Viva la bicicletta!

Italy’s City of Bicycles is a global exemplar of car-free living.

Bicicletta

image by Atlantide Phototravel / Corbis

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In the 1960s the citizens of Ferrara closed their city’s center to any polluting mode of transport, creating a sanctuary for pedestrians and the burgeoning masses of bicycle riders. Those prescient Italians set the cranks turning for Ferrara as it is today: Italy’s City of Bicycles, a global exemplar of car-free living, where 30 percent of people choose to commute on human-powered wheels.

Ferrara gained serious momentum in the late 1990s with the establishment of the Municipal Office of Bicycles (MOB), reports Carbusters (Nov. 2008–Feb. 2009). The MOB attends to infrastructure improvements that increase the safety and ease of cycling in the city—such as public air pumps and 50 miles of dedicated bike lanes. One “keystone” concept the MOB promoted: Bicycles are for everybody, regardless of social status.

You don’t even have to live in Ferrara to join the revolution. The city’s new Bicicard program provides free parking for tourists outside the city limits and a rental bicycle to ride during their stay.