ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH IN TRANSPORT
UP FOR GRABs
La Ciclovia Romana
2020 was all sorts of unexpected. Rome, like many other cities across the planet, has grabbed the bull by the horns - or rather, the bike by its handlebars - and ridden towards a new target: becoming a Future Cycling Capital with a spin. Francesco Iacorossi tells the story
Cyclists in a very quiet Piazza di Spagna due to the COVID-19 pandemic, © Gabriella Clare Marino
No one would have expected 2020 to turn out the way it did, and no one would have bet on it to also be one of the most exciting and surprising years for cycling – especially when it came to the Urbs Aeterna, the Eternal city of Rome.
Indeed, like many cities across Europe and beyond, the Italian capital has increased its spending and planning procedures around cycling and active mobility measures in response to the crisis. As citizens steered away from public transport and enjoyed government incentives to protect the environment and promote active modes, it is fair to say that COVID-19 has prompted particular and unprecedented investment on cycling in Europe, with more than €1.7 billion spent on cycling-related infrastructure and over 2,500 km of new bike lanes (1,400km implemented so far) since the pandemic began.
A most ambitious plan
In Rome, COVID-19 inspired the creation of a pioneering 150km transitory cycle route plan. To dates (and since May 2020, the date of Rome’s City Council approval of the plan), 20km of bike lanes along main streets and other key routes have been implemented. The plan is laying the foundations for the Italian capital’s long-awaited cycling network, whose creation is making Rome one of CIVITAS Handshake’s 10 “Future Cycling Capitals”.
However, the transitory cycle route plan is only one part of Rome’s more complex cycling infrastructure strategy.
A CIVITAS Handshake “Future Cycling Capital”
Through its public transport operator Roma Servizi per la Mobilità, the city is indeed also working on the GRAB project (Grande Raccordo Anulare delle Bici – Great Bike Ring Road). The idea behind the GRAB is the result of a collective work coordinated by
The plan is laying the foundations for the Italian capital’s long-awaited cycling network, whose creation is making Rome one of CIVITAS Handshake’s 10 “Future Cycling Capitals”
GRAB plans developed by Piano B Architetti Associati with a representation of San Gregorio St, © Piano B Architetti Associati
Bringing all citizens and tourists back on the saddle
Even though COVID-19 has temporarily restricted movements for tourists and citizens, it is envisioned that the Great Bike Ring Road will make an essential contribution to climate neutrality and public health, all while improving public spaces’ liveability and boosting local economies. In particular, it seems that the GRAB will serve as a magnet not only for local commuters on wheels, but also for the upcoming post-pandemic tourist wave. According to the 2016 Confindustria – Ancma (Italian Industrial Federation – Cycle and Motorbike National Association) study’s results, more than 600,000 tourists are expected to ride along the cycle road during its first year of implementation, thus generating a profit for local economies which should be five times bigger than the initial amount invested for the construction of the ring. Starting from Romulus and Remus’ legendary birth site, tourists who will ride along the GRAB will be able to visit the contemporary architectural projects by Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano and the street art in the Quadraro and Torpignattara neighbourhoods, as well as the historical landmarks of the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Trastevere neighbourhood. The ring will also facilitate the connections with parks (Appia Antica’s, Caffarella’s, and the Aqueduct’s) and the Tiber, Aniene and Almone’s waterfronts, marking the beginning of a future tourist green zone between the Imperial fora and the Regina Viarum.
Starting from Romulus and Remus’ legendary birth site, tourists who will ride along the GRAB will be able to visit the contemporary architectural projects by Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano
GRAB plans developed by Piano B Architetti Associati with a representation of the Quadraro neighbourhood, © Piano B Architetti Associati
Inclusive, accessible and safe – what else?
Participatory process: ON
In terms of size, the 48.6km long, easily accessible and exquisitely green cycling and pedestrian ring will extend throughout the city and beyond. In doing so, it will improve links between more and less affluent and central neighbourhoods. More specifically, the ring will wind for 29.7km (66% of the total plan) along pedestrian and cycle paths, historic villas and riverbanks. Other 15.3km will touch upon ordinary congested routes whose space will be given back to the people (pedestrians and cyclists), rather than cars.
The map of Grande Raccordo Anulare delle Bici – Great Bike Ring Road, © Roma Servizi per la Mobilità
The GRAB will also cross eight metro stations on four different lines (A, B, B1 and C), as well as 13 stops on six different tramlines and three railway stations. Furthermore, there will be three other railway stations (Roma-Lido, Roma Nord and Roma-Giardinetti) and nine metro stations less than a kilometre radius from the ring. Last but not least, the GRAB will be built using an universal accessibility vision – adequate width, smooth surface and safe intersections with ordinary road traffic will be binding features that will have to be harmonized with two upcoming 30km/h Zones in the Quadraro neighbourhood to provide a safe and inclusive space for active travel in the city.
Promo image from the second online seminar dedicated to the GRAB participatory process and managed by Roma Servizi per la Mobilità and the Architecture and Design Department of La Sapienza University, ©: Roma Servizi per la Mobilità
Inclusive, Future of cycling? Omnes viae Romam ducunt, they say
As the GRAB and the transitory cycle route plan are being developed, it is clear that Roman bike lanes do exist and are here to stay, improve, and pave the way for a new and unique vision of breath-taking paths and easily accessible and faster routes,
Only time will tell if all roads would really lead to Rome – especially when it will come to the future of cycling.
Rome as a POLIS Member
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