— EU-funded cycle route website reminisces about historic wars in Russia and invites people to end their cycle tour by standing on Red Square.
EuroVelo 2 Capitals Route, a partly EU-funded project to develop a cycle route from Galway to Moscow, should be diverted to end in Kyiv and not in Russia, an Irish cycling campaigner has said.
The Irish section of the route is to run from Galway to Dublin, with most of the route open as an off-road path between Maynooth and Athlone, and planning advancing for sections in Dublin and west of Athlone.
EuroVelo routes are at different stages of development but are often marketed and used as routes before being fully developed. The Russian section of EV2 is at the earliest stage and no EU funding is currently being spent on it, but the organisation in charge of overseeing the network of routes is weary of unilaterally removing Russia from its planned network.
Paul Corcoran, a Dublin-based cycling campaigner, has called the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) to reroute the ending of the route.
He has now written to Cyclist.ie, an umbrella group for cycling campaigns in Ireland and the ECF member group in Ireland, asking that they request that the route is changed.
Corcoran wrote today: “The [western end of] the route ends in Galway via Dublin. In light of the Ukrainian War and aggression from Russia and Belarus on the Ukrainian people of which 80,000 are seeking refuge in Ireland that the ECF remove Minsk and Moscow from Euro Velo route 2.”
In an email two weeks ago to the ECF directly, Corcoran said: “The cycling tourism economy is worth 44 Billion. Shouldn’t this money benefit a country like Ukraine instead of Russia? I think it would send a strong message to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.”
He added: “There are over 80,000 Ukrainians living in Ireland seeking international refuge and the Eurovelo route 2 passes through Dublin. It would be great to hear ECF’s position on this.”
Jill Warren, CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation, replied to him and said: “We appreciate your concerns which are well taken. As you may know, the EuroVelo Cycle Route Network has been a long-term work in progress since 1997. At present it is only around two-thirds completed. The section of EuroVelo 2 you make reference to is not completed.”
“ECF is currently not involved in any ongoing projects to develop this or any other EuroVelo route in Russia, does not have a national coordination centre in Russia for EuroVelo, and would not consider any such projects or initiatives under the current circumstances. Apart from this, as far as we are aware, Russia is also not benefitting from any public funding, be it from EU or from other sources, in relation to EuroVelo.”
In a follow-up email to Corcoran, Warren said: “Please understand that any route changes are not made unilaterally by ECF but as part of a wider process in line with our governance structures and procedural guidelines. For that reason I am not able to give a specific answer to your query right now. It is well noted and I can raise it with relevant stakeholders.”
On the issue of the ECF not taking unilateral action, Corcoran told IrishCycle.con that he has also tried to make contact with cycling groups in Ukraine but has so-far been unsuccessful.
Practically speaking any detour of the route away from Russia would likely also have to exclude Belarus given its links with the Kremlin.
The Russia page on the ECF’s Eurovelo website states: “There are many sights to take in during the Russian section of the route. If you’re coming from the West, the first city you arrive in is Smolensk. This regional capital is well worth a stop off, trust us, the Katyn memorial is a must!”
It continues: “Next stop is the Yuri Gagarin memorial, then head to the fields of the battle of Moscow, the largest and deadliest battle of the Napoleonic wars. Finally, in Moscow you can feel the mix of old and new Russia, lap up the history of the eastern most European Capital, and stand on Red Square.”
Another EuroVelo route, EV4 Central Europe Route, already goes to the Ukrainian capital, but it is not uncommon for countries and even cities to be linked with more than one route.
Corcoran would like to see EV2 routed from Poland to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s section of the EV4 route is described as follows on the EuroVelo website: “EuroVelo 4 in Ukraine goes from the Polish-Ukrainian border to the capital city of Kyiv. This route offers a relaxing and easy to ride natural landscape, passing through attractive and vibrant cities like Lviv and Zhytomyr, as well as fascinating smaller towns and villages. A bicycle trip along EuroVelo 4 is a perfect way to dive into real Ukrainian culture and hospitality, as well as to learn about the Soviet period of Ukraine’s history.”
IrishCycle.com contacted the ECF for comment and the organisation said that their reply would be much the same as what they told Corcoran, which they were aware was seen by this website.