Milan, one of the cities hit hardest by the coronavirus, is already looking toward post-pandemic life. Once the lockdown is lifted, the city is set to introduce a plan that will encourage cycling and walking, rather than driving. Over 22 miles of streets will be transformed during the summer to place greater emphasis on cycling and walking, expanding cycling lanes and pedestrian areas.
The city, which is one of Europe’s most polluted, is implementing the measure partly to reduce vehicle emissions; pollution is down in the city since the lockdown. The plan would also address the demand for more cycling and walking space, as most of Milan’s residents commute short distances.
The plan also includes widened sidewalks, new speed limits, and cyclist and pedestrian priority streets.
Marco Granelli, deputy mayor of Milan, told The Guardian, “We worked for years to reduce car use. If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops. Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before.”
Infrastructure work could begin as soon as early May, with the installation of new cycle lanes and widened sidewalks. The rest would be completed by the end of the summer.
Janette Sadik-Khan, former transportation commissioner for New York City, is working with Milan on this program and believes the city could be an example for others around the world as they emerge from coronavirus lockdowns.
“The Milan plan is so important is because it lays out a good playbook for how you can reset your cities now,” she told The Guardian. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a fresh look at your streets and make sure that they are set to achieve the outcomes that we want to achieve: not just moving cars as fast as possible from point A to point B, but making it possible for everyone to get around safely. I know we’ll be looking to Milan for guidance from New York City.”