High-level decision-makers of 13 Hungarian cities participated in the study tour to the Slovenian capital on the 6-7 November 2018. The study tour was organised within the PROSPERITY H2020 project by Mobilissimus, the Hungarian National Focal Point and project partner, serving also as the Secretariat of the Magyar CIVINET network.
The aim of the 2-day-long study tour was to provide first-hand experience to the participating Hungarian mayors, vice-mayors and elected representatives, how deep and spectacular changes were possible to be reached in a city with strong vision, conscious urban and mobility planning, and confident implementation. The decision-makers had the chance to bring along a relevant professional colleague from the city staff and to examine together a city in the Central-European cultural setting similar to Hungary. They could experience, that it is not by accident, that Ljubljana won the European Green Capital Award in 2016 and it was set as an example all around Europe.
The host of the study tour, Mr. Vlado Babič, undersecretary of Department for Environmental Protection at the City of Ljubljana and Vice-Mayor Mr. Dejan Crnek, the Head of CIVITAS Political Advisory Committee greeted the participants in the city hall. The Vice-Mayor introduced the urban development concept of the Slovenian capital: simply formulated, the city centre is treated as it was the living room of the city, whereas the surroundings as its playground. At the very beginning, the city collected the ideas, suggestions of the citizens to define its vision. Based on these information, it bravely got down to the traffic calming of the city centre by extending considerably the walkable surfaces and by clearly prioritizing public transport and cycling over car use.
The redesigning of the city centre meant streets without traffic and limited car accessibility, that resulted initially in great resistance. However, the decision-makers were aware of the potential consequences and conflicts coming from the change of the daily commuting routine. The mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Jankovič got in touch personally with all local residents and businesses to convince them of the necessary changes in order to reach the vision. Beyond this personal approach, the city had a smart communication to mitigate the initial resistance against the introduced measures. They tried to achieve that the citizens get used to the „temporary” traffic calming measures by giving them enough time during the construction. As a result, the majority of the citizens could experience, that the „temporary” use is much more beneficial for them than the previous state had been. Today, almost all of them are satisfied with the changes and they would not turn back time.
Simona Berden, senior adviser at the Development Projects and Investment Office of the City of Ljubljana greeted us as a friendly gesture in Hungarian language. In her presentation, she introduced the systematic way to the European Green Capital Award. According to her, the small steps can lead and could lead to reach big results. Being aware of this attitude, it is now clearer why the persistent and hard work of the mayor’s office carried out more than 1800 smaller and larger sustainability projects in the last 10 years. Consequently, Ljubljana has become deservedly a lighthouse city to inspire others.
Matic Sopotnik, sustainable mobility coordinator at the City of Ljubljana gave us an overview of the urban strategic policy since 2007 and the vision of the city for a foreseeable period, until 2025. The major policy directions are defined in and described by the strategies, programmes and plans such as the Environmental Protection Programme (2020), the Sustainable Energy Action Plan (2020), the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (2020, 2027), the Electromobility Strategy (2020), the Urban Master Plan (2030), the Zero Waste Plan (2035) and the Sustainable Development Strategy (2020).
The goal set In the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of Ljubljana for sustainable modes is to reach the share of two-third within the modal split.
The mobility priorities have been turned upside down for the sake of the future; and it works!
The considerable improvement process started from the city centre with conscious and confident measure implementation. This development wave has reached the outskirts of Ljubljana too, manifested in improved pedestrian, cycling and public transport conditions. Today, the major challenge and policy direction is to decrease the car traffic arriving into the city, while improving the conditions for alternative transport modes.
Change in modal split and the modal split goals for 2020
Source: Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of Ljubljana (2017)
It was highlighted several times during the study tour that the goal of local and regional mobility development is not to totally ban car traffic, but to encourage the citizens to commute to the city by car only when necessary, and in parallel to create favourable conditions to the sustainable modes. As a result, car traffic was limited in considerable parts of the city centre, but in a way that it is still accessible by car under specific conditions (in the morning hours, with permission). Nevertheless, the alternative transport modes are clearly favoured within this area. The central pedestrian zone grew to six-fold with unchanged accessibility, that is facilitated by the all-year 0-24 hours operating electric minibuses for those who need it (e.g. elderly) in the last meters of their trip within the pedestrian zone.
Main lessons learnt from the presentations:
- Patience, persistence and confidence;
- For good and fruitful work you need enough time;
- Aim at benefitting the majority, because you cannot satisfy everyone;
- Do it not only for the citizens, but also with the citizens.
The presentations in the city hall were followed by questions and answers and a short walk to see the pedestrianised city centre, the former main road that has undergone traffic calming and local examples of prioritizing sustainable modes. The group was invited by the City of Ljubljana to a dinner in the castle, where there was a chance to talk to the vice-mayor Mr. Dejan Crnek in an informal way.
The second day of the study tour started with the pedestrian and cyclist improvements (e.g. new bridges) to facilitate the “city of short distances”, and we also visited two P+R facilities at the edge of the city with frequent and comfortable bus connections to the centre. We had the chance to learn further transport policy goals and technical solutions (e.g. city card used for parking and public transport pass among many other useful functions). We visited some new urban parks established on brownfields and we tried with our bus a special cyclist facility that has a number of names such as advisory bike lane / suggestion lanes / Suggestiestrook (Netherlands) or Schutzstreifen (Germany), that provide a secure cooperation between cyclist and motorized traffic, prioritizing the cyclists.
The participants had fruitful conversations also among themselves. The decision-makers of 13 cities left Ljubljana for home with lots of inspiration, new plans and ideas to realise adapted to their settlement after this short, but intensive study tour.
Upon future opportunities, Magyar CIVINET plans to continue organizing similar study tours for cities.
The study tour was organized by Mobilissimus, the Hungarian SUMP National Focal Point within the PROSPERITY H2020 project of the European Union, in cooperation with the Magyar CIVINET network.