by Oana Vasiliu
For a while now, there is a new talk of the town: one of the greatest European bike routes is going to cross southern Romania – EuroVelo 6, the Atlantic–Black Sea route. The officials of EuroVelo says it is one of their most popular routes and it’s little wonder why: coasts, rivers, castles, top-class infrastructure and a nice flat topography make the about 4,400 km long route every cycle tourists’ dream journey, crossing 10 countries, 4 UNESCO sites and six rivers. The finish line is in Constanta, Romania. Ready to bike?
Can we talk about velo-tourism in Romania? This is the first question which crosses your mind when you say velo-tourism. One of the promoters of velo-tourism from Romania, called Cycling Romania, has on its official website this question. “Dear cyclist, think of Romania as being a diamond which is waiting for you to polish it! To a bike tourist, this the most beautiful gem of all, the most surprising and exciting place to ride on two wheels. With its immensely diverse landscapes, rich culture, all kinds of amazing people, Romania is slowly and steadily luring the cyclist to experience the unforgettable adventures to be had within its borders.” And I could not agree more.
“We can talk about a growing niche in tourism. Generally, there are more and more people, travellers who are interested in eco-tourism and especially bike touring. Romania is still an unknown destination for many tourists and has a great potential for growing the cycling tourism industry. A great aspect is that Romanians are really taking to leisure cycling and many understand that cycling might be the best way to discover their own country,” explains Mircea Crisbășanu, founder of Cycling Romania. “I would say from a scale from 1 to 10 Romania is at 5 level bike friendly country. On the one hand you have the beautiful unspoiled countryside, still some old traditions being well kept, an authentic way of living in villages, delicious and healthy local food (much more than in Western European “developed” countries), on the other hand we don’t have such good infrastructure. No legislation regarding bike routes signage, no cycling paths along busy roads, poor public transport options for cyclists and their gear, garbage thrown especially close to bigger cities and very poor public roads signage that makes navigating difficult,” adds Mircea.
Where to bike-tour
The best known cycling routes in Romania are in Bucegi Mountains (from Sinaia until Predeal there are many mountain biking possibilities), within the Sibiu-Sighișoara-Brașov triangle, Transfăgărășan and Transalpina alpine roads, surroundings of Bucuresti (Towards Giurgiu, Comana, Ciolpani, Cernica), the Maramureș area and Euro-Velo6 route along the Danube. “Other small regions are rising on the cyclists’ priorities such as Dealu Mare wine region, communities in Banat Mountains or countryside roads in Northern Buzău,” adds Mircea.
The official EuroVelo 6
According to the map, the Ruse (Bulgaria) – Constanta (Romania) road is currently under development. “From Silistra to Cernavoda, the route follows the Danube for less than 100 Kms and arrives to the point where cyclists must choose between the Black Sea, 100kms further east and the Danube Delta, northwards, and its majestic natural reserve,” notes the specialists. And although there is no special infrastructure for cyclists on our national roads, it seems a lot of bike-fans were adventurous enough and have already completed the EuroVelo6 road. You just need to Youtube-search EuroVelo 6 and you will see happy bikers at the finish line in the Danube Delta or at the Black Sea. “In order to increase the awareness of this amazingly varied cycling road we need the political will and we need a government decision that acknowledges the National Network of Cycling Routes in Romania. We also need the national standards with which an entity can do route signing for cyclists. So far the Romanian state has done nothing to improve the bike infrastructure on EuroVelo 6 and, therefore, only a few cyclists are reaching the Danube Delta by bike. In Germany and Austria there are millions of bike tourists every year along the Danube trail,” says Mircea Crisbășanu on the topic of EuroVelo 6. For this route, the road enters Romania through Vidin border and crosses Drobeta Turnu Severin, Craiova, Alexandria, Giurgiu, Calarasi, Slobozia, Braila, Galati, Tulcea and Constanta.
Asked if cycling and velo-tourism can be of benefit to the local economy in these regions, Mircea explained that cycling can definitely attract economical growth to these communities. “An ECF (European Cyclists Federation) study in 2012 stated that bike touring in Europe attracts 44 billion euro of revenue annually in all interconnected industries. You can see anytime you travel in Romania that there are more and more bikers on the roads. The cyclist is a good quality tourist and the bike tourist is usually a bigger spender than a regular tourist, having bigger needs in terms of food, culture, healthy lifestyle. For instance, in Urlati area, the Dealu Mare wine region, where I am based and where I organise guided cycling tours with Cycling Romania I have noticed a growth of the bikers numbers from year to year. This season there is no weekend without 10-50 cyclists passing through, while 5 years ago you could hardly see any,” argues the founder of Cycling Romania.
In an interview for an investigation reportage from Digi24 TV station, Jesus Freire from the European Federation of Cycling explained that: “It’s important that the EuroVelo project is developed in Romania because it is a great source of money, it can create working spaces and business opportunities for the country because it will bring a lot of velo tourists from Europe which will come to discover Romania in a sustainable and beautiful mode. The country’s landscape is impressive and attractive, and the most important landmark is the Danube Delta.” The same investigation explains that in Europe, the velo-tourism means EUR 44 billions, as follows: Germany with EUR 11.37 billions, France with EUR 7.49 billion, UK with EUR 2.83 billion, while in Romania this type of tourism means EUR 180 million – taking into consideration accommodation, food, maintenance of the bikes, rented equipment and so on. Quite sad, really, and could be so different.