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Civic Space 2.0

January 4, 2020

Simple fact: In Rome people are victimized by private automobiles to an increasing decree. Over 120 people died in traffic homicide in Rome in 2019, and over a third of these were pedestrians. The two 16-year-olds killed before Christmas crossing Corso Francia made the most headlines, but are indicative of a problem that Romans still seem reluctant to address.

Cars have little place in cities and rules are in place to limit the damage. In most cities these rules are pretty effective. In London if you want to drive in the city you pay a surcharge and you follow the law, or you don’t drive again.

Over the years the rules of the road in Rome have been gradually set aside, as if they don’t really matter. The city is a war zone. And like gun violence in the US, each tragic episode brings rhetoric but no action.

  • #badexample Traffic rules are ignored by city officials themselves, often seen double-parked or blocking the road
  • #redmeansgreen Throughout Rome stopping at red has become an optional, and the last cars to pass as the light turns red often block intersections leading to massive jams
  • #occupycrosswalks Pedestrian crossings are no-mans land, often blocked by cars and scooters, either parked or waiting far past the stop line for the light to change, forcing pedestrians dangerously out into traffic
  • #parkwherever Freeparking is a plague in Rome. Sometimes the city stupidly allows it legally, but for the most part cars park illegally and know that they will not be fined (or if fined will never pay).

like gun violence in the US, each tragic episode brings rhetoric but no action…

What can Romans do?

  • Register with the city https://www.comune.roma.it and use the segnalazione engine. It’s in Italian but pretty easy to figure out and it seems to elicit responses.
  • Use free-floating bike rental like Jump bikes and Greta bikes and park them respectfully. The new trend in Rome is to use them as civic bollards to keep cars out of car-free zones since the city has never protected these areas.
  • Make it clear that parking on the sidewalk outside a school, at a bus stop, or on the sidewalk/pavement is just not acceptable. So many tools are available now, from trip advisor (bad reviews for restaurants that encourage illegal parking) to twitter shaming. Of course, just speaking up is great too although in Rome we all know how dangerous that can be.
Ingenious ways to discourage cars from entering pedestrian zones.
This is how public space is meant to be used (and don’t start saying people shouldn’t be allowed to site and sketch in the historic center)
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