From the story of Robin Schmitt
Gran Fondo Cycling, 24/06/2018
“Let’s go to the Dolomites and go over the passes!” The annoyance isn’t just that so many other cyclists catch the bug, but also the motorbikes and cars that want to do the same thing. Riding any pass in the Alps on any weekend in the summer propels you into a battle of attrition. You’re on your bike looking for a release from life, but you’re met with stress. Between the hooting horns and risky overtakes, there’s very little respite to make the most of the opportunity.
Martin Luther King wasn’t the only person to state: “I have a dream”. The president of the Maratona Dles Dolomites, Michil Costa also happens to be a free spirit, albeit with a slightly different-looking dream. He owns the La Perla hotel on the way up the Campolongo pass, and his dream looks like a car-free ribbon of tarmac up his road. The incessant sound of the motorbikes reverberating around the mountains isn’t just acoustically damaging for the locals, it’s also harming the environment and the wildlife. As a tourist I’m forced to ask myself: How is it even legal for so many exhaust fumes to be spewed in this UNESCO World Heritage Site? For anyone that takes the state of the world seriously, it is clearly not acceptable. But as with any progress, it takes patience and a persistent fighting spirit – changing the world is a marathon, not a sprint.
In 2017 a solution was reached: the passes would be closed to cars every Wednesday, leaving them only accessible to cyclists and electric cars. There was uproar from tourists and local restaurateurs, proclaiming that they’d be losing income. And with mountain passes often falling under the jurisdiction of several authorities – depending on the geography of the roads – this complicates matters even further. Needless to say, those car-free wednesdays didn’t last long.
“We have to know what we want. We have the choice and we have to pursue it,” sounds like a radical statement from Michil Costa, but it’s completely understandable. It’s the voice of a hotelier looking for sustainable growth. While he is well aware of the pitfalls of excessive tourism, he also knows that outright bans don’t go down well in politics and that what is needed is a more respectful rule-making approach and willingness to compromise – from all parties.
Read the full article here: Gran Fondo