Iron Curtain Trail
Iron Curtain Trail www.ict13.eu financed by South East Europe)
About the project
For almost half a century, Europe was forcibly divided into East and West by the “Iron Curtain”, a border stretching from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. The European cycle track Iron Curtain Trail invites people to retrace and experience this important part of the continent’s history.
The Iron Curtain Trail thereby contributes in a lively and very practical way to the creation of a genuine European identity. In 2005, following the initiative of Green member Michael Cramer, the European Parliament recognised the “Iron Curtain Trail” as a model project for sustainable tourism and called upon the Member States for support.
The European Parliament accepted a proposal with overwhelming majority related to cycling and asked the European Commission and the Member States to consider the EuroVelo-Network and Iron Curtain Trail as an opportunity for promoting European trans-border cycling infrastructure networks, supporting soft mobility and sustainable tourism. Based on this decision special budget lines were allocated in to support preparatory actions for the Iron Curtain Trail (ICT). Thanks to the successful preparatory actions, in 2011, the European Cyclists Federation inaugurated the Iron Curtain Trail as Route 13 as part of EuroVelo, the European cycle route network, and the national cycling NGOs and regional development bodies started to work on the realization.
The Iron Curtain Trail connects most of the South-East-European countries, provides opportunities to learn, to find and to share good solutions for local, regional mobility challenges and to promote sustainable transport (to improve the image of cycling and public transport). The situation is very different in each of the South-East-European countries in terms of combined public transport offers (public transport and cycling), long distance cycle routes, daily cycling and cycling tourism
Present and future
The Iron Curtain Trail project received support from the South East Europe Programme with a total budget of 1,403,441.05 euro.
The project involves partners form all South East European countries along the trail.
With the help of this subsidy, the Southern section of the Iron Curtain Trail will be able to catch up to the more developed sections in terms of sustainable transport and tourism and become the engine of all cycling related development in the region, along the following specific goals:
Objectives of the ICT project:
- Improve the accessibility of the SEE regions by bicycle. The Iron Curtain Trail leads through border regions which were separated during the cold war period and the connections (for cyclists as well) were interrupted. Significant improvements have been made in the (motorized) road and railway infrastructure but at the same time new challenges appeared.
- Connect cycling and public transport opportunities. Cycling can help to improve the traffic, by increasing the catchment / gravitation area of the public transport lines by making them accessible faster and easier. In the frame of the project we will collect Best Practices and implement some (minor) pilot actions to improve the bike storage and transportation possibilities connected to public transport. These solutions can help remove the obstacles from public transport use.
- To connect SEE regions by a European long distance cycle route. The EuroVelo Network connects European countries, and the Iron Curtain Trail, as part of this Network – EuroVelo 13 – can provide a visible and tangible connection between the SEE countries and regions. Being part of a European network means extra motivation for the daily cyclists and for cycling tourists, leisure cyclists to use their bicycle and replace car trips but it motivates the decision makers as well to invest in cycling infrastructure. In the frame of the project we will not build new bicycle infrastructure but we will define the critical deficiencies along the route and will find out what kind of solutions can be realized.
- Promote cycling and combined sustainable transportation as a means of sustainable mobility. To increase the share of cycling and PT we have provide ready offers for cyclists that answer their problems and communicate them effectively. The communication has to improve the image of cycling (particularly in those countries where the share of cycling is low) and motivate the end-users, the local population. The communication has to reach the decision makers as well and has to stay realistic, be professional and adequate in time and content.
- The ICT project will significantly improve knowledge, experiences of the leading regional development bodies and the relevant NGOs in the program area and will lay down the basics of the future cooperation.
Specific conditions of ICT in Bulgaria
The ICT route along the Bulgarian borders is very challenging, mostly in mountain areas and requires proper bikes, equipment and fitness. It was agreed that the Bulgarian section will be rarely past in one trip, but rather used for short MTB trails. In this case synergies with other form of tourism should be exploited – cultural, historical, industrial, spa, gourmet.
During the project time we started an initiative foe certification of the ICT route into a cultural route from the Institute for cultural routes in Luxemburg. The process starts with collection “ points of interest” along the route which will be the frame of the future cultural route. Following the thematic objective – common, cultural and historical heritage.
Another initiative that was started during the ICT project was Rezovo – opening of walking/cycling border check point at Rezovo. This will enable cyclists and other tourists to cycle along the Black Sea Coast, easily cross the border and continue their trip along the Black Sea Coast to Istanbul, keeping to the coast line.
Currently about 10 000 long distance cyclists travel from Bulgaria to Turkey using the 3 available border check points , none of them close to the sea. In case there is a check point at Rezovo, most of this tourist flow will changed the route keeping close to the Black Sea Coast, which will have a great impact over the sustainability of the tourism in the Black Sea Regions in Bulgaria and Turkey. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, together with the Regional authority of Burgas and Assembly of the European Regions support our Rezovo initiative.
Sign posting is a key measure to make the ICT accessible for cyclists. However there is a significant obstacle in front of local authorities to sign post the route – old legislation makes it too difficult and complex. AS a result we started the initiative KERABAN for changing lows and regulations in favor of cycling.
The initiative INSPIRED is also linked to the ICT project. It is about Inclusion of cycling Policies in the Plans for Regional Development. It will help local authorities to plan cycling policies in their municipal development plans based on regional and national strategic documents.
To focus all these initiatives and follow a plan for the achievement of the planned results we started a website velolobby.eu to coordinate those initiatives on national regional and local level.