ROME – Thousands of cyclists staged a protest near the Colosseum in Rome on Saturday to draw attention to poor road safety and the lack of provisions for bike lovers in the car-cluttered Eternal City.
“Policy in this country is made for drivers,” said Alberto Fiorillo, one of the organisers of the initiative timed to coincide with protests in London and Edinburgh as part of a Cities Fit for Cycling initiative launched by The Times.
“There’s a civil war going on on the roads,” said Paolo Bellino. “This is a necessity that has been put off for too long. In the Netherlands, pro-cycling policies were adopted 40 years ago. We’re 40 years behind,” he added.
The protest was entitled “Veni, Vidi, Bici” — a play on words using the Italian word for bike in the famous saying attributed to Julius Caesar.
Bellino said the latest victims on the roads were a 54-year-old cyclist run down on Friday near Naples and a 14-year-old boy hit in Parma.
Protesters lay down in memory of slain cyclists on the Via dei Fori Imperiali built by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini through the Roman Forum, calling for the busy thoroughfare in Rome’s historic center to be pedestrianized.
Organisers said more than 2,500 cyclists have been killed on Italy’s roads over the past decade, with Rome and Milan showing the highest accident rates.
Potholes and poor driving make Rome one of the least bike-friendly European capitals, but many towns in northern Italy have pro-cycling policies.