Update March 2009: Milan's new bicycle-sharing system, BikeMi, is now operational in Milan with over sixty on-street bicycle stations already set up in the city center, and more on the way.
Their website is only in Italian so far, but they say that the English- and Spanish-language versions will be going on line soon.
Though it is run by a different company, it looks very similar to the Velib' system in Paris, which I have described in great detail (LOL) in the General Tips on my Paris page.
In June 2008 I wrote in this tip that the city of Milan had reached an agreement with ClearChannel, one of the world's two major providers of urban bicycle rental systems, to set up 103 on-street bike stations and make 1200 bicycles available for spontaneous short term rentals.
Originally this system was supposed to go into operation in the fall of 2008, but when I was in Milan I saw no sign of any preparations, and the target date was pushed back to 2009.
ClearChannel already operates such systems in several cities such as Barcelona, Stockholm, Oslo, Rennes, Perpignan, etc., and are even setting one up in Washington, D.C.
Their competition, JCDecaux, runs several similar systems, including the hugely successful Velib' system in Paris.
If Milan really does succeed in setting up 103 on-street bike stations, that will be a great improvement, even though their proposed system has nowhere near the scope of the one in Paris, where there are 1,400 stations and over 20,000 bicycles available for rent.
Second and third photos: Cyclists near the castle -- riding their own bikes, since the Smart Bike system had not yet been installed.
Fourth photo: Cycling in city traffic.
Before going to Milan I tried searching the net for a place to rent a bicycle, but had no luck, so I posted a question on the Milan Forum here on VirtualTourist, saying among other things: "I've tried googling in various ways, but they all just want to rent motorcycles, scooters, etc., which is not what I'm looking for."
VT members effeti, icunme and sararosa soon responded with some good advice, and above all I learned the Italian words NOLEGGIO (= rent or hire) and BICI (= bicycle), and when I entered these two words into my search engine I immediately found what I was looking for. (So noleggio and bici are the first two words you have to learn when planning a trip to Italy, OK?)
I ended up renting a bicycle from a shop called A.W.S. Bici Motor s.n.c at Via Ponte Seveso 33, which is quite close to the central station. At first I was put off by the word "Motor" in their name, but they're actually a bicycle shop, and the word "Motor" is only there to make the Milanese take them seriously.
Their rates are 11 Euros per day for the first three days, and 2.60 Euros per day after that, so for five days I paid 36,20 Euros. I also left them 100 Euros as a deposit, which they refunded when I returned the bike.
They were very friendly and helpful, but their bikes were not all in perfect shape. On the first one they offered me the lights didn't work, and the second one had a slight knock in the rear wheel. But in the end I was quite satisfied, and would rent from them again if the occasion should arise.
Address: Via Ponte Seveso 33.
Another place to rent bicycles is the Rossignoli bicycle shop in the reduced traffic zone of Corso Garibaldi.
I didn't rent there myself, but I did stop by and ask some questions. They have mainly city bikes with no gears, because Milan is completely flat.
A rental bike costs six Euros for half a day, ten Euros for a full day, 18 Euros for a weekend or 35 Euros for a full week. For an extra two Euros you can also get a child's seat. You have to leave a deposit of 100 Euros (as at A.W.S.) and show identification.
They are closed Monday mornings, by the way, until 14:30.
Address: Corso Garibaldi 65 / 71 - 20121 Milano.
Second photo: This sign in the Rossignoli bicycle shop window says:
does not consume, does not pollute,
does not obstruct, does not make noise,
does not create congestion.
improves traffic, improves the environment.
improves the air, improves the city.
Help Milan. Go by bicycle.
It's not true that Milan has no bicycle lanes.
It is true that there aren't very many of them, but if you ride around town long enough you will find some. They're mostly very short and/or narrow and/or very bumpy, but they do exist.
The one in the first photo is right across the street from the Ciclobby office -- perhaps the city administration was trying to placate the Ciclobby activists (just a guess).
Without much trouble I was able to get the entire length of this bicycle lane in one photo. It starts where I am standing and ends in the shadow at the top of the hill.
Second photo: This bicycle lane on the street called M. Cioia goes on for several blocks, making it one of the longest I found in Milan. And it's conveniently located on the way back from the Teatro degli Arcimboldi to the city center. The disadvantages are that it's very narrow (adequate for the present but not for the increased bicycle traffic that is sure to come in the near future) and that the parked cars on left prevent drivers from seeing cyclists at intersections, so cyclists are in danger of being hit by right-turning cars at every corner.
Third photo: In the newer districts on the outskirts of the city, the bicycle infrastructure is better than in the city center. This two-way bicycle lane is in the Bicocca district, which is the site of a major new university.
Milan doesn't have much in the way of parking facilities for bicycles.
Occasionally you will find a stand for a dozen or so bicycles (there is one of these in the city center that I know of, near the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II), but most people just have to find something to chain their bicycles to, as in the photo.
Fortunately bicycles do not take up as much space as cars or motorcycles, but soon the city will have to change its priorities a bit. In place of one parking space for a car they could install a stand for twenty bicycles, for example.
After riding around Milan on a bicycle for several days I decided to pay a visit to the folks at Ciclobby, Milan's "cyclo-environmentalist" association that is working and lobbying for improvements to Milan's catastrophic cycling situation.
This is an exciting time for Ciclobby, because after twenty years of slogging and achieving only minimal improvements in the face of massive resistance, inertia and indifference, they are starting to realize that their time is coming, very soon. Urban bicycle use is increasing dramatically all over Europe, and Ciclobby is working to see that Milan is not left behind.
I was given a warm welcome at Ciclobby. One of the young women spoke good English, so I didn't have to stammer around in my rudimentary Italian, but when I let on that I could read Italian they gave me lots of literature which I later read on the train on the way home.
Address: Via Borsieri 4/E - 20159 Milano.
Second photo: In the Ciclobby office.
Third photo: A window display telling how and why to get around by bicycle.
Fourth photo: Ciclobby is a member of the Italian Federation of Friends of the Bicycle (FIAB).
It's so great, there are many places around the whole city where you can take and return the bike. For more infos on costs and conditions check the website below.
You can also get all the infos including the activation of the service in metro stations (ATM).
Since 2009 Milano has a bike-sharing program that works really well. For 2.50€ a day and 6€ a week, you can buy a pass that gives you unlimited use of the bikes for 30-minute increments. You pick up a bike in one of the many docks around town and leave it at another. You can get your pass at the ATM offices at the Duomo Metro stop or at the Centrale and Cadorna train stations.
To find the best paths to go around in the city you can use bikedistrict.org, a website that (given departure and arrival adresses) calculates the safest path to move around town. Really nice!