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relates to Car-Crazy Milan Erupted Over a New Pedestrian Zone

Illustration: Baptiste Virot for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Cities Issue

Car-Crazy Milan Erupted Over a New Pedestrian Zone

In weaning people from driving, speed can be risky.

On Milan’s long list of pandemic-era public initiatives, remodeling Piazza Sicilia is a strange one to get worked up about. The city built the tiny park in just a few weeks last autumn, at an estimated cost of €20,000 ($23,600). The strip of land had been a right-turn lane at the intersection of busy Via Sardegna and four residential streets, jammed every morning with honking commuters and every afternoon with parents double-parked to pick up their kids from school. Now, with cars forced to divert around the piazza, one of Milan’s myriad traffic nightmares has become a place where children play soccer, food delivery riders perch on their bikes awaiting calls, and residents of nearby apartment blocks face off at the pingpong table.

But people are worked up. Covid-era urban planning projects like Piazza Sicilia, intended to reduce traffic and provide more public space for residents locked at home during the pandemic, have become a flashpoint. In the runup to elections scheduled for October, right-of-center parties in Milan are using such post-pandemic lifestyle changes as a wedge issue.