The brother of Michele Scarponi, the 2011 Giro d’Italia winner killed during a training ride near his home in April when a van driver failed to give way to him, says the family intends to set up a road safety foundation in his memory.
Marco Scarponi, who lives in the family’s home town of Filottrano in Italy’s Marche region, where his brother lost his life as he prepared for this year’s 100th edition of the race, revealed the plans in a letter to national newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.
He sent the letter in response to an article published in the same newspaper last week in which Paralympic handcycling champion Alex Zanardi, the former racing driver who lost his legs in a crash in 2001, offered to provide his services for free to front a campaign against drivers distracted by using mobile phones at the wheel.
Last month, it was reported that the van driver involved in Scarponi’s death had told investigators that he had been watching a video on his phone at the time of the fatal collision.
In his letter Marco Scarponi, a father of three who works as a special needs teacher, said he had decided to put pen to paper after reading Zanardi’s article since he too had been reflecting upon what Italy’s roads had become.
His conclusion? That they had become the prime location of “the most silent and horrible massacres,” with almost 3,300 people killed – 275 of them cyclists and 570 pedestrians – and nearly a quarter of a million injured in 2016 according to official statistics he cited.
“Among the most frequent and dangerous wrongful behaviour while driving, distracted drivers – often through the use of mobile phones at the wheel – speeding and the effects of alcohol or drugs need to be highlighted,” he said.
He continued: “I strongly believe that the time has come to bring about the necessary change in culture so that on our roads – I’m not saying we can return to playing and meeting as freely and as safely as we did many years ago – but at least pedestrians, cyclists and motorists can move about with no more deaths.”
Underlining that above all, political will was needed to bring about such a change, he urged the relevant authorities to use all their efforts to identify critical issues and to improve safety at places that had already seen fatal crashes.
“It’s time that ongoing and decisive prevention, promotion and training is undertaken everywhere,” he urged.
“And to be clear for once and for all; incidents happen on the road because someone makes one or more mistakes and often that person who makes a mistake kills.”
He said it would be better for the car to be left in the garage “on the days in which the engine is switched on to travel the 100 metres that separate us from our children’s school, from work, from the bar.”
If that happened “a healthy, sustainable and safe way of life would descend on our streets,” he said, adding that “whether we like it or not, and as much as we believe ourselves to be innocent, we are all the same involved in and potentially guilty of a massacre.”
In conclusion, he said that “it is my family’s intention, once positive energies take the place of negative ones, to set up a foundation that will bear Michele’s name,” the main goal of which would be concerned with road safety.
“Michele’s smile will save many lives,” he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.