The European Cycle Network; Eurovelo

If, on a Sunday morning at 8.30am I am spending time reading a document written by “Policy Department B, Structural and Cohesion Policies” for the “Directorate General for Internal Policies” of the European Parliament, I do wonder whether my cycling adventure along the route of Eurovelo 5 has moved from the category of “interest” to that of “obsession”. Here is the front cover and if you click on the picture, you can read all 144 pages. 🙂

What do you mean you didn’t bother? Shame on you! OK… some choice highlights follow. First of all it only mentions Eurovelo 5 once; in a reference to the requirement of routes in Italy (of which the EV5 is one of course) to pass through major towns and cities due to the geography of the country. Apart from that, everything is more generally about the network and recommendations about how it can be used in the future to develop cyclo-tourism. Still with me? Good!

From the British perspective, it paints a depressing picture of the use of bikes in general; we are top of the league of pathetic cyclists (they don’t call it that btw). See the table to your right. For a country which makes up around 12% of the population of the European Union, we contribute a miserable 1% of cycling journeys. The Netherlands (3% of the EU in terms of population) makes 27% of journeys; it can’t all be down to how flat their country is!

So what is the role of the Eurovelo network (I hear you ask, no?). Our friends in policy department B have the answer;

The development of EuroVelo has involved a wide range of stakeholders in different countries seeking to develop sections of the proposed network across Europe. EuroVelo seeks to make use of local knowledge and uses existing long-distance routes in each country. The approach is essentially about upgrading a route to a high standard and then re-branding it as EuroVelo in terms of signage, interpretation and market communications. This is a fragmented process given the different levels of resources that are available in each country and thus the network is currently best described as in the making. Some parts of the network are well advanced such as Route 6 from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. Others are no more than lines on a map or routes which ‘pioneer’ cyclists follow to explore new destinations. This is a current weakness which is holding back a European wide transport facility and tourism offering.

That’s me (and perhaps you too)! “Pioneer cyclists [who] explore new destinations”. I don’t think that they are implying that we are the weakness, just the fact that it is left to the likes of me and you to promote many of the routes (but see below…).

What’s that I hear you cry? Will EuroVelo add to the potential of cycle tourism? Funny you should ask as the answer is here. Brace yourself for the first line of what the report says but it does get better;

EuroVelo is presently not a major tourism asset, since it has not been developed and marketed sufficiently. The development of a network, which offers a consistent standard across Europe, and a wide choice of destination has considerable potential. The key arguments are that such a network will increase market share by:

(a) offering an alternative sustainable tourism product which crosses all borders and spans all EU countries. This makes it unique.

(b) engaging the interest of tourism providers in the thousands of settlements along the route. They will be able to build networks, share best practice and develop a holistic sustainable tourism offering by seeking energy reduction and greenhouse gas emissions themselves

(c) bringing together the marketing power of hundreds of municipalities responsible for tourism development and promotion; the emergence of nearer to home slow travel opportunities is a key factor

(d) presenting a strong imagery of cross-border, cultural and heritage discovery which is accessible to many visitor markets within the EU

This will require commitment and forward planning on behalf of the managing group responsible for advancing the project. Most of all it needs a firm resource base on which to upgrade and develop the entire network within this decade for there will be an increasing urgency to have developed low-carbon products to offer as substitutes to longer-haul destinations in a sector which has clearly grown in the period of cheap oil.

So, in summary, it’s a bloody good idea but one which is currently under-promoted.

Call this serendipity but….. I found the above document while idly browsing the Internet this morning – I certainly wasn’t looking for it because I knew it existed. That really would be sad. However, I did send an email to the European Cyclists Federation last week asking them how we could work together to make the most of my trip and this website to promote the Eurovelo 5. No answer yet but I’ll of course write about it here if I get one…

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