Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Velodyssee

Haven't you heard? Devon Coast-to-Coast, a.k.a. NCN27 has a brand new name: Velodyssee. Well, shall we say a brand new additional name! This is part of the on-going programme of integrating NCN27 into the Euro Velo routes - it forms part of Euro Velo route 1, or EV1 for short.

All 1200 km's of
Velodyssee!
This isn't simply a re-branding exercise, and there is some serious money behind this. In fact, most of the £2 million that it cost to build Gem Bridge came from European funding, specifically in support of this project.

EV1 now officially starts in Ilfracombe, and follows NCN27 all the way to Plymouth, from where it links to Roscoff in France to continue through Brittany on its way to Spain, and then Portugal, mostly following the coast. Think about it - a rather excellent cycle route, offering spectacular views of Devon, and Cornwall in the distance, through landscapes that change from the serene calm of the Taw and Torridge estuary, to lush green forests, to rugged open moorland, and much more, before linking with mainland Europe that offers even more varied and exquisite scenery! It is simply a superb idea that provides a ready-made backbone for a wonderful cycling holiday.

New EV1 signs have started springing up all over NCN27, which is good news as it reminds us that the route is part of a bigger picture, and hopefully entice more people into discovering the brilliant simplicity that is to be found in a cycling holiday.

Looking at the map above right, it is painfully obvious that the NCN27 part, as well as part of NCN3 included into Velodyssee, is just a small bit, and no matter how biased I may be in favour of NCN27, the reality is simply that it is almost an "optional extra" to cycle tourists cycling along EV1. You must remember that the French section of Velodyssee is just part of a far bigger route, Euro Velo 1, or EV1, and EV1 stretches all the way up to Norway.

As such, there really aren't all that many incentives for European cycle tourists to cross the English Channel to cycle NCN27, when they can instead continue up through Belgium, and include the cycling heaven that is the Netherlands.

Cycling is big business, as I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised to hear. What may surprise you is that cycle tourism is big business, too. In a mostly rural economy, such as what is found in Devon and Cornwall, tourism is a major economic force that needs to be nurtured and grown like a prized rose bush.

Cycle tourists, as I've pointed out before, tend to spend more than other tourists, and the reason isn't hard to find: you can only carry so much on your bike. As a result, cycle tourists should be courted at every available opportunity, especially those crossing over from France, as they offer the opportunity to bring serious money into local economies.

And yet, let's look at the reality: Neither Ilfracombe, nor Plymouth has any sign showing the Start or End of the Devon Coast-to-Coast route. Cyclists doing the route regularly get lost in Plymouth, and often don't start at the real starting point in Ilfracombe.
In the town of Bideford, many shops have closed. Most of the shops are to the west of the river Torridge, while NCN27 passes on the eastern side. Except for the cafe in an old train carriage, on the NCN27 route there is nowhere obvious for cyclists to get to shops, and so they cycle through without spending their money.

We can and we have to do better if we want to reap the economic benefits of a potential wave of cycle tourism. That starts with improved signage, such as what is being put up now, but doesn't end there. We need decent, well thought out cycling infrastructure in place, and we need to make it as easy as possible for cyclists to get off the route to get to shops.

That isn't too much to ask for, is it?