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A cyclist along a road in the mountains in Montenegro – © NOYMES/ Shutterstock

The macro-regional strategy EUSAIR has approved a project to build a cycle path that will cross all the countries bordering the Adriatic-Ionian basin. It will be called Adrioncycletour and will integrate the cycle paths of nine European countries into a single network

The promotion of slow and sustainable tourism is one of the main objectives of EUSAIR, the macro-regional strategy involving four countries of the European Union (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Greece) and five enlargement countries ( Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina).

One of the ready-to-go projects in this area is the Adrioncycletour, a route along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea that will allow tourists and citizens to move from city to city in a sustainable manner. and safe, thus strengthening the integration of the regions and countries involved and encouraging the discovery of these places, often forgotten by mass tourism because they are outside traditional circuits.

But there is more to Adrioncycletour: it is an opportunity to strengthen regional cooperation within a framework – that of EUSAIR – which offers advantages in terms of inclusiveness and horizontality, as we highlighted in a recent to study produced for the European Commission.

Sull'isola di Lussino, Croatia - © Darac / Shutterstock

On the island of Losinj, Croatia – © Darac / Shutterstock

Adrioncycletour will create a network along the coast and a series of branches that will reach even the regions and countries that do not overlook the sea. However, the implementation of the project will be complex due to two types of problems . The first challenge is to design and build safe cycle paths where there are none, and to ensure maintenance and compliance with safety standards for existing paths. The second, perhaps even more complex than the first, consists of connecting the existing cycle paths. To do this, it will be necessary to conclude agreements between local authorities, regions and countries.

In Italy, the project overlaps five of the ten already planned tourist cycle paths of national interest, offering an excellent funding opportunity to complete and ensure the safety of the cycle paths of Magna Grecia, the Apulian aqueduct, the Adriatic, Venice-Turin and Trieste-Lignano Sabbiadoro-Venice. The latter will act as a link with Slovenia, where at least two cycle paths are concerned: Parenzana and Adriabike. In Croatia, Adrioncycletour will have a main route straddling the Croatian section of EuroVelo 8, the Mediterranean route of the group of cyclists routes promoted by the European Cycling Federation across the continent. Even Serbia will not need to start from scratch when it comes to building the main infrastructure, as it is already crossed by several EuroVelo routes, like Albania. There are also plans for the construction of EuroVelo trails also in Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Montenegro, but there is still no operational development. However, the overlap of EuroVelo and Adrioncycletour can strengthen the commitment of institutions. Finally, Greece is already crossed by three EuroVelo routes which can be a good base for the development of secondary ramifications.

We talked about the potential of Adrioncycletour with various representatives of organizations and associations involved in the theme of regional development and sustainable mobility and cycling in particular.

What is the value of a cycle path that crosses the entire Adriatic-Ionian region?

Tadej Zilic, Larisa Kunst (Koper Regional Development Center): having a continuous route connecting all countries would be very important for tourism and in order to attract cyclists from northern and central Europe. The project is a great opportunity for local actors to work together – regional and local authorities, development agencies, tourism actors, cycling associations.

Pista ciclabile in Tirana, Albania - © Lumiere et compagnie / Shutterstock

Cycle path in Tirana, Albania – © Lumière et compagnie / Shutterstock

Jovan Erakovic (Ciklonaute Belgrade): the project is important for the construction of a regional integration story. This route has added value because it does not stop at the borders between one country and another, but is designed to cross them. From what I see, the development of a cycle route in countries with a recent or weak cycling tradition is not a one-way process: the actors involved are not limited to the institutions that have to carry the project. , but also include associations and local actors, and all these subjects discover new ways of collaborating.

Lucia Bruni (collaborator of numerous associations for sustainable mobility): the project aims to attract foreign tourists, encourage local tourism and allow commuters to move from one city to another without taking the car. All this is only possible if intermodality [the possibility of getting around by combining different means of transport, such as bike and train, ed.] and the development of services which make a cycle path attractive are encouraged in parallel. This is a very difficult process, as it will have to be able to bring together several levels, both political and administrative.

Do you think that a well-defined cycle route could be an effective incentive for tourism?

Tadej Zilic, Larisa Kunst: in recent years, the demand for cycle tourism has increased enormously. Providing tourists with a full package would greatly increase the importance of the region as a cycling destination.

Jovan Erakovic: as someone said, “in a car you are in contact with the road, by bike you are in contact with people”. For some countries which still suffer from a bad reputation in the rest of Europe and in the world, cycle tourism can be a tool to change this image for the better. However, having a cycle path is not enough to attract tourists. It is essential to develop infrastructure and services hand in hand. But even that is not enough. What matters most is the promotion of the cycle path. Otherwise, it could be years before you start reaping economic benefits from the project, and all the while, the bike path could deteriorate and be abandoned.

Lucie Bruni: cycle tourism has enormous potential, it is slow tourism by definition. Cyclists stop in all the shops, they need to eat every half hour, they need a good hotel. It is therefore necessary to develop all the ancillary services to the cycle path, otherwise families or people who do not usually travel by bicycle will not be encouraged to try.

Can we consider citizens as the driving force behind the promotion of such projects? How can they help institutions take concrete action?

Tadej Zilic, Larisa Kunst: In big cities, for example Ljubljana, people use cycling a lot, and therefore local authorities are working hard to promote cycling as a sustainable mode of transport. The really decisive step forward would be to be able to change the way people think, to convince them to use the car less.

Jovan Erakovic: It all depends on the region you are in. In Vojvodina, for example, the bicycle has long been used in everyday life, but in the rest of Serbia it has only gained ground in recent years. Citizens are essential for the engagement of institutions. There are places where the only thing missing is coordination between the many existing local realities that deal with sustainable mobility.

The Covid-19 has had a strong impact on tourism. However, cycle tourism allows you to discover less frequented places, perceived as safer. A bicycle trip also has a much lower impact on the environment. Can we say that cycling is a way to cope with both the crisis linked to the pandemic and the environmental crisis?

Tadej Zilic, Larisa Kunst: Adrioncycletour can certainly help protect the environment. We are seeing almost everywhere that bicycle sales have increased dramatically with the pandemic, and this is a sign that interest in cycling is increasing.

Jovan Erakovic: the pandemic has changed people’s habits, the first effect is the desire to stay away from places frequented by mass tourism. But this process did not come out of nowhere, the growth of environmental awareness is also contributing to this trend. Cycle tourism perfectly reflects this growing desire.

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