It’s 20 years since the film “Toy Story” was released, the Russian Space Station Mir welcomed its first American guests, the DVD was announced and Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” topped the charts in several countries. 1995 was also the year that EuroVelo was established.
So, what is EuroVelo? It’s a pan European cycle network with 14 long distance cycle routes, which covers more than 70,000 km in 43 countries. It is estimated that about 45,000 km are in existence, so the network is best described as “in the making”. The longest route is EuroVelo 13, the “Iron Curtain” route, at 10,400 km. The network can be used by cycling tourists but also by everyday riders, either commuting to and from work or the shops, or on excursions at the weekend.
The idea of creating a network of international cycle routes spanning Europe was initiated by the ECF (European Cyclists Federation) during a meeting of its AGM in Brussels in 1995, inspired by the 1993 opening of a national cycle route network in Denmark, and the brainchild of Jen Erik Larsen of the Danish cycling association “Foreningen Frie Fugle” (FFF). The original plan devised by a working group meeting in Cheb in the Czech Republic was to create 12 themed long-distance cycle routes that connect the continent. The was based on the same principles as the Danish network, with North-South, East-West, and circular round trip routes. The aim was always that the routes could be used by cycle tourists as well as for daily mobility and that wherever possible they should use existing or planned national or regional cycling routes. The UK’s involvement started in September 1996 when Phil Insall from Sustrans, our national cycle network, attended a working group meeting in Brussels.
The past twenty years have seen significant developments. For example, the official EuroVelo signing has been approved by UNECE WP.1 (United Nations Economic and Social Council, Working party on road safety and signalisation) and there is now an increasing amount of EuroVelo signing in place across the continent, from Bulgaria to Spain and from Cyprus to Estonia. EuroVelo is also increasingly recognised both by local, regional, national and European governments, as well as amongst the wider public.
Following the signing of a contract in 1998 for the management of the project by the ECF, the Danish FFF and Sustrans, the first EuroVelo route was “opened” in 2001 – the North Sea Cycle Route – which runs down from Scotland to Norfolk and Suffolk, and either crosses from Harwich to the Hook, or continues on down to Dover to Calais; on the other side of the North Sea, the route runs from Calais, through Belgium and the Netherlands, on through Denmark and Sweden to Norway. Sustrans and the FFF handed the project back to the ECF in 2007.
Another milestone was reached in 2012 when a website for people wishing to cycle the routes went online at eurovelo.com and a new EuroVelo overview map was made available.
Feeling adventurous on your bike? Fancy one of these routes?
North – South Routes (Odd Numbers)
1 Atlantic Coast Route : North Cape – Sagres 8,168 km
3 Pilgrims’ Route : Trondheim – Santiago de Compostela 5,122 km
5 Via Romea Francigena : London – Rome, Birindisi 3,900 km
7 Sun Route: North Cape – Malta 7,409 km
9 Baltic – Adriatic: Gdansk – Pula 1,930 km
11 East Europe Route: North Cape – Athens 5,984 km
13 Iron Curtain Trail: Barents Sea – Black Sea 10,400 km
15 Rhine Route: Andermatt – Hoek van Holland 1,320 km
West – East Routes (Even Numbers)
2 Capitals Route: Galway – Moscow 5,500 km
4 Central Europe Route: Roscoff – Kiev 4,000 km
6 Atlantic – Black Sea: Nantes – Constanta 4,448km
8 Mediterranean Route: Cádiz – Athens and Cyprus 5,888 km
10 Baltic Sea Cycle Route: 7,980 km
12 North Sea Cycle Route: 5,932 km
Total network: Over 70,000 km
If the distances seem long, the general requirements for a EuroVelo route give some encouragement, as they require that “steep sections should be avoided wherever possible and for very steep sections (if unavoidable) alternative transport options (i.e. public transport or alternative routes) should be provided”.
At the moment, the total route infrastructure is made up of the following categories:
· Trafﬁc-free asphalted road: 8%
· Trafﬁc-free non-asphalted road: 6%
· Public low-trafﬁc, asphalted road: 56%
· Public non-asphalted road: 3%
· Public high-trafﬁc, asphalted road: 14%
Another requirement is that the routes be well signed posted, with a EuroVelo sign incorporated within existing national signage systems, with some examples shown.
As a key tip, why not try out part of the North Sea route where it heads through Suffolk and Norfolk, and get a feel for what it is like to follow a EuroVelo route?