The mayor of Rome, Dr. Ignazio Marino, routinely bikes to his office and to events around the city.
As a transplant surgeon at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Marino and his family lived car-free on Society Hill after the city installed bike lanes on its narrow streets. In 2006, he returned to his native Italy after winning a seat in the Italian Senate.
A member of the center-left Democratic Party, Marino became Mayor of Rome in June 2013 for a five year term. Among his first acts in office: Marino banned private motor traffic on the south part of the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the main avenue cutting through the center of Rome.
The fascist dictator Benito Mussolini ordered the construction of this grand avenue to link his palace in Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum and symbolically link himself to the power of the ancient Roman Empire. This project obliterated 40,000 square yards of a densely populated area of central Rome filled with housing and irreplaceable historic structures. Before Marino closed this road to private traffic around the Colosseum, 1600 vehicles per hour roared through the Roman Forum area.
Rome has the highest rate of car-ownership in Europe, and shopkeepers protested loudly that they would lose business when workers removed parking on adjacent streets. Since the closure, however, people have flocked by the thousands to the pedestrianized plaza around the Colosseum, creating a revitalized public space.