Velo-city 2024
18-21 June 2024

Cycle with us


Bike-driven transformation: Ljubljana's urban makeover

We take a look at how cycling has helped make the Slovenian capital one of Europe's most liveable cities. Host city for Velo-city 2022, Ljubljana is a must-go for all bicycle lovers!

Over a decade ago, the City of Ljubljana decided to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over motorised traffic, winning multiple awards and the bid to host Velo-city 2022 in recognition of its sustainable urban development policies. With a reduction of up to 70% in carbon emissions and a cycling modal split of 16%, the city has plenty of successes to show for its work.

With a population of 280,000, Ljubljana is one of the smallest yet one of the most forward-thinking capitals in Europe when it comes to creating livable spaces for people. Looking at Ljubljana’s 17 hectare pedestrian zone today, where cycling is allowed and motorised traffic restricted, cars seem to have become a remnant of the past.

Ljubljana first imagined the idea of a car-free city centre in 2007 with the “Vision of Ljubljana 2025”, a strategic document that laid out concrete measures to change people’s travel behaviour. The transformation of Ljubljana’s city centre began with the pedestrianisation of Wolfova Street and Prešeren Square and, in 2011, Kongresni Market followed the same model.

In 2015, under the flag of reclaiming public space for people, the City of Ljubljana closed Slovenska cesta, one of its main traffic arteries connecting the city from north to south, to motorised traffic. Slovenska cesta, a street that until 2013 did not even have a bike lane, is now known as “Ljubljana’s living room” and has become a shared space for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport.

The city’s commitment to more and better cycling has dramatically improved the quality of life for the inhabitants of Ljubljana. While carbon emissions fell by 70%, noise levels dropped by six decibels in the pedestrianised areas. Moreover, the measures were met with overwhelming approval of the public. According to the latest SUMP mobility survey, 95% of inhabitants see the changes as positive.

The City of Ljubljana has also implemented a host of other measures to cater for the growing number of cyclists. Ljubljana now boasts a cycle network of more than 300 km, which continues to grow every year. Moreover, Ljubljana enabled cycling in the opposite direction on 123 one-way streets and established 21 sharrows (shared lanes for motorised traffic and cyclists).

In 2021 and 2022, the Slovenian capital installed 286 bicycle racks to provide safe parking facilities for about 600 bicycles, adding to the already available 10,000 bicycle parking spaces. This year, the city plans to build an underground bicycle garage.

Bike sharing proved key to normalising a cycling culture in Ljubljana. The city’s bike sharing system, BicikeLJ, was introduced in 2011 with 300 bikes distributed over 30 stations. Since then, BicikeLJ has progressed towards becoming one of Europe’s most successful bike sharing programmes. Now counting 830 bikes across 83 stations and with 17% of Ljubljana’s residents having an annual subscription, BicikeLJ has become a symbol of a new cycling wave sweeping the city. At the end of April 2022, Bicikelj bikes had been rented more than 9.1 million times since its launch in May 2011.

Through events and campaigns such as the European Mobility Week, Bring Happiness to Work and other cycling festivals, the city strives to encourage more people to cycle and inform different stakeholders about their latest measures.

In recognition of its commitment to cycling and creating a greener future, Ljubljana was awarded European Green Capital 2016, European Mobility Week 2003 and 2013, European Best Green Capital in 2021 and won the bid to host Velo-city 2022, the annual world cycling summit.