An overarching theme representing the growing importance of EuroVelo and cycling tourism more generally was the release of the European Commission’s European Declaration on Cycling. After a European Parliament Resolution in February which included multiple mentions of EuroVelo, the Commission’s declaration intersects with EuroVelo at multiple levels: It contains commitments to “significantly increasing safe and coherent cycling infrastructure across Europe” and “working towards creating a coherent cycling network in cities and improving connectivity between suburban and rural areas and city centres, including cycle highways”, which are among the primary objectives of EuroVelo. It also includes a chapter on cycling tourism, which recognises “cycling as a sustainable means of recreation and tourism”. The landmark declaration marks a major advocacy success and provides reason for optimism looking into 2024 and beyond.
Exciting route developments
The network itself also grew in 2023, as two EuroVelo routes were extended by the tune of almost 500 km. EuroVelo 3 – Pilgrims Route was extended from Santiago de Compostela to the Galician town of Finisterre, which in ancient times was considered to be the end of the known world. EuroVelo 14 – Waters of Central Europe, the most recent route to join the network in 2020, grew by a whopping 400 km. It now takes in more important Hungarian rivers, lakes, and thermal baths, and passes through Hungary’s marvellous capital of Budapest. There it meets the ever-popular EuroVelo 6 – Atlantic - Black Sea, making the “Pearl of the Danube” an important nexus point for cyclists.
September saw the announcement of a new EuroVelo candidate route: the future EuroVelo 16 – Iberian Cycle Route will connect Lisbon to Pamplona via Madrid and will join the network by 2028 at the latest. The new route connects Spain’s capital to the EuroVelo network for the first time, which has long been a dream for cyclists from Spain and beyond. It will offer an exciting blend of vibrant cities and peaceful rural landscapes, with plenty of history peppered in along the way. It also further cements Pamplona’s status as a veritable EuroVelo hub, soon the meeting point of no fewer than three EuroVelo routes.
New tools for cyclists and partners
2023 saw the release of another long-awaited feature on EuroVelo.com, developed in the framework of the AtlanticOnBike project extension: the EuroVelo route planner! This useful new tool allows users to plan cycle trips between any two points on the EuroVelo network. The possibility to add intermediate destinations and to choose from options such as “least climbs” and “most developed” mean the tool is infinitely customisable and adapts seamlessly to the requirements of each individual user. The planned itinerary is available for download as GPX-Track, making it easier than ever to plan a trip on EuroVelo.
The new EuroVelo brand guide, released in September, provides a revolutionary new course for the network’s design language and brand development. It includes, amongst others, guidance on creating cohesive national logos as well as co-branding with EuroVelo for projects, events, and route development. You can find precise guidelines on the design and use of EuroVelo route logos, ensuring a harmonious look to the EuroVelo network wherever you cycle. It also includes fresh guidance on EuroVelo logo, colour system, fonts, imagery and much more.
Projects growing the reach and impact of EuroVelo
The AtlanticOnBike project extension ended in June. Beside the route planner, some of the main success stories resulting from the project extension included enhanced communications, such as a transnational marketing strategy and improved national websites, improved quality and safety of route infrastructure, as well as two important documents: the EuroVelo Transnational Signing Manual and the Transnational Guidance Document on Rest Areas.
As one project ended, two new began: April marked the kick-off of the Interreg Central Europe co-funded ICTr project, which will develop EuroVelo 13 – Iron Curtain Trail as a tourism product over the course of the next three years. ECF is one of 12 project partners, spanning from Poland to Croatia, with a Hungarian lead partner, and will mainly focus on preparing a EuroVelo partnership for the route as well as improving communication tools on EuroVelo.com.
In October, the Interreg South Baltic co-funded Baltic Biking UPGRADE (BBU) project kicked off in the historic city of Gdansk. ECF, as one of nine partners, aims to support small and medium enterprises in developing cycling-friendly services and bookable offers as well as strengthening governance and cooperation on EuroVelo 10 – Baltic Sea Cycle Route to ensure a lasting impact for the project.
A year of records and statistical excellence
The EuroVelo Digital Statistics Report 2022 showed an encouraging year for web visits, with more than two million sessions spread across more than 1.8 million users. EuroVelo social media presence recorded similar growth, surpassing 50.000 likes on Facebook and 20.000 Instagram followers throughout the course of the year.
The EuroVelo Usage Monitoring Report 2022 was released this year, showing a strong growth of cycling traffic on the EuroVelo network from 2019 to 2022. Produced in collaboration with Eco-Counter, the data shows growth on all ten measured EuroVelo routes on both weekends and weekdays, with a particularly large increase in winter, autumn, and spring compared to summer.
According to the EuroVelo Route Development Status Report 2022-2023, the EuroVelo network reached the milestone of two-thirds of the network being ready to cycle, a 2 percentage point increase on the previous year. Notable improvements occurred in the Italian sections of EuroVelo 5 – Via Romea (Francigena), as well as increases of more than 5% in the development levels of Greek, Hungarian, and Italian sections. Nevertheless, faster improvement is needed if the goal of a fully cyclable network by 2030 is to be achieved.
2023 also marked a record-breaking year for EuroVelo donations, as the community came out in greater numbers than ever to support the European cycle route network. The launch of the brand-new, first-of-its-kind EuroVelo Calendar and the new edition of the EuroVelo Overview Map, as well as the release of the new and improved EuroVelo cycling jerseys in late 2022, laid the foundations for this encouraging development.
The EuroVelo family grows
At this year’s EuroVelo General Meeting, we were delighted to welcome two new members into the EuroVelo family: The Center for Environment (CZZS) became the National EuroVelo Coordinator (NEC) for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The civil society organisation is an ECF member and has made efforts to connect the country with the EuroVelo network for many years – hopefully, the establishment of the NEC will be a major step towards achieving this!
At the level of the EuroVelo Council, Karine Dupuy, CEO of France Vélo Tourisme was elected with an absolute majority of the votes. She replaces Camille Thomé, Vélo & Territoires Director, who was a member of the Council for a record 12 years. Karine’s focus is on growing the role of cycling tourism in developing communities and encouraging more and diverse groups of people to cycle on EuroVelo and beyond.
An inspiring EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference
The EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference 2023 took place in Izmir, Türkiye, from 11 to 13 October. Almost 270 cycling, tourism, and heritage professionals gathered in this historical city to exchange ideas and knowledge under the theme of “Cycling: a new perspective on heritage”. 50 international speakers from 17 countries provided expertise and discussed ideas on topics such as the politics and future of cycling tourism, nature preservation, marketing tools to promote cycling and heritage, and so much more. Further highlights included a gala dinner in the Ancient Smyrna Agora, centre of the city’s cultural life during antiquity, and an opportunity to explore EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route on bicycles as part of a technical visit.
Given the great success of the 2023 edition, the announcement of the 2024 host city was hotly anticipated: The city of Viborg, Denmark, will welcome members of the EuroVelo and cycling tourism communities from 23 to 25 September. This historical cathedral city on EuroVelo 3 – Pilgrims Route will be sure to provide a stimulating backdrop for another engaging conference. Looking further ahead, the call for bids to host the 2025 edition of the Conference is open until 31 January 2024!
Article by Mark Sheridan