Who Is EuroVelo 8 for? In a nutshell: The EV8 is for all of us – utility cyclists, leisure cyclists, backpack cyclists, sports cyclists and pedestrians.
Different types of cyclists
For most people, a cyclist is a cyclist. Anyone riding a bike is lumped together under the collective identity of cycling. But in reality there are many types of cyclists – though in a country where cyclists are relatively scarce it is reduced to sports cyclists .
A number of studies have tried to categorise these types. A 2013 Montreal study, for example, divided cyclists into 4 types – dedicated cyclists, path-using cyclists, fairweather utilitarians, and leisure cyclists. Similarly, the German cyclists’ club ADFC classified peoples’ attitudes to cycling (both cyclists and non-cyclists) under 4 categories : strong and fearless, enthusiastic and convinced, interested but concerned, and totally disinterested. And in 2018 another German observer of cyclists even came up with 12 types of cyclist!
Who cycles here?
By observing who does and doesn’t use EuroVelo 8, we can soon develop our own ideas. Most prominent amongst users, and the main target of local politicians who back the development of the cycleway, are cycle tourists. These backpackers on wheels can already be seen in la Provence verte, trying to locate the next stretch of half-finished cycle route. We have even met some using the old railway line route where no improvements have been made at all.
But equally prominent, and in growing numbers, are local leisure cyclists. Weekends are the busiest days for the EV8 in our area, with couples, families, and single adults out enjoying a ride on a largely car-free cycleway.
Less visible, but of great importance for a future in which more cyclists make use of the EV8, are utility cyclists, using their bikes to get to work, school, to do their shopping or to simply pop over to the next café or restaurant. In countries with high cycle use, these are the people who make up the vast majority of cyclists. They are the “interested but concerned” in the ADFC study, that make up 60% of the overall population.
One type of cyclist that we rarely see on the EV8 – in its actual state of construction – is the sports cyclist – though so far they form the majority of cyclists here in la Provence verte. Their expensive, lightweight carbon bikes and ultra-narrow wheels require an ultra-smooth road surface. The gravel top dressing on much of “EV8 in progress” is simply not of interest. That will change, when the EV8 is finished with a hard bitumen top surface.
The idea distinguishes most EV8 users from the more prominent sports cyclists. But it also opens up the opportunity for many more people to use the bicycle as a means of transport.
Slow Cycling is all about riding in a leisurely way, looking up and around you when you cycle and enjoying the landscape, it’s about cycling with friends, enjoying picnics, coffee stops and chats.
Slow cycling is accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be super-fit, super slim or super young. You don’t have to wear expensive special clothes, or require changing and showering facilities when you reach your destination. Even so, slow cycling is still exercise. Low intensity exercise that lifts your heart rate and still burns calories. And in the age of home office and computer entertainment, it gets you outside and moving.
Important: Car free and good surface
Clearly, the French EV8 coordinating committee is well aware of this and is trying to make the route as car-free as possible. A recent study noted that 45% of EV8 users were cycle tourers, and much of the work of the committee is directed at these visitors. But equally, utility cyclists are important. And in both cases, the quality of cycle paths is important.
What unifies all those interested in car-free cycling is less of a desire for speed, and more a desire to savour the journey. Cycle touring is by definition a means of enjoying the landscapes and cultures through which we ride. But utility cycling can be equally gentle and enjoyable, whether couples chatting side-by-side as they ride, or school kids stop-starting to meet up and have a bit of social time together. The EV8 gives all of them a chance.