Cycling

Valrano Scala

This is yet another town built around a long straight road; it seems to be the way to do it in this area. I’ve never been to South America but a lot of the places have the feel of towns you imagine exist down there.
The long straight roads are good for thinking and I have been pondering two things in particular both to do with cycling in Italy.
Firstly the roads. I tweeted earlier today a picture of an amazingly good quality, quiet road. Only later did I notice while glancing at the map that the road started to be amazingly good quality just after we crossed from Lazio into Campagna. This has happened before. When I emerged from the tunnel into a heavy rain shower on the day I cycled from Siena to Bolsena, I was also emerging into the region of Lazio. The road was horrendously poor quality and I had a good old rant about it at the time. The roads from the Swiss border to Milan were also very poor. In Tuscany they were excellent and from the evidence so far, they are pretty good in Campagna. I can only conclude that the roads I am cycling upon – the town to town ones – are the responsibility of the regional administration. My theory will be proven if when I cycle from Campagna to Puglia, the roads deteriorate. Although clearly I’d love it if they didn’t.
Second area of ponderment (just invented a new word there) is the drivers. Many people warned me about cycling in Italy using the words “dangerous”, “treacherous” and the like. I have to say that so far, I wouldn’t use either of these adjectives to describe the general cycling conditions. The majority of drivers are just like anywhere else; they pull out to give you space, are patient at traffic lights etc… There are however a minority of idiots who excel themselves in their idiocy. Someone once told me that although the drivers in Italy are fast, they are also safe. This is utter rubbish. Speed kills and the sad evidence of this is in the bunches of flowers and small memorials that can be found next to most roads, tied to a tree or a signpost. Some drivers almost seem to be unaware that a cyclist is in front of them, make no change to their driving position in the road and continue regardless. I was passed by one such lorry driver this morning who must have been within 50 cms of the bike. I’d like to hope that he wasn’t on his mobile phone at the time, a new taboo in many countries which doesn’t seem to have caught on here. Comically, when cycling down the mountain from the Passo della Cisa a week or so ago, I was behind (thank goodness) a lorry carrying a full load of logs. As we twisted left and right along the switchback road, I could clearly see that the guy at the wheel had a mobile phone in one hand and the wheel in the other. It doesn’t bear thinking about who or what was changing gear for him. However, what annoys me the most about the far from silent minority on the Italian roads are those who use their horns as an extension of their voice. Italians like to talk (apart from the ones I witnessed in the restaurant a few night’s ago) so it must be extremely frustrating for some to not have the ability to speak to the other people on the road in the way they would a passenger in the car. So how do they compensate? By using the horn of course. I’m used to drivers in the UK using the horn to say one thing – “watch out, I’m taking evasive action and you need to do the same”. It Italy it could mean any of the following:
– watch out, I have no intention of stopping or even using my brake so it’s up to you whether you get out of my way
– hey, I’m a cyclist too and I think what you are doing is brilliant; good luck mate!
– you stupid idiot; I could have killed you and despite it clearly being my fault, my ego won’t let me at least drive away without giving everyone the impression that it was your fault
– I have brought your washing back from the cleaners but can’t be bothered to get out of the car to ring your bell so I am going to sit here tweeting my horn until you come down – nice tits
Etc…
So me, as a humble cyclist am lost as to which interpretation to read into the sound of a horn. I just wish they would shut up! Tweet tweet!!

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Categories: Cycling

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4 replies »

  1. I find your commenst about the driving interesting. I too was warned endlessly about the dangerous driving in Italy, and have had many people asking me how I survived! I agree with you that generally they were no worse. Compared to Switzerland where there were endless cycling lanes it is obviously slightly closer to the traffic, but I never felt unsafe.
    That said, Napoli was outrageous!! I have been cycling on roads since my paperround 20 yrs ago, so I am confident in traffic and refuse to be intinmidated. However, Napoli tested that resolve. It was every man for himself out there and I eneded up joining the mopeds and just pushing my way through.
    I also find your comments on the horns interesting. I started to be annoyed by that as I assumed they were complaining or being aggressive in the use, but then I changed my mind. Many times there was really no negative reason why they could have been using it. I came to the conlcsion that it was just for information. Many of them were just letting me know that they were approaching, which I thought was very kind!!

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