Milan, Italy. The name evokes images of high fashion and beautiful cathedrals. But you may not know that Milan also has been nicknamed the “pollution capital of Europe.”

Pierfrancesco Maran

Seven years ago, Milan started a bike-sharing program to encourage people to leave their cars at home. Pierfrancesco Maran is the Deputy Mayor for Mobility and Environment. He says the number of bikers who use the program has increased by 35,000 in the last five years.

But the city still needs to do more to reduce its air pollution . . . which got so bad last winter, Milan banned private cars for three days to reduce the smog.

To promote even more cycling, Milan is building new bike lanes to make it safer, and looking for other ways to encourage people to travel by bike.

For example, the city is planning an experiment to pay residents a few cents for every mile they bike to work. The idea has been tried in other cities without success, but Maran is optimistic because biking is becoming so popular in Milan.

Maran: “Italian people, they used to love cars. Especially during the 70s and 80s. Now something is changing.”

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With these changes, Milan may one day be known for its wonderful food, fashion, and architecture – not its air pollution.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo credits: Milan bike lane photo (copyright protected); Pierfrancesco Maran (courtesy of Comune di Milano).

More Resources
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Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...