This summer I was fortunate to take a bicycle trip across part of Europe, from Budapest to southern Bavaria (just south of Munich). It was the first time I had taken a trip primarily by bicycle and it was great. Unknown to me before our trip, Europe has created a number of cross-continent bicycle routes, named the EuroVelo routes.
We used EuroVelo Route 6, which goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea – most of the route is bicycle only with some portions sharing the road through small villages. We were only on a small portion of this route since our journey was much shorter than the route. Here’s an overview of the whole network, it’s amazing.
The amount of people we encountered while riding was awesome. Groups large and small, single riders, day trippers, and those camping along the way. All enjoying the beautiful Danube River and a peaceful, quiet ride through the countryside and towns both big and small.
One town we stopped in for a night was Tulln, Austria. It was a charming town in central Austria with a well-kept town square. It’s a very old town, first noted in 859, but is making proactive changes to thrive in 21st century and put people first. The center city recently moved to a 20 kph speed limit for their city center. That’s 12.4 mph.
This small town, with cobbled streets and narrow roadways went out of it’s way to actively change in a way that makes people feel safe, valued, and welcome. The EuroVelo system has been created the same way – many people actively choosing to make Europe a place that increasingly values people and is a great place to live. In Tulln, and many of the other places we visited you were far more likely to see people walking, biking, or sitting and enjoying some sun than you were to see cars rushing to and fro. In America it is the opposite nearly everywhere – elementary schools, downtowns, suburbs, office parks. It is this way because we have chosen to build a place that incents and endorses cars above people and community.
The same applies to any community in the world – what it is and what it will become are choices constantly being made. Our roadways, our buildings, our speed limits are all man-made creations. The status quo exists because we continue to choose and support it. Cities like Tulln that are many centuries old have existed through great and terrible periods yet continue to thrive in the 21st century. Economies change, and so do trends – valuing people and creating great places to live and celebrate life are timeless practices.
What happens when you reduce speeds and limit vehicles? You get more people, more money, and a livelier place to live and visit. To Tulln – Prosit!