I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails lately asking about the difference between these different bike routes, so I thought it would be a great time to talk about each of them and what they offer to recreational cyclists in France.
EuroVelo is a European bicycling network that links all countries in Europe. The network is overseen by the European Cyclists’ Federation in cooperation with the National EuroVelo organization. There are currently 12 long distance routes encompassing over 60,000 km, about two thirds of which is in place currently. Of the twelve routes, six of them go through France: EuroVelo 1, the Atlantic Coast Route, EuroVelo 3, the Pilgrim’s Route, EuroVelo 4 and 5, EuroVelo 6, Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea Route and EuroVelo 8, the Mediterranean Route. The network is made up of existing and planned cycle routes and improvements are ongoing. As of right now, none of the routes are totally finished.
In order for a route to be part of the EuroVelo network it must meet the following requirements:
- have no gradient above 6%
- be wide enough for 2 cyclists
- have an average of no more than 1,000 cars a day
- have a hard surface for more than 80% of its length
- be open for bicyclists year round, have lodging available every 50 km, food every 30 km, and public transit every 150 km
The most current information on the EuroVelo network can be found at the website of the European Cyclist’s Federation. The only route that has a website covering the entire route is EuroVelo 6. For all the other routes, you can find independent websites reporting on the routes or part of the routes, or websites reporting on the routes in particular countries. One of the major challenges facing EuroVelo is the current lack of an information database on the network. There is very little information available on individual routes and until this information is more readily available, use of this long distance network will be limited.
A Veloroute is a long to medium distance scenic bicycling path where the gradient does not exceed 3% and it carries no more than 1,000 cars a day. Veloroute may be made up of a variety of road types: greenways or Voie Verte, canal or lakeside paths or quiet country roads. Veloroute are not exclusively for bicyclists, they may be shared with other pedestrians like roller-bladers or walkers. Examples of Veloroute in France include rides like La Loire a Velo, Lake Geneva to the Sea, the Canal du Midi Route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and the Paris-Strasbourg route.
Voie verte, known as greenways in England, radweg in Germany and vias verdes in Spain are the most popular recreational cycling paths in France, as well as throughout Europe. Voie verte are totally car-free paths, reserved for walkers, bicyclists, roller-bladers and people in wheelchairs. Many of the routes are along canal towpaths, abandoned rail lines or old logging roads that are now dedicated recreational paths. They are flat for the most part–the highest grade is 3%, thus making them the perfect choice for recreational cycling. Voie verte are perfect for family outings or for anyone looking for a peaceful, relaxing cycling adventure without the stress of automobile traffic.
Some of the more popular voie verte in France are the routes from Givry to Cluny in Burgundy, which was the very first greenway in France, the greenway around Lake Annecy, the route from Bordeaux to Lacanau, then on to Arcachon, Saumur to Tours on the Loire and from Toulouse to Castelnaudary on the Canal du Midi. Another popular route is the Canal du Centre which I rode and wrote about last summer. A very popular trail near Bordeaux is the Roger Lapabie trail. This trail runs from the edge of Bordeaux to Sauveterre-en-Guyenne and is a very popular weekend route with plenty along the route to see and do, and a perfect addition to a planned trip to the Bordeaux region.
The best current source of information on Voie Verte is the French Association for Green routes and Cycle Routes, commonly referred to as the AF3V. Here you can find up to date maps and a search engine to locate green routes in each department in France. Much of the material is currently only available in French, but you can easily use Google’s Babelfish to translate. Another resource is the Association Francaise des Voies Vertes, but once again the material is in French, but you can use Babelfish to translate.
Hopefully this information will help you understand the differences between these three types of European cycleways. EuroVelo are multinational, and can include Veloroute and Voie Verte. Veloroute in France can include sections of Voie Verte, as is the case with the Loire a Velo, the Canal du Midi and several of the Burgundy by Bike routes. The piece de resistance is the Voie Verte–totally car free, stress free cycling, perfect for families, young and old. These are definitely my favorite bike paths in France, but most routes that I bike are a combination of Veloroute and Voie Verte, both offering a relaxing, peaceful way to explore the French countryside!