Do you dream of crossing Europe? Why not do it by bike? While the impact of tourism and mobility on the climate is becoming increasingly clear, it is now possible to explore the continent thanks to long-distance cycling routes. This is the “EuroVelo” network, which will take the most courageous from Spain to Norway… or from London to Moscow.
How many routes are there to cross Europe by bike?
Seventeen long-distance cycling routes crisscross Europe, crossing some 40 countries. Each cycle route has its own identity, like “EuroVelo 3”. This one, nicknamed the pilgrims’ route, connects the pilgrimage routes from Santiago de Compostela in Spain on one side, to Trondheim in Norway on the other, passing through France, Belgium and Denmark. Other routes link the major European capitals (EuroVelo 2, which goes from Dublin to Moscow via Berlin), or follow the route of the former Iron Curtain, which marked the separation between the communist countries and the rest of Europe before 1989, such as EuroVelo 13.
New routes have been added to the network. In 2019, it is the “Meuse à vélo” that has joined the program in turn, with a small route of “only” 1100 kilometers, which follows the Meuse River in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. A route entitled “Lakes and Rivers of Central Europe” was also inaugurated in 2020. This route links important waterways in Austria and Hungary. Finally, EuroVelo 8, which follows the Mediterranean coast, has undergone a major extension, venturing onto the Turkish coastline.
Between bicycle paths and country roads
The majority of the network is paved and flat. Many sections follow the seashore, rivers or canals via former towpaths. Wherever possible, the cycle routes intersect with existing cycle paths, particularly in the larger towns. But most of the time they follow small country roads.
“A significant part of the network is on public roads, but we don’t necessarily see that as a problem,” says Ed Lancaster, an official of the European Cyclists Federation (ECF), the organization behind the network. “There is often little traffic, riding at a moderate speed. But our priority is to manage the few sections where traffic is heavy or too fast, and where there is a need for infrastructure,” he continues.
Travellers have also noticed that it has been less easy to move around Europe since the pandemic began. With the introduction of the health pass, tourists will be able to cross borders more easily during the summer of 2021.