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Old 01-20-10, 09:32 AM   #1
Dave Nault
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Are we hurting bicycle touring in the process?

I've recently read a few articles on making a national route system for the US simular to what they have in Europe. My question is, Are we ultimatly killing the reason why touring is so popular? If our routes become like the interstate, will we just become another car on the road? Will the adventure be gone when you know thousands have already done what you're in the process of doing? Will the little towns along the way become so jaded to the traveling bicyclist that everything becomes a comodity to them when seen as a regular meal ticket? Are we risking the prepackaging of our sport and taking all of the adventure out of it?

Just curious to know what others think.
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Old 01-20-10, 09:39 AM   #2
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I think you should do some touring in Europe someday.
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Old 01-20-10, 10:17 AM   #3
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Wait, what? Please point me towards this "national" (international) network of bike route that we have over here. I know of the danube trail and maybe two others.

What we do have here in france is an insane network of small country farm roads that you can follow to your heart's desire. Sure, there are some greenways, and they are nice too, and you will see other cyclists, but is that a problem?

As a side note, I went from france to holland along the meuse river greenway (Ravel) and only saw two or three other cyclists in 100 miles.

And maybe metzinger can tell you a little about the amazing system the have in the netherlands. In fact that is a real bike route network!

In short, I would answer no to all of your questions.
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Old 01-20-10, 10:20 AM   #4
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Can't see it as a problem (or benefit ?) in our lifetime and there's nothing that says you won't be allowed off the beaten path.
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Old 01-20-10, 10:21 AM   #5
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Wait, what? Please point me towards this "national" (international) network of bike route that we have over here. I know of the danube trail and maybe two others.

What we do have here in france is an insane network of small country farm roads that you can follow to your heart's desire. Sure, there are some greenways, and they are nice too, and you will see other cyclists, but is that a problem?

As a side note, I went from france to holland along the meuse river greenway (Ravel) and only saw two or three other cyclists in 100 miles.

And maybe metzinger can tell you a little about the amazing system the have in the netherlands. In fact that is a real bike route network!

In short, I would answer no to all of your questions.
The Adventure Cycling Assoc. along with many individual states are working towards this end as we speak (type). I'm speaking primarily of the US.
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Old 01-20-10, 10:29 AM   #6
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Yes, I know, have you actually ridden on one of the ACA routes yet? The only thing that makes it a bike route is the fact that they publish maps with directions facilities on them. The only thing that takes the adventure away is knowing that there will be a cafe, camping, or whatever up ahead. They help to take the planning out of touring, which sometimes is a very fun part of it. Although if you just want to pick a route and go you can, and it will still be an amazing adventure.

Anyway, I was asking for some info on this bike route network that we have in Europe. Some countries are better than others, for example belgium and holland, but there is no, that i know of, international bike network here. As I said I know of maybe 3 routes that are international.

For me, I like to take a highlighter and outline a route taking small country lanes that will have hardly any traffic on them.
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Old 01-20-10, 10:35 AM   #7
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I was at a recent ACA gathering and we were shown a map of specific bicycle touring routes that go all throughout Europe.
Other than that, I have no first hand info.
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Old 01-20-10, 10:43 AM   #8
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I would like to get my hands on that map then! In my map collection I have half of the belgium map, and for the flemish region the routes are quite extensive. They are still wild, and it is nothing like a bike interstate. In holland you can pick a destination and follow a series of signs designated by number to get you there.

Whatever the case, you can never kill the adventure of bike touring. And if you do not want to follow an established route then you don't have to, just do the planning and make it your own.

Also, from my experience the little towns along the ACA transam route loved cyclists. Twin bridges MT even built a bike camp especially for bike tourers with great facilities and only ask for a donation! What a great thing! I loved meeting the other bike tourers there, it did not make me feel like it was less of an adventure because others were doing it, it made me feel like part of an elite club
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Old 01-20-10, 10:49 AM   #9
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As now, with boats and buses touring modes, you can take a prepackaged bike tour on a 'safe', established route or you can 'roll your own' bike tour, to coin a phrase. Something for everyone, according to their tolerance of risk.
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Old 01-20-10, 11:13 AM   #10
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Here's a zoomable map of the national bike routes (landelijke fietsroutes) in Belgium and Holland.
No place name labels on this one, so one needs to cross-ref landmarks with a GoogleMaps page.
http://openfietskaart.nl/
Green lines are main routes, blue are a signposted intersection network (knooppunt network).
Short sections of some of these become busy mid-day on the nicest weekends of summer, but only ones near major centers.
The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe, with the highest number of cyclists per capita.

Not one route feels like an Interstate. Ever.
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Old 01-20-10, 01:26 PM   #11
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I've toured on a few of Adventure Cycling's more popular route segments. I find just the opposite is true. I enjoy meeting the occasional other bike tourer along the way. The small towns that have experience with bike tourists seem to relish the business and are better equipped to offer things a bike tourist needs.

Cars get used to seeing bikes on popular routes. That improves safety.

The more bike tourists, the merrier. There's plenty of room in the pool for everyone.
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Old 01-20-10, 01:57 PM   #12
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There is the North Sea Cycle Route, which traverses the countries that border the North Sea. http://www.northsea-cycle.com/default.asp

I rode part of it during my tour in The Netherlands and Belgium last September. I'm not sure to what extent the route has been signed or developed in the other countries along the route.

As for the original question, we can only HOPE that bicycle touring would become so popular in the USA that it would seem mundane.
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Old 01-20-10, 02:35 PM   #13
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So, let me get this straight. Making routes more accessible to bike tourists is somehow bad for touring...?

If you want to take the road less cycled, nothing's stopping you from grabbing a map and riding. Popularizing and standardizing routes will make it easier for people to tour, and is far more likely to increase the number of bicycle tourists than to negatively impact it.
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Old 01-20-10, 02:40 PM   #14
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Nope.
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Old 01-20-10, 02:56 PM   #15
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The world is so huge, the people who want to map their own route and follow their own trail will go find it. The people who just want to tour to go sightseeing will take the roads.
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Old 01-20-10, 09:15 PM   #16
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FWIW Department-- We tend to stay off the ACA routes for all of the above reasons. On our trip across the US we saw only 6 other x-country cyclists in 3650 miles, except were our route intersected with ACA routes. I think the locals were more willing to engage, and we were shown hospitality that I have not seen on the one ACA route I've actually ridden (I've been on the same route twice. The last time so my wife could do it). So my comment is based on a sample of one!

I don't think it matters where we ride or what we ride. The important thing is that we are there doing it, and the world is big enough to allow us to do it our own way. The one thing that I really like is when the ice cream shops are well spaced
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Old 01-21-10, 01:33 AM   #17
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I think you should do some touring in Europe someday.
+1

And other countries. People don't just tour in the US. People tour all over the world. If the US wants more specific bicycle routes, that's just one country in the world. There are lots of other countries to tour that don't have specific bicycle routes.

Plus no one is forcing people who want to tour the US to follow the ACA routes. If I wanted to cycle across the US, I wouldn't follow a predesignated route, I'd make my own route and go where I want to go.

And speaking as someone who has toured in Europe, I've yet to see any extensive mapping systems for bicycle routes. Various areas have bicycle maps (i.e. England has a general bicycle network map, and the Ieper area has a set of maps) , but if there area more extensive ones, I'd like to see them!! I've even asked in tourist places there to see if there is such a thing, and they have not been able to help me either.
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Old 01-21-10, 02:10 AM   #18
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Hi,

yes of course: In the 80's you could tour in Europe and see 1 other bike-tourist per week. In the 90's you met 1 bike tourist in countries like Morocco, Ecuador, Zimbabwe per month.
nowadays it's getting crowdy.... but where is the problem? (Okay nowadays no one offers me a bed for a night in Germany, that was 20 years ago, quite often the case)

But if you choose non-flat-mountain-off-road-routes in remote areas there is still a bit of adventure. And nobody forces you to follow the proposed routes - and there you'll find the hospitality you known.

Thomas
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Old 01-21-10, 02:36 AM   #19
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And speaking as someone who has toured in Europe, I've yet to see any extensive mapping systems for bicycle routes. Various areas have bicycle maps (i.e. England has a general bicycle network map, and the Ieper area has a set of maps) , but if there area more extensive ones, I'd like to see them!! I've even asked in tourist places there to see if there is such a thing, and they have not been able to help me either.
Really? Go into any bike shop in Germany, and the first thing you'll see are bike maps. Denmark and Sweden. Holland. Belgium. All good. France a little less. Maybe not so much Spain and Italy.

As for the OP, it all depends on your goals. If you want adventure, it's not hard to find.
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Old 01-21-10, 03:23 AM   #20
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Really? Go into any bike shop in Germany, and the first thing you'll see are bike maps. Denmark and Sweden. Holland. Belgium. All good. France a little less. Maybe not so much Spain and Italy.

As for the OP, it all depends on your goals. If you want adventure, it's not hard to find.
The main place I checked was Strasbourg, but I think I also checked in Paris. I wanted a map for the Rhine Route, and also for all the bicycle paths in the city. And anything else they could give me. I came away with nothing.

In Belgium, I got the fietsroutes maps, of course.
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Old 01-21-10, 03:52 AM   #21
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The main place I checked was Strasbourg, but I think I also checked in Paris. I wanted a map for the Rhine Route, and also for all the bicycle paths in the city. And anything else they could give me. I came away with nothing.

In Belgium, I got the fietsroutes maps, of course.
Out of curiosity, did you look in bike shops or tourist offices? Thinking back, there were much better maps in bike shops in Germany than in the tourist offices. Seems to be the other way around in Denmark.
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Old 01-21-10, 04:47 AM   #22
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Out of curiosity, did you look in bike shops or tourist offices? Thinking back, there were much better maps in bike shops in Germany than in the tourist offices. Seems to be the other way around in Denmark.
Tourist offices. And it seems to me that the Strasbourg office did usually have a bicycle map of some sort, but they were out of it ... or something like that.
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Old 01-21-10, 05:54 AM   #23
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I've recently read a few articles on making a national route system for the US simular to what they have in Europe. My question is, Are we ultimatly killing the reason why touring is so popular? If our routes become like the interstate, will we just become another car on the road? Will the adventure be gone when you know thousands have already done what you're in the process of doing? Will the little towns along the way become so jaded to the traveling bicyclist that everything becomes a comodity to them when seen as a regular meal ticket? Are we risking the prepackaging of our sport and taking all of the adventure out of it?

Just curious to know what others think.
I think your concern is unfounded. A few points:
  1. The routes are just lines on maps connecting interesting points on existing rideable roads. It isn't like they consist of any special bike lanes or bike paths.
  2. The fact that there are lines on the maps called bike routes doesn't mean they are heavily used by cyclists.
  3. On perhaps one of the most popular bicycle routes, the Trans America we often met folks in small towns who had no idea the route went through their town and who had no idea what we were doing. In other situations where they were really used to seeing cyclists they were not jaded and didn't think of us as a commodity or meal ticket.
  4. Nothing prevents bike tourists from seeking out other roads if they prefer mot to ride on bike routes.
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Old 01-21-10, 11:32 AM   #24
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... it did not make me feel like it was less of an adventure because others were doing it, it made me feel like part of an elite club
I like this quote a lot.

I think the western world in general has become quite lazy and there is never going to be an abundence of cycle tourists hitting the roads. There are too many towns; too many roads and different routes to take.

These maps are just road maps showing various routes that someone can take on foot, on bicycle etc. They aren't set in stone or dedicated, thousands of kilometres long paved trails - which would never be economically viable; and could you really see governments in various countries agreeing to fund such a path? They are usually just theoretical coloured lines on a map, placed upon upon existing roads. Besides, once a route (or tourist attraction) became over-popular, riders have, and always will find new routes.

As for the general public becoming jaded with cyclists, I also disagree. Bicycle tourers are usually not a disruptive, undesirable element. Dedicated, motivated, goal-oriented people like bicycle tourists are generally responsible and hard working persons, not trouble makers.

I think the fear is unfounded.
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Old 01-21-10, 12:01 PM   #25
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Nope... don't agree with just about everything you mention OP. If you have been touring before and I assume you have. Even on the routes the ACA puts out I would go days without seeing another cyclist. We are few.
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