June 10, 2021
Europe withdraws money for rental bicycles from the Municipality of Milan. The contribution of 1.5 million, allocated following the project presented three years ago by the Sala council for l” extension of the BikeMi service, it was revoked following some checks by the Managing Authority of the National Operational Program set up by the European Commission. The Municipality of Milan is accused of some irregularities in the assignment of the service, which emerged both in the random checks of the Internal Audit, and following the analysis of the counter-deductions presented by Palazzo Marino: “At the end of the checks carried out” reads the signed report on 1 April, “it is possible to conclude that the outcome of the audit is negative, as criticalities or irregularities were found such as to affect the correctness and regularity of the expenditure declared”.
The plan of the Municipality, for which European funds had been requested, provided for the construction of “30 areas for cycle mobility”, with the construction of 25 stalls for rental bicycles in the suburbs (between Lorenteggio and the Simplon axis) and another 5 new stations in the center (with the simultaneous expansion of the existing 7). In addition to the parking spaces where to place and collect the rental bikes, 630 new bicycles were obviously also purchased. Objective: “To enhance cycling mobility by increasing physical connections between the suburbs and the rest of the city”.
An ambitious project, which, however, the agency that manages European funds has cut the money. Under accusation there would be the assignment of the service by Atm to Clear Channel, the advertising company that manages the service in exchange for advertising revenues. The City, in the meeting of June 4, decided to resort “Before the competent judicial authority to obtain the cancellation of the withdrawal of funds”. According to the junta, “there are defensive arguments that could find acceptance before the judicial authorities”. Who knows if the battle in the courts by the Sala junta will lead to the return of money to buy bicycles and stations. For the moment, the investigations conducted by the managing Authority of the Pon, the national operational plan that distributes the money to the Metropolitan Cities, leaves no room for the Municipality of Milan. Although Palazzo Marino sent its counter-arguments to the Audit, the cut in funds was confirmed and on 6 April the Authority officially requested the Municipality of revoke the grant granted and to “recover the amount already paid to the ATM beneficiary”. On the Pon metro Agency website, 816 thousand euros have already been disbursed, just over half of the disputed sum. The administrative process that led to the purchase of the new stations could also be at the heart of the diatribe: the assignment of the overall bike sharing service was put up for tender in 2007, while the next tranche of stalls was bought in 2018. (when the racing rules had obviously changed from 11 years earlier).
This is not the first hitch regarding the rental bike service: at the beginning of 2020 there were problems with the frame of the newly purchased fleet, and 1200 vehicles had been withdrawn from the roads (500 traditional and 700 pedal assisted). A few months later, they came back in stock with a reinforcement attached to the frame.