The cradle of the cycling history of Croatia and an urban cycling oasis
It was in Zagreb sometime at the end of the 19th century when everything concerning the bicycle began. Back in 1867 a Zagreb merchant Ladislav Belus brought a Parisian sensation back from the Paris World Exposition, the two-wheeled Michaux. Thereby opening the door to the first bicycles in the wider area of Zagreb and central Croatia, and so by the beginning of the 1880s they were “rolling” in Zagreb, as well as in Karlovac, Jastrebarsko, Samobor, Varaždin and Koprivnica.
Also in Zagreb in June 1885 the first Croatian cyclist society was established and this date is acknowledged as the beginning of the sport of cycling in Zagreb and Croatia. In the same year the newly-established society printed the booklet of Rules – Riding Regulations, and by the following year it organised a race of low and high bicycles (so-called velocipede) around Zrinjevac Square to raise funds for the building of the Croatian National Theatre.
Since the number of bicycles was growing and growing, in 1890 the enterprising Zagreb locksmith Ivan Dirnbacher added bicycle repairs to his locksmith services, and in 1896 he became the owner of Zagreb’s first factory in whose the workshops there was a “repair shop of all two-wheeled systems”. With the increased everyday use of bicycle riding in Zagreb, the cycling sport was given a great stimulus right at the end of the 19th century with the building of racetracks in Zagreb at locations in Roosevelt Square, Koturaška Ulica, a name it still has to this day (“koturalo” meaning “bicycle”) and in Maksimir, at the spot of today’s stadium.
And so from Zagreb cycling in every way spread firstly to continental Croatia, through Gorski Kotar towards Primorje and Istria, and then to the south via Lika towards Dalmatia. The First Croatian Cycling Federation was founded in 1894 in Zagreb, and members were from all over Croatia, cycling clubs from Karlovac, Sisak, Varaždin, Samobor, Osijek, Križevci, Koprivnica, Ludbreg and Požega. The popularisation and promotion of the best cycling routes was also begun. So in 1892 the First Cycling Map of Croatia and Slavonia was compiled by Ivan Mihelić, and it is held in the Croatian Sports Museum in Zagreb.
However, concerning the roots of cyclotourism the link is also with Zagreb and the famous traveller and cycling adventurer the Zagreb trader and locksmith Ferdinand Budicki (1871 – 1951), who built his own bicycle in Vienna and who back in 1897 travelled by bicycle for eight months over almost the whole of Europe and North Africa, covering 17,323 km. In his honour the capital city of Croatia has the Ferdinand Budicki Museum in the hall of the former Pluto factory, dedicated to his three passions - bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles.
Today Zagreb is a true cycling city. Since 2013 you don’t need your own bike to visit Zagreb because a system of public bikes has been introduced - NextBike Zagreb, so bikes can be quickly hired and returned to one of the 20 or so city terminals. The cycling infrastructure is visible in all parts of the city, however, the cycling paths do not yet make up a complete city network and in some places it is necessary to also use the additional options of the less crowded, nicer and more peaceful streets and embankments and parks.
Of course, when cycling through the city – when you share the city’s space with pedestrians and other users – be especially cautious and considerate because then your ride through Zagreb will be safe, beautiful and above all fun.