Expert article
Edit 16 June 2023
by Pietro L. Verga, UIA Expert

The construction of Ferrara’s new Smart Bike Lane. Adapting to new conditions and challenges

cyclists on bike lane
The Smart Bike Lane is part of the infrastructural upgrades plan through which the Air-Break project is facilitating slow mobility within the city of Ferrara and increasing awareness among its citizens about air-pollution.

The cycle lane – in the final steps of its construction at the time of my writing (June 2023) – will allow an uninterrupted, protected cycling connection between the Technological-Scientific Pole and the city centre of Ferrara. The investment merges structural improvements with green elements and smart components, thus providing the city with a replicable example of multifunctional cycling infrastructure, well integrated in the city’s context. 
The article retraces the Smart Bike Lane construction journey and focuses on the solutions that the partners have found to address and overcome the problems that have characterized this journey.  

Associated media

A short interview with Professor Elena Mainardi (University of Ferrara), introducing the main features of the Smart Bike Lane developed in Ferrara.

Interview by P.L. Verga, Video by N. Cavalazzi

Share

The original idea for the construction of the smart component of the cycle lane foresaw the exploitation of the hi-tech modules mOOve™: an innovative technology that would have allowed embedding smart sensors (e.g., users-counter, air-quality, etc…), contributing to the collection of data for the city’s mobility and AQ monitoring networks,1 directly in the pavement of the infrastructure, together with safety features such as led-lightening and anti-frost. Unfortunately, the concretization of this idea encountered various challenges: first of all, challenges related to the procurement. Considering that the installation of the mOOve™ modules would have been tested for the first time ever through the Air-Break project, MUA had to spend several months identifying which best approach, compliant with national and European regulations, would have to be used for their purchase and installation. Furthermore, the consequences of shortages on the worldwide supply-chain related to the COVID-19 pandemic and of the energy crisis caused by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, heavily affected the intervention. In fact, the construction process underwent an abrupt setback in May 2022 when the selected supplier and owner of the patent for the mOOve™ modules withdrew from contract due to the impossibility to deliver the product within the timeframe and at the price defined in the procurement procedure. 


1. The elaboration process and functioning of the monitoring network is described in the first Air-Break Zoom-In, while the data collected through the Air-Break network are available on the project’s official webpage. The data will feed the elaboration of well-informed policies and behavioural changes strategies towards more sustainable individual mobility choices; more details on that are present in the second Air-Break Journal). 

Figure 1 - Start of the construction works. Via Mulinetto. Source: D8.4.2 “Civil works terminated”, WP8, E.Mainardi
Figure 1 - Start of the construction works. Via Mulinetto. Source: D8.4.2 “Civil works terminated”, WP8, E.Mainardi

Despite the multiple adversities, the Air-Break partnership showed an exceptional capacity of resilience and creativity, quickly adapting to the new conditions and finding in a short period of time a valuable in-house alternative that managed to maintain the innovative aspect of the cycle lane. The construction works finally started at the end of May 2022, and the provider of smart cameras to be installed along the cycle lane to monitor the bicycle traffic and the adaptive lighting system (alternative to the initial idea of sensors embedded in the modular flooring) has been identified by MUA through a second public tender. 

The Smart Bike Lane connects the Technological-Scientific Pole located in the West of the city, near the central station of Ferrara, to “Via Cavour” through “Via del Mulinetto” and “Corso Isonzo”. The pathway intersects two of the four Smart-Hubs installed by Hera, the one located by the University Pole, and another one in “Via Darsena”, by the Wunderkammer (Palazzo Savonuzzi).2 

At the time of my writing, the civil construction works of the infrastructure as well as the preparation of the electrical wiring for the installation of the smart devices are completed, and the latter have been assembled and are currently being tested. Their installation and, therefore, the finalization of the construction process, is expected by the end of the summer.   

The picture below shows the localisation and sections in which the cycle lane is divided, each one having specific characteristics.

Figure 2 - Localisation and sections of the Smart Bike Lane. Source: D8.4.2 “Civil works terminated”, WP8, E.Mainardi
Figure 2 - Localisation and sections of the Smart Bike Lane. Source: D8.4.2 “Civil works terminated”, WP8, E.Mainardi

2. More details about the composition and localisation of the four Smart-Hubs can be found in the first Air-Break Journal

The first section, which begins at the Tecnopole Centre, runs along “Via del Mulinetto” and ends before crossing the “Ponte della Pace” bridge, is the longest one and will host the greater number of smart devices: here MUA will install an adaptive lighting system, a bicycles counter that will feed data about the cycling traffic on the lane into the monitoring system developed within the Air-Break project, and a digital outdoor totem providing up-to-date air quality information in a friendly and accessible way. 
Along “Via del Mulinetto” the interventions concerned:

  • The removal of architectural barriers to also facilitate the connection with the riverbank.
  • The partial removal of the fallow green.
  • The construction of a new paving using recycled materials. 
Figure 3 - Construction works in Via del Mulinetto (June 2022 - September 2022 - March 2023). Source: E. Mainardi
Figure 3 - Construction works in Via del Mulinetto (June 2022 - September 2022 - March 2023). Source: E. Mainardi

Furthermore, near the Tecnopole, a small area along the pathway has been dedicated to greenery and enriched with new plantations.

Figure 4 - Green area near the Tecnopole. Source: E. Mainardi
Figure 4 - Green area near the Tecnopole. Source: E. Mainardi 

A portion of the section including “Ponte della Pace” bridge and “Via Darsena” hosted already a bicycle lane which has been renovated and redesigned to be integrated within the new Air-Break infrastructure. 

Figure 5 – Adjustment of the paving in Via Darsena and Ponte della Pace (March 2023). Source: E. Mainardi
Figure 5 – Adjustment of the paving in Via Darsena and Ponte della Pace (March 2023). Source: E. Mainardi

The third section has been created in the middle of Corso Isonzo, exploiting the already existing central flowerbed. Similarly to the first one, this section will be equipped with an informative totem and a bicycle counter.

Figure 6 - Construction works in Via Isonzo (October 2022 - March 2023). Source: E. Mainardi
Figure 6 - Construction works in Via Isonzo (October 2022 - March 2023). Source: E. Mainardi

Even though it has not been possible to apply the mOOve™ technology, the Smart Bike Lane that is taking form in Ferrara thanks to the efforts and creativeness of the Air-Break partners will represent a great example of multifunctional cycling infrastructure, not only at city level but at regional and national levels. 
An intervention that aims at creating new things starting from the existing ones, that is constructed in accordance with the local context and integrates green elements and smart components that can support informed policy decision-making processes and educate citizens on the benefits of sustainable means of transportation. 
The city of Ferrara and the project partnership have demonstrated an excellent capacity of resilience by promptly responding to the implementation challenges analysed above; however, the bumpy journey that characterized the construction of the infrastructure teaches us how important it is to work within a flexible framework that allows continuous in-progress adjustments and encourages experimentation and research for increasingly new and innovative ideas.

Other news from this project

deputy mayor Balboni at a workshop

The Added Value of Air-Break to the City of Ferrara

In this podcast series I will be discussing the concrete experience, challenges and learnings of the Urban Innovative Actions project Air-Break Ferrar...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Behavioural change
Social innovation
oldschool videogame style image

Advancing Urban Mobility: Challenges, Progress, and Policy Implications of Air-Break Motivational Campaigns – Zoom-In 2

In this Zoom-In, UIA Expert Pietro L. Verga navigates through the transformative impact of FBK's Air-Break Sustainable Mobility Motivational Campaigns...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Behavioural change
Co2 reduction
Digital transition
Digitalisation
Greener Europe
Mobility
Smarter Europe
Social innovation
Traffic management
Urban mobility
maps from general urban plan

Insights Unveiled: Air-Break Ferrara's Data-Driven Policymaking

Air-Break's comprehensive dataset transforms Ferrara's urban planning, providing real-time air quality and mobility insights....

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Digital transition
Digitalisation
Mobility
Nature based solutions
Social innovation
Urban mobility
picture depicting a group of people ready to start for a cycling tour of the city

AIR BREAK Journal Nr. 3

With the project approaching its end in December 2023, this Journal Nr. 3 reflects on a number of core lessons learnt during the implementation of Air...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Co2 reduction
Digital transition
Digitalisation
Europe closer to citizens
Greener Europe
Innovation and responsible public procurement
Mobility
Smarter Europe
Social innovation
Urban mobility
stakeholders engaged in conversation

The Air Fest: an Open Platform for Engaging Citizens and Stakeholders around Air Quality in Ferrara

In this podcast series I will be discussing the concrete experience, challenges and learnings of the Urban Innovative Actions project Air-Break Ferrar...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Europe closer to citizens
Greener Europe
Social innovation
datathon participants

Air-Break Datathon: a gathering of creativity and analytical exploration

How to actively engage youth, researchers, and experts in exploring innovative solutions to contemporary environmental challenges? ...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Education
Greener Europe
Smarter Europe
Social innovation
airbreak aq meter

Data-Driven Cities: Air-Break Ferrara's Real-Time Air Quality Insights for Informed Citizens and Policymakers

In the pursuit of creating smarter and more sustainable urban environments, the Air-Break Ferrara project has embarked on a mission to revolutionize t...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Digitalisation
Greener Europe
Smarter Europe
smart hub central station

Introducing Air-Break Ferrara's Smart Hubs

UIA Expert Pietro L. Verga interviews Gabriele Mengozzi (HERA Group) on the main features of the Smart Hubs developed in Ferrara to support and facili...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Co2 reduction
Greener Europe
Mobility
Smarter Europe
Urban mobility
photo of user ending bike trip with app

Playing Together Towards Sustainable Mobility. The Air-Break Gamification Experience

Through a set of playful activities and gamified rewarding campaigns, the Air-Break project sets to bring about positive change in citizens’ mobility ...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Behavioural change
Co2 reduction
Digitalisation
Greener Europe
Mobility
Smarter Europe
Urban mobility
commuters in Ferrara

Analysing Commuting Patterns in Ferrara towards Better-Informed Policy Decisions

In order to better understand the commuting practices, habits, and trends of Ferrara’s citizens and city-users, and ultimately to inform policy decisi...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Data management
Mobility
Urban mobility
Cover Photo – credit: PLAM creative Studio

AIR BREAK Journal Nr. 2

This second Journal focuses on the achievements of- and challenges for all the core realms of the Air-Break project until October 2022....

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
air-break new forest cover photo

An Urban Forest is Growing in Ferrara

Since March 2022, a new urban forest is growing in Ferrara, thanks to the plantation of nearly two-thousands trees and shrubs in five selected areas o...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Co2 reduction
Greener Europe
Heat islands
Nature based solutions
Ferraria phygital space

AIR BREAK Participatory Air-Quality Monitoring – Zoom-In 1

This Zoom-In describes in detail the participatory air-quality monitoring system designed and implemented by the AIR BREAK Ferrara project....

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
air-break network cover photo

AIR BREAK Journal Nr. 1

The Air-Break project seeks to reduce by 25% air-pollution in selected strategic areas of the City of Ferrara. The city lays in one of the most air-po...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality
Behavioural change
Co2 reduction
Digitalisation
Greener Europe
Nature based solutions
Smarter Europe
Urban mobility
Ferrara castle with cyclist

An Alliance for Air in Ferrara

The air we breathe can contain a variety of pollutants released into the atmosphere as a mixture of solid particles, liquid droplets, and gases from a...

AIR BREAK- Co-producing healthy clean commuting air spots in town

Air quality

Ferrara - Italy

Air quality