Urban public spaces have complex meanings and functions. Policies concerning urban public spaces always involve different and conflicting issues such as heritage and environment protection, social life, economical development, public and private transportation. Several of these issues are not only of a practical kind but also involve symbolical meanings. Safety is increasingly felt by citizens to be one of the main issues. The research tries to explain why this happens It focuses on the policies concerning the restructuring of three squares in the historical centre of Bologna and the role played by citizens' committes on these issues. It argues that lack of awareness of what public spaces mean in cities may bring about policy failure and be a meaningful variable in electoral outcome.