EuroVelo, the European network of cycling routes resulting from the initiative of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) in collaboration with national and regional partners, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The project, born in the late ’90s and initially considered visionary, has become a success story of transboundary cooperation, creating the world’s largest network of cycling paths.
EuroVelo is a network of 17 long-distance cycling routes, totaling over 92,000 km of cycling itineraries that connect and unite the entire European continent. The routes are accessible to both cycle tourists and the local population making daily commutes.
The EuroVelo initiative aims to ensure the implementation of high-quality European-level cycling paths in all European countries, bringing the best European practices beyond borders and harmonizing standards. Its goals include promoting the existence of these routes to decision-makers and potential users, encouraging European citizens to experience cycling, and thus promoting the shift to sustainable travel for both daily commutes and holidays.
How was the EuroVelo network born?
The inspiration for the creation of EuroVelo came from the planning of the national cycling network in Denmark, launched in 1993. The Danish vision had an international perspective from the beginning, with the goal of getting more people to cycle both in Denmark and across Europe. The natural next step was the planning of a European cycling network, with work commencing in 1994.
The development of the EuroVelo network
Two conferences provided insights and ideas for the creation of EuroVelo. The first, focusing on national cycling network themes, took place in Amersfoort, Netherlands, on February 2, 1995. The second, held in Bruges, Belgium, on May 10-11, 1996, had the significant theme of “Cycling without Borders,” exploring the possibilities and opportunities of international cycling routes. These conferences brought together professionals in long-distance cycling routes for the first time, marking a turning point for the initiative. Following a successful match funding campaign, the EuroVelo project was officially presented on November 21, 1997, in Logroño, Spain.
Accelerating the further development of the European network
66% of the 92,000 km network is already ready for cycling. EuroVelo’s top priority is to continue developing the missing sections, integrate EuroVelo into the national cycling strategy of EU countries, and improve intermodality for transporting bicycles along the European network cycling routes.
To work effectively and efficiently, projects must be built on solid data foundations. Hence, EuroVelo Data Hub was created, an innovative tool developed by ECF in collaboration with Eco-Counter.
According to the EuroVelo Network Development Report 2022-2023, EuroVelo has achieved two-thirds of the network ready for cycle tourism, a 2% increase from the previous year. Improvements have been made in the Italian sections of EuroVelo 5 – Via Romea (Francigena), with over 5% increases in the development levels of Greek, Hungarian, and Italian sections. However, faster improvement is needed to achieve the goal of a fully cycleable network by 2030.
The EuroVelo Usage Monitoring Report highlights a strong growth in cycling traffic on the EuroVelo network from 2019 to 2023. Data shows growth on all ten EuroVelo routes measured on both weekends and weekdays, with particularly significant increases in winter, autumn, and spring compared to summer. Recent data shows an 11% annual growth in usage in 2023 compared to the same period in 2019.
Cycle tourism plays a fundamental role in the economy by spreading income and tourist density in territories and is an important tool for addressing challenges such as seasonality, decongestion, and decarbonization. This demonstrates that the direction is right. Further developments and projects will be presented from September 23 to 25 in Viborg, Denmark the city hosting the 2024 edition of the EuroVelo conference.
EuroVelo in Italy?
In Italy Fiab, Federazione Italiana Ambiente e Bicicletta (Italian Environment and Bicycle Federation) has been the coordinator of EuroVelo since 2011. “The three EuroVelo itineraries crossing Italy have been included in the General Plan for Cycling Mobility approved by the Government in 2022,” explains Antonio Dalla Venezia of Fiab, coordinator of the Bicitalia-EuroVelo technical-scientific committee.
For Italy – among the most sought-after destinations for cycle tourists across Europe – EuroVelo complements the national cycling network, Bicitalia, created from the ground up thanks to the commitment and expertise of Fiab volunteers, with twenty major routes across the regions of the Peninsula for a total of over 23,000 km.
Fiab has been engaged in this work for many years, including the crucial task of ensuring the implementation, functioning, and criteria of EuroVelo cycle paths across the country.
Equally important is the effort to integrate Italian cycling heritage into the European cycling network, as well as the various communication and information activities on the entire EuroVelo offering, targeting an increasingly broad audience of travelers choosing active holidays and slow tourism, both in Italy and Europe.