Ljubljana, Slovenia: Our new car is an E-Bike.
30.08.2022 | Out and about in ...
Ljubljana regularly makes it onto the list of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and was host of this year’s Velo-city conference. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement; the city is only gradually switching from car-centric road planning to better cycling infrastructure. Anja, Marko and their 3 children can’t wait for this to happen. With their E-Bike they have one goal: never make a car trip in the city again.
Hello Marko! A few months back, you posted a picture of a Riese & Müller Multicharger Mixte on your instagram. The caption read: „Our new car!“ Do you remember the feeling you had when you got it?
It was just great! My family and I all picked it up together. We went there by bus, and rode back by bike. It was so cool, and the kids were really happy, but yet it was not that remarkable – because it felt natural, it rides just like a bike! I enjoyed very much how smooth it felt and the quality is really nice. The transition was seamless: We got home – and from then on the Multicharger was our default mode of transportation.
How did you get around before that?
It all started with a non-electric boxbike back in autumn of 2020 and it was a lot of fun for everybody. I tried using it as much as possible, but I immediately realized its limitations: The kids started to outgrow the box, and the lack of an electric motor meant, I had to be in the mood to use it and worry about whether I was appropriately dressed. My concern would be: Will I get sweaty on my way to the office?
So you needed an E-Bike!
Yes, exciting things were going on with electric bikes, so we made the decision, let’s not go back to the car for day trips, let’s invest into an E-Bike for real. I initially thought about buying a Longjohn type of cargo bike. But because the kids are now a bit bigger, it made more sense to put them on a Midtail like the Multicharger.
Why did you choose the Multicharger Mixte?
I wanted a quality experience. And it stood out in the category, the geometry is still fairly normal, it looks and rides like a regular bike when I don’t transport kids, and it’s more versatile than the boxbike. I also appreciated that it has the sturdiness to be able to travel on gravel roads. In Slovenia, the cycling culture is very much oriented towards the countryside and mountains, and I like the idea that we could do a trip like that. To go and explore the forest trails.
What kind of trips do you do in the city?
If I need to go anywhere, it’s almost always by bike. In the morning, I often take my kids to the kindergarten, then I go to the office. For any errand I need to do I take the Multicharger, it’s just the default way. My personal goal was to never make a car trip in the city again. And I mostly stay true to that.
In one picture you had attached a mountain bike to the Multicharger’s sideloader. What had happened?
(laughs) Yes, that was my son’s bike. It needed service. That’s another good example where the default would have been to load the bike into a car. It was a bit of a challenge to attach it to the Multicharger, because it’s almost a full size bike. I had to take the front wheel off and I attached it to the safety bar and the sideloader, and it worked fairly well.
» My goal: never make a car trip in the city again. «
What kind of feedback do you get riding in the city on your Multicharger?
I just get positive feedback. Most people would smile when they see us, but some hardly notice it’s a cargo bike, because it looks so much like a regular one. Often people ask me about the battery range. This is a funny thing, because it feels to me this is a metric from the car world, which does not make sense for us on E-Bikes. Because it is hard to measure, you always add some power of your own, and it has never occured to me as a problem. I charge it usually once a week, and I would never make such a long trip to drain the battery. People seem to lack that imagination of what it’s like to live with an E-Bike.
How would you describe Ljubljana?
It’s a great city for cycling. It has a circular shape, is fairly flat and very small in surface. By bike, you can get from one end to the other in about 25 minutes. Regarding the weather, it’s not too rainy and we get very moderate temperatures. Not overly hot in summer and in the winter you can get by with a hat and a coat. So most of the year is great for cycling. But people here still think that cycling is only a nice weather thing.
What about infrastructure?
Ljubljana is a small city and there aren’t that many cars, but it’s still a car centric city, both in the mindset and in the urban planning. There are some key pieces of infrastructure that are missing. For some directions it is difficult to get through the city by bike. It works well if you go north to south, but east to west will get difficult. But it has improved a lot in the last decade. And we’ve had a good few months of building bike infrastructure just before the Velo-city Conference. Things are changing. It’s not the same positive change that has happened in Paris for example, but every city has their own pace.
Where do you see the most potential?
Before adding more bike lanes we should be removing parking space. Most of the time it is more convenient to take the car – or at least it’s not as inconvenient as it should be. A lot of public space and funds is dedicated towards making the city accessible for your car, and once you have that it’s really tough to advocate for cargo bikes for example. It’s not about taking space away from cars. It’s about leveling the playing field. Because the default is still the car.
The people’s transport mode is often influenced by the modes they grew up with.
Yes. Kids are indicative. I once got into a bit of a fight with my eldest son, who is twelve years old. He is not yet into that notion of not taking the car. One day I picked him up from soccer practice with our Multicharger, and he refused to ride with me. He said, he was worried about getting teased by his friends, because they might think we are so poor that we can’t afford a car! So I showed him the receipt for the Multicharger but he wasn’t really impressed – although I think he should have been! (laughs). But he is very happy to ride his own bike most places and I think other kids would be too – they just need encouragement from parents and better infrastructure. In the end, it’s more than just transport, it’s about community and environment. In a car, you can‘t see people around you, but on a bike, you feel more connected, you hear sounds, you can stop at any time. That’s when you realize how dehumanizing the car is.
Thanks for the chat, Marko!
During the Velo-city conference, Ljubljana made its ambitions clear: Investing around twelve euros per citizen each year in better cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, it aims to accelerate the pace. In addition, a national cycling plan is currently being developed, which will bundle the measures and projects at the national level.
The Velo-city conference is organized by the European Cyclists' Federation (ECF) and takes place every year in a different city. This year, it brought together more than 350 speakers and around 1,300 participants under the theme „Cycling the Change“. Numerous cycling product innovations, initiatives and projects from different parts of the world were also presented. In 2023, Leipzig will be the host city of the conference.