We’ve all heard the rumors about Italian drivers – they don’t watch where they’re going, they speed, and they’ll pass you without a moment’s thought. So if you’re more than a little terrified about riding your bike on Milan’s open roads, you’re not alone.
But what if we told you that it isn’t nearly as scary as you’re imagining? The hardest part is having the courage to hop on a bike – and thanks to the BikeMi scheme, you get to test the waters without a major investment.
1. Sign up for BikeMi: Get a week’s worth of unlimited bike riding for just €9. The best part is that you can pick up and drop off at locations throughout the city. Once you realize that biking in Milan is actually quite enjoyable, you can either extend your membership to one year for €36, or invest in your own bike.
Top tip: The first 30 minutes are free. Keep the bike for an hour and pay €.50. Keep it for 1.5 hours and pay €1.50. Keep it for two hours and pay €3.00. Make sure you don’t keep a bike for more than two hours at a time; if you exceed that limit three times, your subscription will be suspended.
2. Beware of tram tracks: The city is full of trams, and their tracks are more than capable of knocking you to the ground, particularly in wet weather. Cross the tracks at 90 degrees when possible, and don’t use your brakes when you’re crossing them. Never ride directly on top of them, as your tires can easily get stuck inside.
3. Watch out for opening car doors: A driver opening their car door can be disastrous for a cyclist. Always try to give enough space between cars and your bike, so you won’t be hit with a door if someone decides to get out. If this isn’t possible, scan the cars you’re approaching to see if there are people inside, and watch their movements with caution.
4. Use bike lanes when possible: Milan’s roads still have a long way to go before they’re considered “bike friendly,” but bike lanes are available in quite a few places. Always take advantage of these when you have the chance.
Top tip: Even if the bike lane is technically going in the other direction, on the other side of the road, you can still use it (the Milanese are not bothered by such “violations”). Just make sure you allow enough space for those cycling in the opposite direction to get past you.
5. Stick with other cyclists: A lot of people have chosen cycling as their number one method of transportation in Milan, so you’ll rarely find yourself alone on a road. When possible, stick with the others to enhance your chances of being seen in high traffic areas, particuarly when you’re crossing intersections.
6. Cycle on the sidewalk as a last resort: Although this method isn’t recommended as a regular cycling technique, the Milanese quite often cycle on the sidewalk if they feel it’s the safest thing to do at any point. Just make sure you don’t get in the way of pedestrians, or you might find yourself being shouted at.
7. It’s ok to cycle in the opposite direction: In any other city, this tip would be ill-advised, and would likely lead to a ticket. However, it’s common to see the Milanese cycling the wrong way on a one-way road. Police and other drivers don’t seem to mind. But once again – try not to make this a habit.
8. Always indicate your direction: You won’t see many Milanese doing this, but making a turn without indicating is highly dangerous and could end badly if a car is trailing closely behind you. Stick out your right arm out for a right turn, left arm for a left turn. Simple.
9. Careful on the cobblestones: Milan may be a cosmopolitan city, but many of its roads are still stuck in the past. Be prepared for a bumpy ride in places, and be sure your personal items are safely stored, unless you want to dodge traffic while reclaiming your contents from the road.
10. Never leave your bike unlocked: As with any big city, theft is a reality, and the professionals know exactly what to look for. Even if you’re only popping into the shop for a few seconds, always chain your bike to something.
11. Invest in a great set of lights: Being seen is key – and a good set of lights will only set you back a few euros. If you choose to go to the BikeMi route, you already have a set built-in, which light up as you pedal.