The city in northern Italy and the surrounding Lombardy region are among the most polluted in Europe and were also particularly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
As part of the national lockdown, traffic congestion has dropped from 30 to 75% and air pollution has dropped. City officials hope to avoid a resurgence in car use as residents return to work, seeking to avoid busy public transportation.
The city has announced that 35 km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid and experimental expansion of cycling and pedestrian space to protect residents as the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
The Strade Aperte plan, announced Tuesday, includes temporary low-cost bike paths, new and widened roadways, speed limits of 30 km / h (20 mph) and priority streets for pedestrians and cyclists. The locations include a low-traffic area on the site of the former Lazzaretto, a refuge for victims of the plague epidemics in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Marco Granelli, deputy mayor of Milan, said: “We have worked for years to reduce the use of the car. If everyone drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move around, there is no space for commercial activities outside of stores.
“Sure, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis than before.
“We think we have to reinvent Milan in the new situation. We have to prepare; that’s why it’s so important to defend even part of the economy, to support bars, artisans and restaurants. When it’s over, cities that still have this type of economy will have an advantage, and Milan wants to be in this category. “
Milan is a small, dense city, 15 km from end to end with 1.4 million inhabitants, 55% of whom use public transport to get to work. The average journey is less than 4 km, which makes it possible for many residents to switch from cars to active modes of travel.
Work could begin on an 8 km stretch of Corso Buenos Aires, one of the city’s most important shopping streets, in early May – with a new cycle path and wider sidewalks. The rest of the work will be completed by the end of the summer, officials said.
Janette Sadik-Khan, former New York transport commissioner, works with cities like Bogota and Milan on their transportation stimulus programs. She says Milan, which is a month ahead of other cities in the world on the path of the pandemic, could provide a road map for others.
“Many cities and even countries have been defined by how they reacted to historical forces, be it political, social or physical reconstruction,” she said.
“The Milan map is so important because it has a good manual on how you can reset your cities now. It’s a unique opportunity to take a new look at your streets and make sure they are defined to achieve the results we want to achieve: not only moving cars as quickly as possible from point A to point B, but allowing everyone to move safely.
“I know we will look to Milan for advice from New York. “
Pierfrancesco Maran, another deputy mayor of Milan, said: “We have to accept that for months or maybe a year there will be a new normal, and we must create good conditions for living this new normal for everything the world.
“I think next month in Milan, Italy, Europe, we will decide part of our future for the next decade. Before, we had planned for 2030; now the new phase, we call it 2020. Instead of thinking about the future, we have to think about the present. “
In the UK, on Monday, Brighton began opening part of the waterfront, Madeira Drive, only for pedestrians and cyclists from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. In Barnes, London, businesses and residents have taper part of the road outdoor commercial parades to expand pedestrian space and help buyers keep their distance from each other.
Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, Dublin is suspending loading docks and parking spaces to increase space for social separation, using removable plastic dividers.