Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini has backpedalled on introducing draconian laws for cyclists, insisting that rules he told the country’s parliament earlier this week, including requiring riders to wear a helmet, take out insurance and put number plates on their bikes were aimed solely at people riding scooters.
The apparent change of mind comes just 48 hours after the Lega leader, whose party is in coalition with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party, told MPs during a question and answer session in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome that the government intended to introduce strict laws to regulate “mobilità dolce” – “soft,” or sustainable mobility – “on two wheels, requiring compulsory helmet, insurance, number plate and indicators for scooters and bicycles.”
Salvini’s comments in Parliament, which were widely reported internationally, sparked outrage at home among both political opponents and cyclists.
MP Mauro Berruto of the centre-left PD party describing it as “an outdated measure that, once again, blames and bullies cyclists and vulnerable road users,” reports Il Fatto Quotidiano, while bike manufacturers’ trade association ANCMA pointed out that Italy would become “the only country in Europe to introduce these obligations.”
But today, in a U-turn so hasty that it has presumably left tyre-marks across the piazza in front of the Palazzo Montecitorio, where the Chamber of Deputies is housed, Salvini insisted in an interview with the right-wing media outlet Libero that the measures he outlined were only intended to apply to people riding scooters – electric ones, presumably, although the Italian term “monopiattini” could equally apply to ones without motors.
Claiming he wanted to put the record straight and that his words in Parliament had been misconstrued by “someone” wishing to “cause confusion,” he said: “Number plates, indicators, helmet, insurance and speed limits are for scooters, not for bicycles.”
We’re glad that’s cleared up, then – at least, “until the next U-turn,” as Il Fatto Quotidiano concluded its article.
Salvini’s comments on Wednesday also attracted widespread derision on social media, with several Twitter users recalling how just a few years ago, he himself had hit out at a PD senator who floated the idea of introducing the very same measures against cyclists that the minister outlined this week.
“Meanwhile a PD senator has proposed making owners of BICYCLES have number plates, and be subject to vehicle tax,” Salvini fulminated in December 2015, adding the word, “Madmen!” and a hashtag that translates as #donttoguchbikes.
Recalling that tweet this week, Twitter user Lisaonthesofa wrote: “It's amazing how this man always manages to contradict himself, no matter the subject. Born to be in opposition, but to himself."
— 𝙻𝚒𝚜𝚊 𝚘𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚘𝚏𝚊 (@Lisaonthesofa) June 8, 2023
Simon joined road.cc 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.