rush hour. At some major signals they pedal through cars, to the front of the red light just to avoid the crowd. They then move to the right when the light turns green.

People who travel by cycles should take strict measures to prevent robbery. Also, many public places do not have a bicycle racks so securing the bike becomes a challenge.

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