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Biking in Rome questions

Hi All,
When I go back to Rome I was considering possibly taking my folding bike. I am not an avid hill climbing bike rider. Roads without hills are good. I'm not thinking about the cobblestones this minute either. This is what I was looking to do (just thinking about if it's even a feasible idea right now though). Some days I would explore on the bike, other days walking/public transportation. I remember watching the scooter riders in traffic and it looked pretty treacherous. I would not be doing that, I would be doing slow and relaxing riding avoiding heavier traffic areas. I guess my questions are: has anyone here, that is an average rider not an Olympic athlete ridden around Rome? And was it worth the time bringing your bike? ( I need the lightweight folding bike, it's easier for me to handle). Also, how did it work out going into a museum, for a meal etc. Was it difficult to find a safe place to lock it up when you went inside? I'm just trying to think if it would be a lot of trouble and would it just get ripped off if I couldn't bring it inside somewhere. I would love to take my bike and am willing to have some inconvenience but not if it will end up taking away from the whole fun of the experience. Thanks for any riders opinion. Take care!

Posted by
4945 posts

Not an avid rider, but have some decent observations on Rome.

Except for very early morning, most side streets are not really wide enough to fight both crowds and the occasional vehicle. My memories as a pedestrian are of having to look ahead, to the side, and behind me at the same time...winding between people and cars. In the Pedestrian zones, which there are many, the same, but no cars, I am not certain the rules on bikes in Pedestrian zones.

Riding in traffic...I refuse to drive in the traffic with a steel shell around me; Scooters (ala Roman Holiday) may have been fine in the 50's, 70 years later, not advised. A bike?, certainly a way to have an exciting vacation.

That said, in the large parks, probably pleasant, along the Via Appia, biking is very popular. There are some bike paths along the Tiber, and they do have some Bike Share programs and Bike Tours in Rome.

In short, if you are up to lugging it along, a bike will likely see more use on planned excursions, rather than a basic transport around town. Maybe do some searches for bike shares, Trails, and tours. That will give you an idea of where they are going and what trails might be available, as well as any laws or rules that apply.

Posted by
81 posts

Hi Paul,
I agree with you. I don't want to get run over or deal with crazy traffic. I appreciate your opinion. I did see some electric bike tours set up so that I think is a better option. If I get tired, the battery assist can help and I don't have to lug a bike through customs. Might not be that much safer but maybe a group of people with a guide is better. Okay, thanks again! Take care!

Posted by
81 posts

Hi MaryPat,
Thank you for sharing those links. I had just seen similar ones and I realized that is the smarter thing to do. Plus I saw electric bikes, lol a little less work for me when I get tired! Take care, Margaret

Posted by
12063 posts

My cousin’s daughter lives in Rome. She was (is) concerned about catching Covid on public transportation so I suggested to ride a bike when she needed to go out for her errands and the occasional visits to the office when not telecommuting. She replied that riding a bike in Rome’s traffic is far more dangerous than Covid.

Having said that there are other things to consider. Rome is not exactly flat, so if you ride a bike you must be willing to put a lot of physical effort trying to negotiate the many hills, the other issue to consider is the extra weight you need to add to your luggage. I wouldn’t. You should go there without the extra burden, and, if after seeing the situation you decide you want to ride a bike, you can rent one locally. An electric bike would definitely be better to climb those hills. Make sure you lock a bike with a lock, don’t leave an unlocked bike unattended.

Posted by
4210 posts

I've been to Rome many times and whilst I've never actively looked out for cyclists I don't recall Rome being much of a city full of cyclists in comparison to other cities. As a casual cyclist I wouldn't dream of cycling in Rome, the traffic and standards of driving would put me off completely. I understand there are new cycle lanes being marked out in Rome as a result of the pandemic but I've not been there to witness how this is working out as work started in May last year.

Posted by
1919 posts

I'd agree with Roberto's cousin's daughter - riding a bike in Rome might be more dangerous than Covid!

Living in S. Holland we bike - weather permitting - almost every day. But the difference is, the "bike infrastructure" here is amazing. 10+ years ago, when I lived in Rome, we jogged and even rollerbladed on the bike paths in Prati (all two of them), but I never rode a bicycle for recreation in Rome. We had a motorino and that was our primarily in-town wheeled transportation. Unfortunately, we had four accidents riding the scooter - NONE of them our fault. (I was hit by a taxi, another motorino driver crashed into me at a red light, we slid through an oil spill in front of St. Peters and went down... and the front fork of the bike broke while my wife was hauling it done Via Guilo Cesare). We were fortunate to never get hurt (well, not bad enough to go to the hospital).

But having been on a motorino, I never saw myself riding a bicycle in the city. First, the traffic is often oblivious to bike riders. They are "in the way" as an Italian friend explained to me. Second, the cobblestones, which batter you on a motorino, are incredibly dangerous on a bike - especially when it's rainy or wet. Not to mention, they're so uneven. (Of course, this year in Rome, they are tearing out many cobblestone streets and replacing them with pavement).

That said, there is one way to more safely ride a bike in Rome... and that's on a bike tour. I did one - with a friend who biked - and I have to say, it was enjoyable. We did not have electric bikes back then, so it was a "moderate-level" tour. What made it "easy" was the guide who road with us. He knew all the streets/alleys to take us on with limited or no traffic. He knew the smoothest roads and the places to cross busy intersections. He got us to the Aqueduct area so easily, I wish I'd taped it on my video camera. And no doubt, there was safety in numbers. We were at least 15 bikers, all had helmets and safety vests - so we stood out. And I'd do it again. But only in a group!

Posted by
1511 posts

The hotel that I like near Piazza del Popolo (which appears in the movie Trip to Italy) has loaner bikes, mostly junkers but a few nice ones, too, and that is part of why I like the hotel, so that's something you can keep in mind as another possibility.

Honestly, though, using them forces a kind of attention/awareness/concentration (and anxiety) that isn't atop my list of desirable moods while on a visit to Rome. It's just as hard to avoid trouble in pedestrian zones as in car traffic, and in pedestrian zones you can hear the screams and complaints much more easily as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtlEQ6y8Rp8

Posted by
6974 posts

Also, how did it work out going into a museum, for a meal etc. Was it difficult to find a safe place to lock it up when you went inside?

I see you have already elected to go to 'Plan B', but during the time I was a tourist in Rome, I have no recollection of seeing bike racks or other accommodations for storing bikes for short term activities. ( And my hotel room certainly didn't have the space for storage when not in use)

Posted by
81 posts

Hi everyone,
I think after reading the comments I will just pass on biking there. It was pretty hard in some areas just trying to cross with a group. It was just an idea to maybe get out and see a bit more rather than slow walking. It's definitely not worth all the extra stress. Thank you all for writing! Take care, Margaret

Posted by
178 posts

Biking in Roma could be quite hard. In my opinion doesn't worth you bring your own bike with you. The historical center has very few bikeways, so you must ride between cars and pedestrians and could be stressful or even dangerous. And the stealing of your bike is a real risk.
But just outside historical center there are several bikeways who lead you to visit places farer to the center. So by bike you can discover much more. So don't give away the idea ti ride when in Rome. For your information, this is the map of bikeways in Roma: https://romamobilita.it/it/muoversiaroma/ciclabilita
So, my suggestion is to rent a bike for the day (or half day) and check if is doable. Could be even cheaper than the transport on the plane. If you see that is too stressful simply continue the holiday without it.
There should be even a bike sharing services. I suppose Uber Jump is present in Rome. You rent the bike only for the period when you ride it, then when closed isn't your matter.

Posted by
4601 posts

I am an avid biker, once rode my bike 5,000 miles a year, and have done 100 mile rides, rides across Georgia, Florida, NC and Virginia. However, I would NEVER try riding a bike in Rome's traffic. I have been to Rome twice and loved it. It is my favorite city.

However, you are at risk in such traffic, especially the way the locals drive.

As for scooters, motorcycles, etc. they have a nickname, organ donor machines. I have had two friends that died on a motorcycle and they did nothing wrong.

Posted by
81 posts

Yeah even crossing some streets in rome was scary. Well then I can just do more walking. Thank you for writing!

Posted by
1919 posts

Margaret, probably a wise decision to forgo exploring Rome by bicycle. I pulled up a few videos I had of riding a motorino in Rome... which would give you some idea of what bike riding might be like. We made these videos - for our kids - in 2010, right before we moved to Denmark. My wife climbed onto the back of motorino with a camcorder (It was 2010) and hung on with one hand. Our kids found it hard to believe their 50-something parents were "scooting" around the city. Some are campy, some with music, but they can give you an impression of driving in the city. (We added a few "site names" as our kids had visited us in Rome years before). I was driving VERY conservatively in these videos as my wife kept pounding on the top of my helmet, telling me to slow down...

If you watch, you'll see that most roads in Rome don't have lane-markers, so everyone simply makes their own space. People are double-parked - sometimes backed into a parking space. You'll see other motorini drivers simply not follow traffic signals or rules. At times you'll see the camera bounce - that's not my wife's fault - the cobblestone roads can be VERY bumpy, even to a motorino that -with passengers - weighs more than 500 lbs. These were fun to look back at... pardon the poor editing!

No doubt the bumpiest road in Rome we bounced along was the Via Della Conciliazione, the road leading to St.Peter's. The Appian Way was a close second. And you can see my wife struggle to hang on AND film. Now that Rome is replacing many of the busiest cobblestone streets with pavement, most motorini drivers will rejoice! Of course, one of the latest transportation issues in Rome is the e-scooter - which the mayor loves (I wonder if she's an investor???).

Posted by
58 posts

Rome is built on 7 hills, not exactly a flat place.

Your own bike would be great for the Appian way, riding in Rome early morning before traffic gets too heavy and getting around in the less congested areas. There is no problem locking a bike up to go to the tourist sites, but don't expect carefree riding in the crowded historic districts.