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Interview with Enrico Prevedello, Mobility Manager of Politecnico di Milano on Cycling To University – Changing behaviours in Milan, the car city

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According to statistics, Milan has the highest number of cars per inhabitant of any comparable European city. And so far, little has been done to accommodate to the needs of pedestrians or cyclists.  As every visitor coming to Milan soon notices, walking or cycling around in the city still means breathing in high concentrations of carbon dioxide and having to mount very high-curbed footpaths.

In this situation, the Politecnico di Milano* has launched a major mobility initiative to help staff and students to move about more quickly between the different campuses within Milan. Universities have peculiar mobility problems: students and staff have to move often to different buildings to reach offices, classrooms, meeting rooms, libraries, laboratories and so forth. The initiative has not only achieved success for Politecnico di Milano, but has also caught on in other Milan and Italian universities.

In Italy the term Politecnico means a state university offering study courses exclusively in Engineering and Architecture. The Politecnico di Milano is the largest technical university in Italy with 2000 staff members and 40,000 students.


Elke Loeffler interviewed Enrico Prevedello, the mobility manager of Politecnico di Milano, on 28 April 2010 to learn about its major mobility initiative


Enrico Prevedello
Mobility Manager of
Politecnico di Milano

Elke Loeffler
 Governance International

Enrico Prevedello is an urban planner and architect. He works in the Department of Architecture and Planning (DiAP) of the Politecnico di Milano and he currently teaches the modules “Mobility and Public Transport” and “Urban Planning and Mobility Governance”. Since 2001 he has been the mobility manager at the university. He has drafted commuter transport plans for private companies (e.g. Mediaset), mobility plans for public agencies (e.g. the municipality of Assago) and advised local government on public transport services (e.g. Provincia di Milano, Provincia di Lecco). He has published in Italian and English on transport and mobility issues and is an active participant in the European Conference of Mobility Management.



Elke Loeffler: Why was the post of mobility manager created at your university?


Enrico Prevedello:  Well, in Italy we have a law - the so-called Decreto Ronchi - which makes it mandatory for private companies with more than 300 members of staff to have a mobility manager. Usually, this person is part of the HRM department. There is also some public funding for a company’s mobility programme, as long as it has actually designated a mobility manager. For example, there are public subsidies to help us give staff a discount if they use public transport. Typically, this is what most mobility programmes of private companies are about. However, some companies have been more imaginative – for example, Mediaset has set up a nursery school and a fitness centre at its HQ in Cologno Monzese, and has provided employees working in other locations with vouchers to access similar facilities near their work place. Furthermore, Mediaset gives staff a discount on public transport annual season tickets and provides free shuttles to connect its main offices in Milan and Rome with the closest train or underground stations. In our Politecnico, the enacting of the Decreto Ronchi inspired one member of the Equal Opportunities Committee in the university to launch a feasibility study. I took part in this programme and in 2001 the Rector appointed me as the first mobility manager of a university in Milan.



Elke Loeffler: What are your tasks as a mobility manager?


Enrico Prevedello: My most important task is to improve the mobility of the university staff and students. The Politecnico is spread between two main locations in Milan, which are near the train stations of Bovisa and Lambrate, and five other campuses in the towns of Como, Lecco, Cremona, Mantova and Piacenza. This means that staff and students have to be able to move around quickly, often for short trips – several hundred meters or a few kilometres – to reach the different university buildings; lecturers have also to go to the rail stations to reach the external campuses. This is basically impossible by car because Milan suffers from heavy congestion and it is almost impossible to find a parking space in the city. Therefore, it was an obvious solution to explore public transport and cycling as alternatives. We initiated a number of investigations: we first did a staff survey which revealed that cycling was a very good alternative option for most staff. However, staff also suggested that the level of safety for cyclists and the level of security when they left their bikes on university premises would have to be improved. Furthermore, we began to work with CicloPoli, an informal committee of the university, that is trying to give voice to cyclists working in the Politecnico. Together with CicloPoli, I organised some brainstorming sessions for all university managers (human resources, logistics, building maintenance, etc.) to get some more ideas on what could be done by the university to improve mobility for cyclists. The meetings were strongly supported by the Rector of the university and were very well attended, which was important for the development of our action programme.



Elke Loeffler: So what kind of actions have you taken so far?


Enrico Prevedello: We were very well aware that Milan could not be easily turned into a cyclist’s city, mainly because local planners still consider the car the most important means of transport. So rather than designing a ‘grand plan’ we decided to implement a number of changes which were limited in scope but would nevertheless bring about visible improvements. For example, we created a special map for cyclists which indicates ‘cycle-friendly’ roads for riding between the various locations of the university. We still have the problem that some intersections are dangerous but we have made detailed proposals to the City of Milan which would improve safety for cyclists without requiring large sums of public money. Furthermore, we have suggested that the municipality should apply for funds from the Italian Ministry of Transport to buy 500 bikes for students and staff of local universities. The application has been successful, and we have been provided with 150 bikes to get started. The donation of 150 bikes was not so important in itself, in terms of its pure monetary value, but it will be an important ‘symbol’ of progress, providing a tangible indicator of the attention paid by the university towards ‘sustainable mobility’ issues. Indeed, most university departments made bids for some of the bikes and most got some!



Elke Loeffler: Typically transport projects are long-term and often activists run out of steam before they see results. How did you manage to get action in such a short time?


Enrico Prevedello: Our project plan focused on some ‘quick wins’ from the very beginning. We also understood from the start that we could only achieve results if we worked in partnership with the City of Milan and various agencies. In addition, it proved to be very helpful to work in partnership with a national NGO called FIAB (Federazione Italiana Amici della Bicicletta) which brought in expert knowledge. For example, we managed to influence the 2003 Traffic Plan of the City of Milan, which now links the main locations of our university with cycle routes, which previously was not built into the plan. Collaboration between the Politechnico and the passionate young bikers of the Association +BC brought into life a new service which we call the “mobile bike-office”. This innovative service provides small repairs and moves to a different location on the campus every day.



Elke Loeffler: Do you know what impact your project has had on the quality of life of staff?


Enrico Prevedello: My colleagues are very satisfied so far. The cyclists spend less time in traffic jams and those using their car can find parking more easily. However, we intend to carry out a survey shortly in order to understand more precisely how behaviours have changed in the last years.



Elke Loeffler: I can see that good infrastructure helps in encouraging people to consider changing their behaviour but you still have to persuade them to give up their ‘car habit’. How did you achieve this?


Enrico Prevedello: We tried to demonstrate that we are working on their side, trying to help colleagues to solve some of their daily problems around mobility. We also kept people informed about the progress of our work through email and through a series of public meetings. Importantly, we made it clear - and proved by our responsiveness - that we were interested in feedback. It turned out that people working in the Politecnico are very sensitive about those environmental issues which directly affect their quality of life: Milano has heavy problems of air pollution and people are actually quite ready to leave their cars at home if good alternatives are provided for them. 



Elke Loeffler: What are the next steps of the mobility project?


Enrico Prevedello: We are currently starting two new projects – both in co-operation with the State University which borders next to the Politecnico in a neighbourhood in Milan called “Cittá Studi”. The first project involves setting-up a car sharing system for students which will be supported by software so that students can identify who is looking to make a joint car trip. The second project aims at improving the quality of mobility for pedestrians and cyclists in Cittá Studi. At present, the volume of traffic and chaotic parking on pavements make it difficult for pedestrians to walk between the bus stops and university buildings – and there is similar criticism from cyclists.



Elke Loeffler: I know that universities are not always keen to work with others but I wonder if your example has been followed in other universities in Milan or Italy?


Enrico Prevedello: Actually, the cooperation between the mobility managers of Milan universities has been very intense. There have also been demands for our project plan from other universities such as Palermo and Verona. I am happy that other universities are taking action and delighted that we are no longer the only university with mobility management.

                              Governance International is grateful to Enrico Prevedello for this interview


To download a pdf file of Implementing Cycling Policies for Staff and Students of the Politecnico di Milano, 4th European Conference on Mobility Management, Lyon, 5-7 May 2004 please click here


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