With more and more streets closing to motor traffic in Florence, a taxi or bus may not be the best option if you need to get somewhere fast. With its beautiful narrow streets and dozens of paths, Florence is a great place to ride a bike!
First of all, you’ll need to buy a bike to ride one. Florence is full of bike shops that sell or long-term rent both new and used wheels.
LdM went to the Sergio Bianchi store, a Florentine brand that has been making bikes for generations. (See the video clip to the right!) At this store, you can buy a new bike or, as a student, take part in their rental program: for 169 euro you can buy a bike, keep it for a few months, and then sell it back to the shop when you leave and get back a portion of the initial cost. But be sure not to get your bike stolen because you’ll loose your cash and your wheels!
Now for safety and etiquette. Bikes have to follow the same rules as cars in Florence. Where you can find them, use the cycling paths, usually painted red on one side of the street. Cycling paths are usually two-way, so stay on the right hand side. When no bike path is available, you have to stay on the street, not on the sidewalk. Be very careful as Florentines drive fast, and if you’re on multi-lane road with no bike path, you should use a helmet.
Pedestrians always have the right of way, so make sure to ride cautiously and keep your hands on the breaks: bike defensively.
Bikes get stolen a lot in the city center. Make sure to get a heavy chain lock, not a plastic or wire one, which are too easy to break. There are plenty of racks throughout the center so use them! It’s best to lock up at a bike rack where your bike will be less conspicuous.
If you can’t find a rack, make sure you lock up on something tall, and that cannot be moved or lifted. Wrap your lock around the pole, front wheel and frame. You may even want to get an additional lock for the back wheel or the seat: thieves can sell any part they get their hands on!
If you feel like biking just for the fun of it, there are stunning paths Florence’s surrounding area: the Lungarni are sitted with cycling paths, the Cascine Park has some leisurely routes, and if you want a workout, why not try biking uphill all the way to piazzale Michelangelo?
Florence’s mayor, Matteo Renzi, is known for riding his bike to work. Why not join him?