In response to the coronavirus crisis, Milan is to introduce one of Europe’s most ambitious schemes. It is about reallocating street space from cars to cycling and walking.
Motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75% due to the nationwide lockdown. The air pollution associated with it has also dropped. Milan city officials hope to control the use of cars as residents return to work looking to avoid busy public transport.
Milan is a small and dense city in Italy, Europe. It is 15km from end to end. It inhabits 1.4 million inhabitants. 55% of them use public transport to get to work. The average commute is less than 4km. It makes the switch from cars to active modes of travel potentially possible for many residents.
Milan is among Europe’s most polluted cities. It has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. After the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the city has announced the transformation of 35km (22 miles) of streets. It would be done over the summer. It would be a rapid and experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space.
On Tuesday, the ‘Strade Aperte plan’ was announced. It includes pedestrian and cyclist priority streets, new and widened pavements, low-cost temporary cycle lanes, and 30kph (20mph) speed limits.
Marco Granelli, a deputy mayor of Milan, stated that they want to reopen the economy. However, they want to do it on a different basis from before. He further added that they have been working for years to reduce car use. They understand that the use of car compromises with space for people, movement, and commercial activities outside the shops.
Janette Sadik-Khan is a former transportation commissioner for New York City. She is working with cities including Bogota and Milan on their transport recovery programs. She says Milan is a month ahead of other world cities in the trajectory of the pandemic. It could provide a roadmap for others. She further added that the Milan plan is very important. It is because it lays out a good playbook for how one can reset the cities now. She considers it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She believes that the given case could enable them to take a fresh look at the streets and make sure that they are set to achieve the outcomes that they want to achieve.