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Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! Italian cyclist’s refusal to accept fine sees it rise 20-fold

University professor fined for riding over pedestrian crossing claims he broke no law – and hopes his Kafkaesque ordeal will help others embroiled in bureaucratic nightmare

A university professor in Italy who refused to pay a fine of €45 when he rode his bike across a pedestrian crossing in 2017 without anyone else around – save for what he maintains was an overzealous local police officer – has seen it escalate almost 20-fold to reach €860.

After the story went viral on Italian social media this week, Giuseppe Scaglione, an associate professor of architecture and urbanism at the University of Trento in the north east of the country, has said he will pay the much-increased penalty, while continuing to insist that he is the victim of an injustice and that he hadn’t broken any traffic laws, reports the Trentino edition of the Corriere della Sera.

Professor Scaglione, who said that he was grateful for the support he received after he revealed his woes in a letter to the newspaper that was published earlier this week, said that he would continue to fight the fine, but in the meantime had decided to pay it.

In his letter, he recounted how his decision to ride over the pedestrian crossing as he headed through what he said was a “semi-deserted” city to the train station one morning in May 2016 had ended up pitching him into quasi-Kafkaesque dealings with Italian bureaucracy.

"I cycled a short stretch of pedestrian crossing, about 2 metres long, and after a moment I heard the whistle of a traffic police officer,” he recounted.

“Given the minor nature of the infraction, I asked: ‘Have you lost your mind? There's no one there, why are you punishing me? I could miss my train.

“The incredible stiffness of Trento’s traffic police is known worldwide,” he continued, “but at that time it seemed completely abnormal to me.”

A month later, he received the fine, in the sum of €45, in the post.

“I wrote to the then mayor and to the head of the traffic police about the paradox of getting fined despite not having done anything wrong, since my understanding is that a cyclist can ride across on the crossings if he does not endanger pedestrians.”

He received no reply, and that seemed to be that, until he received a further letter last year informing him that the fine had now risen to €450.

“So, I wrote again to the current mayor and the head of the traffic police. This time, the mayor replied and said that fines need to be paid, even if nobody likes it. Pontius Pilate has washed his hands of the matter.

Most recently, he has been advised that due to his ongoing non-payment, the fine has now risen to €860.

"I wonder whether this behaviour is appropriate for a civilization that must provide services to protect the citizen and if the application of such high penalties is just and fair,” he mused.

“After always paying fines and taxes, in this case I am using civil disobedience,” he continued.

Describing the 20-fold increase in the amount of the fine as “madness,” he said that while he had previously paid fines to the council, he was refusing to do so on this occasion.

“I’ve contacted a lawyer and perhaps I will be forced to pay in instalments, but I find this injustice an example of a vexatious system against which I believe it is right to protest,” he fulminated.

“Mine is a civil battle, he added. “I have proposed a settlement of €150, which is a fair amount: if I can't, patience.

Following the publication of his letter earlier this week, the council defended the fine imposed on him, and made public the report of the traffic officer that led to it, describing how the cyclist “was coming from Torre Vanga towards the train station, travelling on his bike on the footway and traffic island of Cavalcavia San Lorenzo, where the pedestrian crossing is located” [while we cannot be certain, it seems likely to be the one in the picture above or at least very close by – Ed].

The council said that the officer invited Professor Scaglione to proceed by foot, pushing his bike, but he declined, a version of events that he contests.

Nevertheless, he has now decided to pay the fine, saying: “I’m happy to have shed light on a problem that clearly affects millions of Italians, not just me, so let us carry on with this battle,” explaining that a lawyer had given him what he described as “an interesting legislative insight” concerning his problem.

Thanking those from across the country who had expressed solidarity with his plight, he added that he hoped it would help highlight what he insisted is “the madness of Italian bureaucracy, which addresses stupid minor complaints rather than reality,” as well as bringing into focus what he believes are “usurious” levels of interest applied to fines such as the one he received six years ago should they not be paid in time.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Geoff Ingram | 9 months ago

 Are they stiff in all directions or just towards cyclists? Anyway if they are stiff, he should be compliant.

Ride On | 9 months ago

Just pay the fine and if you then think trying to claim it back is worth the hours of effort it will take, go for it. Always helps to think of the times you didnt get a ticket, divide that number by €45 and it doesnt seem so bad.

If not chalk it up to experience and get on with your life.

I remember reading an article about a bloke in Scotland making some sort of claim about a laptop he bought from currys(I think) I think it took 4 years and he "won" but it broke him.

Rendel Harris | 9 months ago


"The incredible stiffness of Trento's traffic police is known worldwide," he continued...

"Inflexibility" might be a better translation in order to avoid misunderstanding, or indeed disappointment...

perce | 9 months ago

Hurry up nige, this one's right up your street.

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