Global Inspiration

Oct 4, 2012

Jim Sayer from Adventure Cycling (in the middle) with Richard Weston, a co-author of a new report on the economic impact of bike tourism in Europe, and Camille Thome, secretary-general of the Departements et Regions Cyclables, a leading French advocacy group, in Nantes, France.

I'm writing just after visiting the charming city of Nantes, France, where I had the good fortune of participating in several important meetings, both for the future of bike travel and for Adventure Cycling. Chief among them were the first-ever conference on bike tourism in Europe and a gathering of the national coordinators developing EuroVelo, a network of long-distance bike routes criss-crossing Europe (similar in scope and concept to the U.S. Bicycle Route System).

I was lucky to do a presentation at the first gathering, along with Christian Haag, director of South Australia's Bike SA. Like Adventure Cycling, Bike SA is thriving and sees huge potential in developing the bike tourism market (which they estimate pumps billions of dollars into the local economy).

As if we need further proof, all we have to do is look at Europe. A new report out from English researchers projects that bike tourism generates $44 billion euros (or close to $60 billion) annually -- and that the feeling among bike tour operators there is that business is surging (whereas three years ago, they felt it was static).

The EuroVelo network, planned for completion in 2020.

As exciting for me was meeting more than 25 coordinators from countries as varied as Greece, Slovenia, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, the Czech Republic, France, Luxembourg and Spain, who are building and branding 14 new continental routes as part of EuroVelo. They have ambitious plans to complete by 2020 the 70,000 kilometer network (that's similar in distance to Adventure Cycling's existing route network, though much greater than the current mileage of new official U.S. Bicycle Routes).

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Many of EuroVelo's staff and national coordinators (with one American interloper!).

At the conference, I got some excellent tips on economic impact research and route development, while sharing our experience in branding bike travel. Altogether, I came away inspired and with a good feeling that, in our work here in the U.S., we're utilizing many of the same concepts and tools as Europe, albeit (right now) with significantly fewer resources.

Following Nantes, I've traveled to the heart of Rhine River country in Germany to experience for myself one of the EuroVelo routes (by bike, of course!), and the first which will be certified under a new process developed by the European Cyclists Federation. I'll have more to report on this unique project and my travels soon.

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JIM SAYER is executive director of  Adventure Cycling Association.

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