Sharing the road
We biked into Lucca this morning – to tour the old city by bike rather than on foot, to eat breakfast at a sidewalk café, to check out the bus schedule to Pisa. Our route takes us across typical country roads, across railroad tracks, through heavy city traffic. A trip of roughly 15 miles round trip.
You may think we are doing something unique by biking as much as we do. But we’re not unique. Not in the least. Not in Italy. Bicycles are everywhere. In small towns. In the country. In the cities. Our landlady keeps a collapsible bike in her car just for getting around easily in Lucca.
I realized as I was pedaling along that my thighs didn’t burn and that my lungs had plenty of capacity. More important, I realized I was no longer afraid of being run down by a car.
In the past three weeks, I’ve come to realize a significant feature of Italian roads and drivers. Everyone shares. It’s not that drivers tolerate bikers. It’s that everyone grants to everyone else an equal right to the road.
Nowhere was this more visible than at a railroad crossing this morning. The crossing guards were down and traffic was backing up. Cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. Cars lined up for a block or more on either side. A dozen motorcycles and bicycles crowded up right next to the crossing guards, spread across all lanes of traffic going in both directions. The longer the rails were down, the more bikers crowded up front.
There is logic to this approach. As the guardrails rise after the train passes, motorcycles and bicycles can slip under and get across before cars are clear to go. It is better for everyone for the bikers to get going and get out of the way.
The amazing thing about this is that no one cursed, or blew their horn, or gave the finger to the bikers. The bikers had just as much right to be there as the cars.
I wish I had a photo to share of the railroad crossing, but I don’t. I was paying attention to getting through the crossing safely.
That’s another thing about Italian drivers. They drive fast, but they pay attention. And that’s another reason I feel safe biking on Italian roads.