Pisa is known to the world for its leaning tower. Yet, the city has recently joined Eurocities to make a name for itself as an international player in sustainable urban mobility. “Being part of Eurocities allows us to have a more European vision,” explains Pisa’s Mayor Michele Conti. “We want to work towards an interconnected urban mobility, implementing public transport solutions and biking paths that go beyond the city limits and include nearby municipalities.”
The road so far
Since 2018, when the current administration was elected, Pisa’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) has focused on discouraging the systematic use of private cars and encouraging choices like walking and cycling instead. The city has also planned to increase the Limited Traffic Area (LTA) and promote access to the city centre with more sustainable transport modes.
The plan has already taken concrete shape by introducing about 1,600 shared modes of transport – between electric scooters, electric bikes and classic bikes – and building the infrastructure for them. “For example, a bike lane dear to our citizens connects the city centre to the coastal agglomeration of Marina di Pisa. Adults and families use it to reach the beaches easily and safely,” says Andrea Bottone, Manager of PisaMo, the company in charge of the city’s mobility.
The lane is about 12km long and repurposes the old tram line that, in the 1900s, connected the city to the waterfront. Today, it also links to another bike lane continuing along the coast. Another ongoing project is that of a cycling and pedestrian bridge. “The city hasn’t invested in such a massive project in 37 years, and we are hoping to finish it in the next six to eight months,” says Bottone.
The increase in prices of primary materials has substantially raised the cost of the bridge – almost a million more. However, Bottone insists this is a worthwhile investment as they “create permanent bike lanes to offer long-lasting infrastructure that will be used by our great-grandchildren too.”
Learning from others
These solutions might not sound innovative compared to other European cities, but Pisa’s starting block last year amounted to 20 bikes. All things considered, they have made a considerable jump already. And part of this can be retraced back to some European inspiration.
“Since our visit to Oslo last year, we dream of creating a pedestrian city,” confides Bottone. “We also met Bilbao, Haarlem and Zurich. They have managed to reduce car traffic with long-term policies. We have much to learn from these cities, and being part of Eurocities will be a big step in this direction.”
The expectation expressed by Council Member for Mobility Massimo Dringoli in a press release last summer is that the membership to Eurocities will give the city access to funding and European projects, helping them achieve their goal.
The experience of other cities in the network will be valuable to Pisa as the municipality faces challenges like preserving its historical centre and changing its residents’ behaviours. “We have to create new habits,” says Bottone. “We must guide people gradually and show them how changes, like forbidding cars to enter the city centre, improve their living conditions.”
Cars in Pisa have become bigger and more present in the past years, with more vehicles per family, especially in the city centre. “Our objective is to improve air quality and the free movement of people using other means than cars,” insists Bottone. “Our ideas will reach their full impact in the next 10-15 years, but we must start changing habits now.”
A symbolic first
“Pisa is participating in the European Mobility Week for the first time this year,” says Salvatore Di Noia, Mobility Advisor at PisaMo. “We hope to send a message to citizens and our politicians.” For the occasion, the area along the Arno river will be closed to traffic for two days.
This is a symbolic first for the city, which has joined the Eurocities Mobility Forum and hopes to participate in future project proposals and maybe become a pilot for sustainable mobility solutions. “Slowly but surely, we are trying to participate in the network and start new ideas,” says Di Noia. “We want an active presence and to find case studies we can implement in our context. Connecting with cities that have great experience will allow us to learn from their best practices to transfer and redesign for our city.”
It’s all at the service of a vision: “to see people drink a coffee or enjoy breakfast on the area along the river Arno, instead of hearing the roar of cars,” says Bottone.