MILAN, July 24 — For the past three years, the city of Milan has been working to transform squares, intersections and car parking bays into public spaces dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists, with play areas and vegetation. In addition to improving the safety of road users, and the quality of air and local life, these new spaces are also intended to be especially pleasant places for residents to use.

In recent years, Milan has transformed the equivalent of a little more than two hectares of city space into specially renovated public plazas, reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, and planted with new vegetation. The municipality has focused on land that is usually dedicated to car parking, in neighbourhoods with little green space. Today, these are vibrant public spaces that are welcoming and safe.

The creation of these spaces was spearheaded by Bloomberg Associates, and they are inspired by infrastructure already built in other cities, such as New York. The idea is to start by painting the asphalt, before adding benches and planters. These areas are obviously completely closed to cars. More than 30 of these small neighbourhood plazas have been created in this way in recent years, and the project is far from finished. At the same time, about 60 kilometers of streets have been closed to cars, in favour of cyclists and pedestrians.

This initiative forms part of a broader cycling plan, designed to facilitate the mobility of cyclists throughout Milan by increasing the city’s amenities and bicycle paths through 2035. It is also reminiscent of the initiative undertaken in Montreal, Canada, where many major roads are closed to cars in the summer and reserved entirely for pedestrians and cyclists, 24 hours a day. These streets also benefit from a whole range of improvements to make them into genuine spaces for public life. This involves measures such as extending sidewalks and terraces, and installing additional benches and playgrounds for children. On top of that, street art is being promoted, with frescoes painted on the ground and new works of art along the thoroughfares. — ETX Studio