The bicycle (in Ferrarese dialect, la biga)

Written by  Carlo Bassi
An international convention held in Ferrara: Cities for Cyclists.
This September a conference was held in Ferrara in which English was the official language. What on earth did they have to talk about? Well, the conference was about a subject that could hardly have been more "Ferrarese": the bicycle. The title of the conference was strictly English: Cities for Cyclists.

The most important thing achieved after three days of work was that it provided us in Ferrara with a yardstick with which to measure our shortcomings in this field, thus bringing us face to face with a reality that - as far as the city is concerned - has always been experienced as a kind of genetic inheritance, but upon which town and town planners alike have constructed nothing concrete.
The fundamental anarchism of the folk of Ferrara has led the citizenry to consider all the roads as cycle tracks while distinctions regarding the various lanes for the various vehicles, the highway code, and road signs, have little sense.

A comparison of Ferrara's cycle tracks with those of other cities is enough to make one blush, so typically Ferrarese (read anarchical) is the layout, especially when compared to similar schemes in other cities. The citizen who decides to use the bicycle must be motivated both by the safety offered by a reserved track, and by the certainty that he will not meet with misadventure: otherwise every road becomes a cycle track and the chaos, disorder and danger are worse than ever.
The programme is complex and the Public Works and Environment departments have prepared a plan for cycle traffic that will raise Ferrara's stock and will make it a privileged place compared to historic city centres elsewhere. Because the bicycle is not only the alternative means of transport for getting around town (apart from walking, that is) but it is also a flexible conveyance that allows people to appreciate the natural environment to the full.

Ferrara's European conference on the bicycle was therefore a very important event. Everything induces us to hope it marks the dawning of a fruitful period in which people will work towards the goal of making Ferrara a city where environmental awareness will play a determinant role.

Gianni Stefanati, a dyed in the wool cyclist and one of the moving spirits behind the conference, has studied the origin of the local dialect word for bicycle. People say biga throughout the Ferrara region. In this same area, if one asks for a bicicléta, he is liable to receive a drink made of one part Campari and one part white wine, or an old twenty centime coin from the defunct Kingdom of Italy.
Apart from biga and bigona, the bicycle has other dialect names: kuaramina and kuréma in thieves' and mason's cant (in Bologna they say korra) probably deriving from kura and corenta, words meaning 'road' and current in the Eighteenth century. The word volantina ('ready for flight'), instead, is used to mean an unattended bicycle.