“Shame” to some, “resistance” to others: In Italy, a man nicknamed “Fleximan” sabotages road radars and divides the country

The hero of motorists is angered by those who risk fines or life: in Italy, an unknown person nicknamed “Fleximan” sabotages road radars, which provokes fierce debates in the media and networks.

Home of Lamborghini, Maserati and of course Ferrari, cars and speed are an ancient passion in Italy, with horses lacing their boots on the famous circuits of Imola and Monza. From the tiny Fiat 500 to the Lancia Aurelia, the car is as iconic of Italian exteriors as pasta and parmesan.

A certain taste of freedom comes at a price for drivers and their victims: fines of several hundred euros on the one hand, and more than 3,000 deaths per year on the other. So obviously, “Fleximan” is talked about a lot.

The carabinieri on Thursday arrested a 50-year-old man suspected of destroying two radars with his bare hands in November, but according to authorities, he was not the “fleximan” who destroyed a dozen radars in the north in recent months. From Piedmont through Lombardy to Veneto. He uses his nickname to hack radars by cutting his leg with an electric grinder, video surveillance images of him hiding his face under a hood and appearing alone or with a partner.

Questioned by AFP, the Carabinieri attempted to arrest him, promising they were on “day and night” duty. In social networks, the troublemaker is often presented as a hero to motorists annoyed by the “fraud” of the state, decorated with the flamboyant qualities of superheroes. T-shirts bearing his image are for sale on Amazon.

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In Padua (North), a graffiti artist dedicated a mural “work” representing Uma Dharman's iconic role in “Kill Bill” to her.

“Symbol of Selfishness”

Families of road accident victims condemn his actions and the publicity that comes with them. Local councilors are also torn between those who refuse to “let the criminals win” and those who implicitly support him, such as Marco Scisaro, the mayor of Gadonegge in Veneto. “I already didn't believe that there was a radar in my city, and I decided not to use it again,” he told the press. Inevitably, the journal is divided.

The Libero newspaper, which is close to the ultra-conservative government majority, mentions “resistance” measures against “authorities and moralists” – although not supporting “Fleximon” – while the more radical Il Corriere della Sera condemns the production of “fake news”. “Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. Fleximan steals lives. He is not a hero, but the new symbol of selfishness,” Italy's leading daily criticized on Friday.

In 2022, 3,159 people died on Italian roads, or 53 per million people according to the European Commission, slightly more than France (49), significantly less than Romania (86) but 2.5 times more than Sweden. Distracted driving is the leading cause of road accidents in Italy (15%), followed by failure to obey traffic lights (13.7%) and speeding (9.3%), according to statistics agency Istat.

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The speed, once again, is at the center of a dispute between the city of Bologna, which has reduced it to 30 km/h, led by the left, and far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is in charge of traffic. An “ideological choice” that makes it possible to “listen better to the birdsong,” he joked in X .

Road safety association Asaps reminds that a pedestrian has an 80 to 90% chance of surviving a collision at 30 km/h than at 50 km/h.
A cult object, the car is also a source of industrial power in Italy.

In December, for the first time in a month, the Volkswagen Group sold more vehicles than Fiat, while the industry still employs more than 200,000 people and generates annual revenues of 150 billion euros.

The head of government, Giorgia Meloni, this week criticized French interests for “privileging” the leaders of the Stellandis group, born from the merger of PSA (Citroën) and Fiat-Chrysler.

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