Thursday 23rd July
Today we left Zagreb and starting heading for the northern hills, and some slightly cooler air. We have some time to kill before meeting our friend Steve is Ljubljana, so have decided to take a little break in the north of Slovenia to make sure we’re nice and fresh for the Austrian Alps.
Cycling was nice today. We travelled through pretty, rolling hills and tackled a couple of killer inclines.
Friday 24th July
Everything was going well today until we were stopped by a police car as we joined an A road via a traffic light junction. They signalled for us to pull over into a petrol station and asked to see some documentation. I gave them our passports and they took our details down while we waited.
‘Eric,’ said the policeman, after a while, ‘In the UK, is it legal to drive on the motorway?’
‘No,’ said Eric.
‘So why are you driving on the motorway here?’ said the policeman.
‘On my map it says that this is an A road, sorry,’ said Eric.
‘If your map told you to drive into a river, would you drive into a river?’ said the policeman.
‘No,’ said Eric (giving the only available non-offensive answer to this patronising question).
‘Sorry, it was a mistake,’ I said.
The policeman and woman looked through a regulation book they had. In the meantime, Eric double-checked the map we had, which showed that the motorway ended just before we had joined the road. We looked at the road: it looked a lot like a dual carriageway.
‘The fine for cycling on the motorway is 120 euros. As you are not from this country, we will make it 60 euros.’
I didn’t feel at all grateful for this concession. This whole thing felt very fishy.
‘Can’t you let us off? It was an honest mistake,’ I said.
‘People die making mistakes on this road every week, so no. Sorry,’ said the policeman.
They filled out some paperwork. While we were waiting Eric saw the policeman checking his own map on his smartphone. Eric saw that the policeman’s map showed the same thing – the motorway ended before where we had joined the road. The policeman looked up, saw Eric looking at his phone, and quickly closed it. Eric quietly told me what he had seen.
I very carefully asked the policeman if he was sure that this section of the road was a motorway. He got out of his car and beckoned me to follow him to the side of the road.
‘Do you see that round sign, on top of the lamps? It says that no bicycles, pedestrians or horses are allowed.’
I looked, I saw a lot of rectangular signs, all with writing on. I couldn’t see what he was talking about.
‘But I think the motorway ends there,’ I said, gesturing, ‘and here is an A road.’
‘In Slovenia all double lane roads are automatically for cars only,’ said the policeman.
‘We didn’t know that. in other countries it’s OK for cyclists on dual carriageways,’ I said.
So why wasn’t he fining us for cycling on a dual carriageway if this was the problem? But I was afraid to push it as I didn’t want them to decide that we would be getting an 120 euro fine.
So that was that. We handed over 60 euros. It felt like the school bully was taking our lunch money (for a very pricey, extravagant lunch!).
They told us the nearest exit for the controversial road and then followed along behind us to make sure we took it. As soon as we got back onto the road Eric pointed out a road marker saying “D430”. ‘It’s an A road!’ he said furiously.
We both thought that the police had made a mistake but didn’t want to back down. I also thought that maybe they had some quota they had to reach, and 60 euros was a bit of easy money for them. If we hadn’t been polite and apologetic I’m sure it would have been 120.
When we reached our campsite, not long afterwards, I spent quite a long time researching online to see if there were special rules about cyclists not being allowed on dual carriageways in Slovenia. I couldn’t find any information to confirm or deny it, so I don’t know what to think about that. Though I don’t think we’ll be risking it from now on!
So that sucked.
But there were some nice things about today.
The landscape continued to become more hilly and pretty. The style of houses had quite an Alpine feel to them.