ADFC-Quality Route: Four-star award for the “Vennbahn”
At this year’s International Tourism Exchange in Berlin (ITB), the Cycle Route “Vennbahn” was awarded four stars for quality by the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club (ADFC), Germany’s leading cycling association. At a press conference to announce the prize, the award certificate was handed to DG Tourism Minister Isabelle Weykmans.
“For the Vennbahn, being accepted into the ADFC’s four-star awards category is a further important sign of recognition. It demonstrates clearly that all the effort was worth it, transcending our boundaries to create a cross-frontier, economically successful tourism project. Joining the ranks of the ADFC Quality Routes is additional encouragement for us to maintain our current course to ensure success at all levels”, said Minister Weykmans in her acceptance speech at the ITB press conference.
Attractive customer segment
Raimund Jennert, Federal Vice-Chairman of the ADFC was also delighted with the expansion of Star Routes: “Cyclists represent an attractive customer segment in the tourism branch, with generally higher incomes and levels of education. Anyone who thinks that this is a group who can be satisfied with a cheese sandwich and somewhere to doss down in a cornfield is clearly behind the curve. Many cyclists are looking for a 3-course menu and prefer to stay in quality hotels after a day in the saddle. In addition, they tend to invest in high-end bikes and touring equipment. As is to be expected, such a customer group also has high expectations of the cycle route itself, its surface, its signage, its infrastructure and the landscape it traverses. Routes that carry ADFC four-star certification are promising a lot, as regards quality, and cycle tourists need to be able to rely on that”, he said.
In support of its decision, the jury wrote: “The (Vennbahn) Route convinces with its high standard of conversion for cyclists, traffic-free cycle paths and clear signs.” Other routes received awards together with the Vennbahn, bringing the total of ADFC recognized cycle routes to 47.
For the Vennbahn Cycle Route, carrying the “ADFC Quality Route” label means making a sustainable step towards offering the optimal touring range for cyclists, both on the route itself and in its vicinity. To this end, the cycle route has to undergo a wide-ranging process of classification to prepare it for long-term quality management. This process began in August 2014 and comprises three phases: in an initial phase, all the necessary data is collected and evaluated. Based on the results of this evaluation, those managing the project are given the opportunity to improve particular areas, such as signposting or the track surface, before the final certification as an ADFC Quality Route is awarded for a validity of three years.
A thorough health check
From a cyclist’s point of view, the comfort of a smooth riding surface is surely one of the most important elements for a high quality route. Thus the Vennbahn was given a thorough health check in which a number of quality criteria such as surface smoothness, signposting, safety, tourist infrastructure, connections to public transport and marketing were examined and evaluated in an ADFC test report.
The examiners took issue with the way that, on certain older sections of the Vennbahn the route’s escarpments and embankments were overgrown to an alarmingly close distance of less than two metres from the track. In addition, the ADFC testers questioned the presence of superfluous bottlenecks, created by central bollards or chicane barriers, that were difficult to navigate, as well as some short stretches where the surface was still only average. Thanks to the swift introduction of a series of improvements by the infrastructure partners of the adjacent municipalities, a majority of these issues could be resolved satisfactorily, leading to a higher total score.
Top score for safety
The Vennbahn hit top scores in safety and infrastructure (both 100%). Here it was noted that fully 85% of the route (111 km) consists of entirely road-traffic-free pedestrian and cycle track. The safety aspects of the various street crossings drew particular praise. The areas of surface quality and signposting also scored 80% of the possible maximum. The most critical issue for the ADFC was the connectivity with public transport. Here it was warmly recommended to ensure that bikes can be easily and securely carried on all Belgian trains and that the capacity and comfort should be increased on the rail section between Liege and Aachen.
The bottom line was enough to ensure the Vennbahn four out of a possible maximum of five stars. Those in charge of managing the route see this as a very good result and one that will surely inspire them in the future to bring the few remaining aspects up to the same standard, in order to guarantee an even higher degree of user friendliness. This result ensures that the Vennbahn can be found on the ADFC Quality Routes portal (ADFC-Qualitätsrouten). These routes can also be found via the app “Sternenrouten” on your cell phone.
The “ADFC Quality Cycle Routes” certificate is not the Vennbahn’s first award. Already in 2014 the converted railway line was awarded the “Cycle Route of the Year” award by the Dutch cycling event “Fiets en Wandelbeurs Amsterdam”. And in September 2013 the European Greenways Association in Portugal recognised the Vennbahn with their “European Greenways Award“.
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