When the present meets the past to build the future
Initial discussions on the creation of the AtlanticOnBike project took place in 2013 in Bayonne. Ten years later, project partners met in Bayonne again for the third and final meeting of the AtlanticOnBike project extension – though the group has changed a lot in the meantime. Let’s have a closer look at the tremendous developments that the initial project and its subsequent extension made possible.
The original AtlanticOnBike project ran from January 2017 to December 2020, gathering 21 partners from 7 different countries, including ECF. This ambitious project, co-funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme, aimed to enhance natural and cultural assets of EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route in order to stimulate economic development, and for EuroVelo 1 to become a unique cycle tourism destination.
Some of the major accomplishments of this project were the development of a European methodology for analysing economic benefits with the creation of a transnational platform for data sharing and proceeding, the preparation of a transnational touristic marketing strategy with the creation of joint transnational touristic products, and the publication of useful documents for route promotion: schematic map of the route, press kit for media customers and corporate design.
The first EuroVelo 1 Partnership (previously called “Long-Term Management Agreement”) was created as a follow-up of the project, aiming to sustain its activities and continue with joint collaboration at the transnational level.
Since the completion of AtlanticOnBike activities, as well as the final meeting, were affected by covid, and given the huge potential of EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route, a project extension of 16 months was approved in 2022. This additional time, and a budget of €463,000, allowed project partners to build upon the achievements of the original AtlanticOnBike project, developing integral tools and ensuring a common identity for the route. The project extension brought together 8 partners from 7 different countries, covering all sections of the 11,000-km EuroVelo 1 for efficient transnational cooperation.
A successful final meeting
The two-day meeting in Bayonne was packed with presentations, trainings, workshops and touristic visits for the project partners. An intense first morning of sharing their main achievements in route promotion, infrastructure and services development, preparation of touristic offers, transnational guidelines documents and monitoring activities was followed by lively training sessions in which the partners were divided in smaller group to exchange their perspectives.
In the training session on rest areas, partners were invited to analyse some pictures of resting areas along EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route in various countries, highlight their main assets and point to the missing services, all of this based on the Transnational Guidance Document on Rest Areas prepared by ECF. In the training session on communication and marketing, each group was impersonating a cycle tourist planning a trip on EuroVelo 1 and looking for information online, in order to get a new perspective on the national and transnational websites, and identify what is lacking.
The second day of the meeting was an opportunity for insightful discussions, as project partners discussed the renewal of the EuroVelo 1 partnership and further transnational collaboration on route developments. The new partnership, running from 2024 to 20267, will hopefully bring together partners from all countries: Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal.
The formal part of the meeting ended with a workshop on the Transnational Route Evaluation Report and Action Plan, and on EuroVelo 1 Certification according to the European Certification Standard methodology. Based on information on the quality levels (infrastructure, including EuroVelo 1 signposting, services and promotion) gathered and analysed by ECF, project partners discussed the sections of the route most needing further developments and the timeframe for implementing them.
The route is currently most developed in France, where it is called La Vélodyssée, and French partners intend to officially certify the route in 2024. Partners could verify this by themselves with the traditional bicycle tour on a local section of EuroVelo 1, during which the rain and storm, though promised by a capricious weather forecast, miraculously avoided the area that afternoon. The meeting finished in a much more informal way, with a guided visit of the inspiring boat L’Hermione, currently under works along the EuroVelo 1 itinerary, led by a dynamic sailmaker-pirate who invited the group to immerse themselves in daily life aboard the boat. After their physical and mental efforts, the meeting participants were rewarded with pleasant refreshments in a superb ocean landscape, and Bayonne’s music day offered the perfect opportunity to end the evening with some dance moves!
It is not easy to put in a nutshell ten years of hard work and successful cooperation to develop and promote the Atlantic Coast Route, but overall, we can say that the project contributed to bringing closer many partners from all the countries present along the route, leading to major developments and a number of fruitful deliverables, pushing for even more ambition in future years.
An article detailing the deliverables produced in the frame of the AtlanticOnBike project extension, including a brand new route planner for cyclists to plan their next holiday on EuroVelo routes, will be released shortly.
Author: Florence Grégoire with contributions from Alexandra Fournier