'Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving' (Albert Einstein). Cycling tourism is among the economic sectors that yield most benefits in relation to the public investments that they require to thrive. Cycling, as such, has multiple benefits, among which the health benefit has been assessed to be the most valuable to society. Cycling tourism, in turn, has the pleasant side-effect of channelling consumer spending towards often rural restaurants, hotels and businesses.

Bringing cycling and tourism together – a topic that has become particular important in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – the Policy Learning Platform held a cross-thematic webinar to explore the multiple benefits of cycling tourism and to hear from successfully good practices from different EU regions how to best support this leisure activity that brings so much added value to regions. The webinar, held on 30 June, is available below.

Webinar recording

Webinar agenda overview

00:02:42 Environment and resource efficiency Thematic Expert, Venelina Varbova, introduced the webinar topic and Policy Learning Platform services 

00:09:11 Introduction to the topic and the benefits of cycling by low-carbon economy Thematic Expert Katharina Krell

00:19:10 Presentation by Alain Labatut joined by a presentation of Jose Carlos Sanchez Romero (00:36:08) on supporting cycling tourism in a coherent way

00:41:24 Q&A Should cycling tourism have its own dedicated regional strategy, and if so, who should develop it?

00:46:26 Presentation by Magdalena Osełka on the cooperation of the Eastern Poland Regions with the promotion of the eastern cycling trail Green Velo

00:58:38 Q&A Cycling tourism can help diversify the local economies. Did your project achieve such an impact on the economy of the participating regions and how?

01:00:58 Q&A What are the main issues in promoting cycling in natural areas? 

01:05:00 Presentation by Ed Lancaster on the EuroVelo initiative: a cycling tourism map & guide through Europe

01:19:18 Q&A Would you be able to provide guidance, if a regional mobility or tourism policy maker was contacting you for good recommendations? 

Panel discussion 

01:21:03 Q&A Tourism is one of the sectors badly hit by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Cycling is among the winners of the crisis. How to best use the momentum to enable cycling to help rural tourism? Can you think of concrete measures?

01:28:37 Q&A What are the things to watch out for when supporting cycling tourism? What can go wrong when ill planned? How to avoid the pitfalls? 

01:33:50 Q&A What can public policy makers do, where should they start and what concrete steps should they take for this upcoming programming period? 

Key learnings 

During the webinar, policy-makers and practitioners learned about approaches to cycling tourism from the County Council of Huelva, Spain (ECO-CICLE project), Tourism Organization of the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland (OUR WAY project) and EuroVelo. The presentations put forward several key insights:

  • Cycling has many benefits for both the individual and society. For the individual these include that cycling is convenient and low-cost, as well as being healthy. For society, cycling has no carbon or pollutant emissions, no noise, lower road congestion and requires less public investment, but also creates jobs. Cycling tourism in particular can help to boost the economies of rural and remote areas;
  • Cycling tourism requires a coherent policy framework to achieve its optimum impact. Whilst few regions currently have cycling or cycling tourism strategies, a dedicated regional cycling plan is the best tool to channel support into this area. This should be developed under the responsibility of the competent body, but also working with policy-makers in all related disciplines (mobility, infrastructure, spatial planning, health, education and sport), and a bottom-up and participatory process that can involve all stakeholders;
  • A regional cycling plan should take stock of regional assets, take advantage of existing resources, pay special attention to rural areas and consider the impact of seasonal traffic flows. Actions should consider the creation of cycle routes, coherent signage, promotion in line with existing tourism offers, development of facilities for bike and luggage storage, social participation and training. Linkages with other initiatives, including the EuroVelo routes are encouraged.
  • Funding is available for strategy and network development via the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (greenway development) and also through Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI), bringing together several funds under one operational programme.
  • Communication, education and behaviour change approaches are vital, boosting domestic cycling as well as attracting cycling tourists to the region. New routes and maps linking touristic destinations are a good approach, linking up several sites and creating a clear narrative to a journey;
  • The COVID-19 pandemic creates new opportunities and pressures for cycling tourism as people turn towards domestic holidays. New practices are emerging in response, including the provision of bike repair vouchers, cheap bike repair, (free) bike carriage spaces on trains, buses and ferries and free advice for first time cycling tourists. As more people are turning to cycling in the pandemic, there is also the chance to develop further cycling infrastructure while demand is high. Further practices are available via the European Cyclists Federation under #RestartCycleTourism.

More good practices on cycling and cycling tourism have been identified by the Interreg Europe ECO-CICLE and OUR WAY projects, as well as by EPICAH, Cult-RiNG, REGIO-MOB, LAST MILE, DEMO-EC and PASSAGE. Check the project websites for further inspiration. 

Follow-up activities

The panel discussion and questions from the audience raised a few issues for follow-up activities, including infrastructure development guidelines for cycling tourism through natural parks, and integrated territorial investments (ITI). The Policy Learning Platform will consider how to tackle these topics in future.

If you want to stay up to date on future policy learning platform activities, sign up for our policy digest to receive policy updates. If you are in interested in looking at regional policy challenge together with like-minded peers from all over Europe, our peer review may be of interest. Read about the terms of reference and previous success stories here

Image credit: Photo by Dorothy Castillo from Pexels