Postcard from Ferrara, Italy: Bicyclists rule both streets and sidewalks

How stereotypical to post photos of bicycles in Italy.

But Ferrara is different. It seems almost as though everyone has a bicycle, whether young or old. In contrast to many Italian cities, there were few motorcycles and Vespas zipping around.

The bike traffic is constant, and pedestrians, particularly distracted tourists gazing at the architecture, need to be wary. If automobile traffic laws apply to bicyclists, no one seems to have notified them in Ferrara. While cars yield to “walk” lights, bicyclists rarely do.

There are riders crisscrossing plazas running errands to pick up groceries, flowers or laundry. Parents ride to collect children from school or daycare, the children perched on seats attached to the front, back or both. A young adult talks her mother into sitting on the crossbar after lunch. Silver-haired gangs of retirees pedal to gather in the squares. Suits ride to work on bikes tricked out with handsome leather seats and matching saddlebags, and women dressed to the nines wearing spiked heels somehow manage to maneuver astride bikes as well.

From a pedestrian point of view, bicyclists reading texts were particularly scary. And, observing one ancient woman (meaning even older than this blogger who once had some kid start humming the Wicked Witch of the East theme song when I pedaled through downtown San Antonio) weaving obliviously in the middle of several lanes of traffic, I wondered: Do children in Italy struggle with the dilemma of at what age do you take away your parents’ bicycles?

Self-driving automobiles appear to be arriving in time to offer many in my generation an opportunity to remain behind the wheel a few extra years, but is anyone developing a self-driving bike for Italian seniors?

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