The street where I live becomes my miscreant muse:
the final installment in a series about quality-of-life issues
in the cradle of the Renaissance.
The shards of automobile littered the street and narrow sidewalk. Pieces of black and silver and red plastic, along with bits of metal--the detritus of the latest traffic accident--bore mute testimony to the dangers of via Faentina.
My children and I saw this as we walked to school last week, and I was overcome with a feeling of frustrated resignation. I had just read in La Nazione about another accident, in another part of the city, near several schools, where a mother and her 6 year-old daughter were run down in a pedestrian crossing by an 84 year-old man who claims he didn't see them because of the sunlight shining in his eyes. Analysis showed that he had barely even touched the brakes. Fortunately, the mother used her body to shield her daughter so the girl wasn't badly hurt, but mom suffered various fractures and injuries. Parents gathered around and complained to the reporter about the dangers of speeding traffic in the area, about the perilous nature of the local school/pedestrian crossings, and about the need for speed bumps and other traffic safety measures. The article also highlighted another issue here in Italy that tends to surface when such accidents occur: the ongoing controversy of allowing people over 80 to continue driving. (A couple of years ago, our gate at the bottom of the driveway was mangled by a 90 year-old man who had fallen asleep at the wheel--supposedly--and crashed into it. Luckily none of us happened to be coming or going at the time).
It's all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nothing will ever change. Accidents continue to happen, people get hurt or killed, there is outrage and complaining, the occasional article appears--and then silence. As far as my little corner of Florence goes--I have written countless letters to Palazzo Vecchio and to the various entities which oversee traffic issues, I have written to both local and national newspapers, I wrote an Op-Ed piece in the local English paper on this issue, and I began this blog series. I've talked to other parents--all of whom complain but none of whom seem willing to band together and do anything (but perhaps they know the system we're up against far better than I).
Italy ranks third in Europe for road deaths involving cyclists (preceded by Germany and Poland), and it's easy to see why--people on bicycles have to share the road with thousands of drivers with very dangerous driving habits who careen through the cities with seeming impunity. Pedestrians, too, as I have pointed out previously, also count for very little in this nation which privileges wheels over human beings.
Via Faentina continues to be throttled with heavy, two-way traffic. Years ago, the national railway spent loads of money building a train station (called the Salviati) in the neighborhood, with a huge parking lot--ostensibly aimed at commuters coming in from the north. For reasons perhaps only fathomable to the bureaucrats, it was never used, has been abandoned, and has fallen into disrepair--acting as a playground for vandals, a garbage dump, and a strange gypsy camp for RV's and trucks whose owners appear to live within.
|Parking fees no one has to pay|
|Waiting for a train that will never come|
|Paths reclaimed by nature|
|It's a pity--because the views of Fiesole from here are lovely|
|Salviati changed to "save yourself?"|
The wise know when to admit defeat. So, dear Readers, I raise my hands in that universal gesture of surrender and throw in the proverbial Tuscan towel. I don't know what else I can do in terms of "community action." I know that traffic safety in my neighborhood will never improve, that every day I walk my children to school shall continue to be fraught with stress and worry over their safety. My little patch of Italy apparently matters little to the powers that be, and it is no consolation to me in imagining that all the other little patches of this chaotic peninsula share the same fate. It would indeed seem that all one can try and do in the face of such civic indifference is--as the sign above so eloquently says--save yourself, as best you can.