I had a few days in Ljubjana, a charming city, the capital of a hilly and wooded country the size of Wales.
We were staying in an apartment about 2 km from the centre in the university district. From the balcony I could watch a busy cycling crossing and outside the apartment the cycling traffic flowed – all ages, and in ordinary clothes. I barely saw a helmet.
I didn't get on a cycle myself but observed the cycling infrastructure of demarcated pavements in the city, and it was well-used. The historic centre is pedestrianised and was full of tourists on guided walks, the cyclists go about at a sedate pace and it all looked very civilised. There was also a bike hiring scheme, lines of recyclng bins and small electric mini-buses for public transport. A mural by the river showed a pageant of cyclists.
Ljubljana was building cycle provision in the 1960s. “37 percent walk, 12 percent ride a bicycle, 13 percent use public transportation, and 38 percent drive a car. There are 45 miles (73 kilometers) of cycle tracks and 83 miles (133 kilometers) of bicycle lanes.“
We went on a guided walk. The guide was a young, hip looking guy of about 30, and he took us to the Town Hall, where he extolled a former mayor of the city, Ivan Hribar, who was mayor between 1896 and 1910 and who oversaw the rebuilding and modernising of Ljubljana after it had suffered a destructive earthquake. The guide proudly pointed out the awards for the European Green City of 2016. When he took us to Congress Square as well as telling us about the history (it was named after the 1821 Congress of the Holy Alliance) he talked of how it had once been covered with cars, which seemed a bad misuse of a fine public space in the centre of the city.
This kind of thing evidently interested him more than the baroque architecture though he was also an enthusiast for Joze Plecnik, the local architect of an idiosyncratic style who designed a good deal of the modern city.
Knowing all too well how much push back you'll get from the motorised citizenry, I asked the landlord of our airbnb apartment about pedestrianisation and whether it had been met with much opposition. He, said no, people had been walking over these areas anyway. So they had evidently built around desire lines. Like the guide, he, a young guy in his mid 20s, was proud of his agreeable city.
It's a pleasure being in a city where citizens show green civic pride. Councillors who go to Copenhangen or Amsterdam fact-finding on cycle provision could try Ljubljana, which has good inexpensive food and drink as well.