Not long after arriving in Milan I was involved in a cycling accident. It was partly my fault; having realised that I was heading in the wrong direction, I performed a quick turnaround, crossing a central lane reserved for trams, taxis and – it turns out – mopeds, including the one that I collided with.
To cycle in this city, you need to have your wits about you. My battered single-speed Feather, a survivor of six gruelling years of living in New York, is entirely unprepared for Milan’s challenges, including the gaps in the road caused by tram tracks.
Milan isn’t Paris or Copenhagen. There isn’t a big urban commuting culture (though getting into the mountains on a racer is an entirely different matter) and no one bothers with apparently trivial accessories such as helmets or bike lights. But the city’s mayor, Giuseppe “Beppe” Sala, wants to change all of that. There are several ambitious long-term plans that will hopefully survive when he leaves office after the next election in 2026. These include the Cambio (Change) initiative, which will create four circular superhighways in Milan, extensive paths leading out to neighbouring communities and corridors through green areas. The recently launched cycle lanes in eastern Milan that run above the partially opened M4 metro line are also an excellent development.
Those plans bode well for the future but plenty of work remains to be done to transform this new infrastructure into a coherent, integrated system. For example, a recently opened lane by Dateo metro station currently joins an existing path east after crossing an intersection but the junction is marked by a high curb that no one seems to have thought of lowering. It’s small details such as this, as well as the grand gestures, that will be the key to Milan’s future as a cyclist-friendly city. That, and stopping careless newcomers from throwing themselves in front of mopeds.
Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Milan-based Europe editor at large.