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Mobility and Transport


Recreational cycle routes are attractive, scenic and most often located away from motorised traffic. They are usually designated via physical signage or by maps and can also be known as greenways and green corridors.

Considerations for applicability

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Level of cycling

Greenways can be large infrastructural undertakings and so the expected level of cycling influences the suitability and scale of a greenway. High utilisation of the route should be expected to justify the expense.

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Urban layout/topography

Disused railways and canal paths are suitable to be repurposed into recreational cycle routes as they have shallow gradients and are often surrounded by attractive scenery.

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Scenic touring routes and routes that connect attractions can be used for touristic purposes. Local residents may use the routes for leisure and they can offer a quieter location to teach children.

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Finance Resources

The total cost will vary significantly depending on the length of the route and the type of construction required. The repurposing of disused mobility infrastructure will be cheaper than the construction of a new cycle path.

The 1.2 km green corridor in La Rochelle cost €1.2m.

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Time & Human Resources

Depending on the length of the route, greenways can require a significant amount of time and human resources to plan, construct and maintain. In particularly rural areas, frequent maintenance of adjacent hedgerows and trees may be required to keep the route operational.


Measure impact highlight

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Recreational cycle routes can benefit local communities by providing all members of the population with a place to meet and socialise, run events, and exercise. They can contribute to making areas more attractive places to live in.

Note: An overview of the direct and indirect impacts resulting from correctly implemented cycling measures is available in{Challenges that cities face and how cycling can address them as Link}

In-depth measure analysis, case studies and further guidance

[collapsed title=Detailed description of the measure]

Key features

Greenways are defined by SUTP as 'multi-purpose paths for non-motorised users independent of road alignment.' (SUTP, Fact Sheet H-06). Sustrans define Greenways as 'traffic-free routes which are attractive, generally well separated from traffic and continuous over obstacles and through road junctions' (Sustrans, 2016)

These cycle routes are usually designed to follow the terrain, which is less environmentally invasive than cycle routes that prioritise alignment via cut and fill (SUTP, Fact Sheet H-06). Larger networks of greenways may be branded, and informative and educational signs can be used to enhance the experience of the greenway. Supporting facilities such as repair stations bicycle parking and public toilets can improve the experience for cyclists using the route. Furthermore, seating along a cycle route can improve the accessibility of greenways for people with reduced mobility and provides a complementary facility for all route users.


Function and objectives

Greenways support cycling recreation and tourism and can be used for social and educational activities. They can help to connect people with nature, and when managed correctly, support the local wildlife network.

When constructed between residential, business or other popular areas, they can act as attractive and practical transport corridors.

EuroVelo is a network of long-distance touring routes across Europe and is a good example of cycle tourism/recreation, while the green corridor in La Rochelle shows how a greenway can also serve a practical purpose.

As they are typically quieter routes that are away from motorised traffic, they can be an ideal location for people to learn to cycle or to become more confident on a bicycle.

Complementary measures{Provision of Information and Awareness Raising as Link} campaigns are important activities that promote the use of a cycle greenway, which can be supported by effective branding of the route.{Cycle Maps as Link} and{Signage and Wayfinding as Link} are other information measures that support the use of greenways.{Traffic Restrictions and Charges as Link} on car traffic and priority for people who cycle along a cycle greenway can also contribute to its success. Influencing a behaviour change is most effective when cycling is comfortable and safe.

Supporting facilities such as{Cycle Parking as Link},{Bicycle Maintenance and Repair Facilities as Link} and seating will increase the accessibility and attractiveness of using a greenway.


Cycle routes that support cycle tourists can create significant economic benefits for local economies resulting from the money spent by cyclists on accommodation and in local businesses. For example, in the Münsterland region (Germany) cyclists were responsible for around 30% of the total annual income from tourism (German National Cycling Plan, 2002-2012).

Parameters of success or failure

In order for a recreational cycle route to attract people to use it, it should be aesthetically attractive and have a high quality of provision.

The route should be easy to navigate through clear signage and maps, and appropriate levels of supporting services should be provided that enhance the usability of the route. This can include vehicle and bicycle parking and seating.

Promotion through effective branding, events and bicycle maps can be used to draw people's attention to the route. It is also important for the route to be well maintained, especially in rural areas where natural debris can quickly build-up on the path.

Key Lessons for Transferability

Canal paths and disused rail routes provide suitable locations to develop attractive cycle paths with relatively little effort. Both these transport features provide long-distance routes with shallow gradients, few crossings and often scenic surroundings.


[collapsed title=Infrastructucture quality design guidance - Recreational cycle routes / greenways]

Overall recommendations 

  • Cycle greenways should be physically segregated from carriageways.
  • Greenways should be wide enough for people who cycle to feel comfortable and safe.
  • Where space allows, greenways should be wide enough to accommodate people cycling side-by-side, bicycle trailers and cargo bikes, and electric bicycles.
  • Greenways should be well-lit.
  • High-quality signage and route branding should be provided along the greenway.
  • Maximising the attractiveness of the greenway should be considered when selecting the route and the materials used.
  • Where large numbers of users are expected, it may be advisable to separate people who are cycling from those who are walking.

City practitioners should consult national cycle infrastructure design standards or regulations (where available) regarding the appropriate implementation of cycle highways in the respective Member States.


[collapsed title=Case studies]

[collapsed title=Cycle link (La Rochelle, France)]

  • Location: Southern/Mediterranean
  • Population: 220.000
  • Cycling Modal Share: 10% (Champion City)

Background and context

A 1.2 km green corridor was constructed between the industrial zone of Périgny, situated to the east of the town of La Rochelle, and the Rompsay canal, which connects the district of Rompsay to the centre of La Rochelle. This route completes a cycle link between the industrial zone and the village of Périgny to the centre of La Rochelle.

The industrial area of Périgny is a major employment zone and people are now able to cycle or walk the entire way using the new link and then the canal. In this way, the green corridor also links the cycle networks of the centre of La Rochelle with those of Périgny. The route was constructed on an old railway line, preserving local industrial heritage.


The creation of the latest part of the cycle link cost €1.2 million.

When the corridor is not in use, the lighting is lowered to only 30% of its full strength but as soon as a pedestrian or a person cycling passes the first light, the lighting increases to its full strength.

Almost all the materials on the old railway line were recycled in the construction of the new cycle route.

It was important to make this new cycle path as attractive as possible, which is why significant landscaping work was undertaken. A tunnel on the route was also decorated by an association of La Rochelle artists, which provides an example of urban culture on the route.

Key insights and lessons learned

It is important to involve stakeholders, notably cycling associations, prior to the implementation of the corridor and afterwards as issues will often appear following implementation.


[collapsed title=EuroVelo routes]

  • Location: EU wide
  • Population: N/A
  • Cycling Modal Share: N/A

Background and context

EuroVelo is a network of 15 long-distance cycle routes across Europe, parts of which have been developed from existing greenways and cycle highways. In total, the network consists of over 70,000 km of cycle route and is due to be completed by 2020. The concept was conceived by the European Cycling Federation (ECF) and its British and Danish partners, in 1995. Since 2007,

ECF has been solely responsible for the management of the project. Every three years, the project accepts applications to create new EuroVelo routes and modify existing routes.

The Eurovelo website provides users with a colour coded overview of each route, indicating sections that are complete, undergoing work, and in the planning stage. A large number of resources are available to people who wish to use these cycle routes, including maps, a guidebook, online blogs and social media updates.


The network provides high-quality cycling routes for a range of users, including daily local cyclists and cycle tourists who are completing month-long expeditions. Many cycle tourists are attracted by the historical theme of a number of routes. For example;

  • EuroVelo route 2 links a number of Europe's capital cities.
  • EuroVelo routes 3 and 5 follow ancient pilgrims' trails
  • EuroVelo route 13, named the Iron Curtain Trail, follows border which divided the continent between East and West for half a century.

There are a number of types of EuroVelo routes: certified, developed, under development, and at the planning stage.

  • Certified routes have been tested according to a common methodology that ensures the route is in line with the ECF's European Certification Standard ( .
  • Developed routes are sections over 50 km that contain national signage and where information is available on national or regional cycling websites. A further distinction is made when the route incorporates EuroVelo branded signage and information.
  • Routes under development are usable are sections over 50 km that can be used by people who cycle, but which contains some parts that require further development.
  • Routes at the planning stage are not fully signposted and may contain dangerous sections.


The EuroVelo routes promote sustainable travel by supporting millions of cycling trips every year. An estimated 14.50 million overnight cycle trips and 45.54 million day trips are made annually on the EuroVelo network (ECF, 2012).

Cycle tourists who are attracted to the EuroVelo routes spend significant amounts of money in local economies, supporting businesses and jobs. As many tourists cycle large sections of EuroVelo routes, accommodation providers and shops benefit all along the routes. A 2012 report on the impact of EuroVelo concluded that an estimated €7 billion direct revenue can be attributed to EuroVelo network as a cycle tourism product (ECF, 2012).



[collapsed title=Key guidance, further reading and references]

The Sustainable Urban Transport Project’s factsheet H-06 considers rural cycling, including Greenways

20 JULY 2021
(656.88 KB - PDF)

The European Cycle Route Network EUROVELO (2012) Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Tourism Study

20 JULY 2021
(5.74 MB - PDF)

CROW (2017) Design manual for bicycle traffic. Chapter 4.6

PASTA Consortium (editor) (2017) PASTA Handbook of good practice case studies for promotion of walking and cycling

20 JULY 2021
(2.07 MB - PDF)

FLOW Project (2016). The Role of Walking and Cycling in Reducing Congestion: A Portfolio of Measures. Brussels.

20 JULY 2021
(8.39 MB - PDF)

Sustrans Design Manual, Greenway management handbook, June 2016

20 JULY 2021
(6.93 MB - PDF)

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, 2002, Cycling plan 2002-2012. Measures to promote Cycling in Germany