This is not the best photo I’ve ever taken — Charlie had had enough of standing around waiting for me to take yet another photo — but there’s something about it that really appeals to me. I love the moment-in-time aspect of it all. It really does feel like a snapshot of life in Bologna, behind the scenes of any touristy bits, even though it is smack in the middle of the Quadrilatero, if I remember correctly. The restaurant cook on the phone, perhaps placing a last-minute order. The woman cycling past that reminds me of Utrecht. The young couple perhaps making plans, and the older couple on their way somewhere, as the sun highlights the glorious colors of Bologna, while leaving other parts in cooler shadows.
All of this is just one more reason to love Bologna.
Cycling in Bologna is being taken more seriously than in decades past as there are now more cycling paths, not to mention the Dynamo Velostazione, where you can rent, store, and repair all sorts of bikes, particularly helpful if part of your commute is by train. But that doesn’t mean Bologna cycling is a piece of cake. While out the other day, I saw a couple of instances where Bologna cycling looked more like an introduction to extreme sports.
First off was the combination walking and cycling path next to a relatively busy road. These are fairly common in the Netherlands in park areas and large bridges, though not so common along regular roads, where the bicycles tend to have their own lane and pedestrians have a full sidewalk. Here in Bologna I’ve seen a few of these combo paths where the pedestrians are farthest from the street and the cyclists are next to the street. They’re essentially normal sidewalks that have been divided to serve double duty. The result is that the cycle path is often unbelievably narrow. Yet people do use them.
In another instance, the cyclists do finally have their own segregated lanes away from traffic, though what would typically be one lane in the Netherlands is two lanes here, for cycle traffic in both directions. Challenging, but not that bad, as the bike traffic isn’t heavy. The real challenge in one spot comes from the lamp poles. This is not a one-off, either. They tend to ignore obstacles that might impede bicycles. Think of it as a good reason not to text and bike; you definitely need to be paying attention!
I do see people cycling around town almost every time I’m out, although nowhere near the volume that I saw in the Netherlands, of course. There is obviously interest, and people willing to use whatever infrastructure there is. As the old Kevin Costner film said, “If you build it, they will come.” If Bologna continues to make more of an effort in creating truly useful, cycle-friendly infrastructure that is consistent — another key issue — I think you could find even more people cycling. There’s certainly no shortage of bike shops in the city center. I can think of three or four just in my immediate neighborhood. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to see some effort.