Q&A: The Avenue Verte
- 1 October 2010
- From the section Magazine
The Avenue Verte is a planned cycle route between London and Paris. The idea is that it should be traffic-free, or stick to little-used country roads, and be safe enough for families to use. However, at present the route still includes a few busy roads.
How long is it?
The British side of the route, from St Paul's Cathedral to the Newhaven ferry port is about 160km (100 miles) long.
In France, the route divides, giving the rider two options. The shorter of the two routes, via Gisors, is about 240km long (150 miles). The other route, via Beauvais, is about 70km (44 miles) longer.
In total that comes to 400km (250 miles) for the shorter option and 470km (294 miles) for the longer one.
How long does it take to ride?
This depends on how fast you cycle, which in turn depends on how fit you are, how much weight you are carrying and how good your bike is. You also have to factor in a four-hour ferry crossing between Newhaven and Dieppe.
Most cyclists will probably take between four days and a week to complete the shorter (400km / 250-mile) route.
Once in Paris, how do you get back?
One possibility is to return via Eurostar. Reserve a place for your bicycle in advance, for which there is an extra charge.
When will it be finished?
It's a work in progress. The outline of the route has already been decided. Signposts will be in place by 2012, at least in France. Further off-road sections will be added to the French route between now and 2020. It's likely further improvements, including signposting, will be made on the British side too, but the timescale is more uncertain.
Are maps essential?
For the time being, yes.
In the UK, outside central London, the route follows mostly the Wandle Trail (the northern section of National Cycle route 20) and National Cycle Routes 21 and 2. These are quite well signposted - but not well enough to prevent our reporter getting lost from time to time. Also, the Avenue Verte will leave Route 20 near Coulsdon, south London, and join Route 21 south of the M25, near Merstham. This 8km (5 mile) stretch is not signposted at all.
In Dieppe, you need a detailed map to get from the ferry port to the start of the Dieppe-Forges les Eaux cycle route (known as the Avenue Verte). The Seine-Maritime region Voie Verte website is some help.
The start of the cycle route from Gisors to Bray et Lu, meanwhile, can be located with the help of the Eure region Voie Verte website.
For the rest of the route in France, you are on your own.
Is there a more direct low-traffic route to Paris?
Yes a more direct route to Newhaven is National Cycle Route 20 to Brighton (branching off to the east before Ditchling Beacon). This saves about 50-55km (31-35 miles).
In France, Donald Hirsch's popular route from Dieppe to the Eiffel Tower, which comes with a regularly updated printable guide, is about 53km (33 miles) shorter than the shorter Avenue Verte.
Adding these alternative routes together, you end up with an overall distance of about 300km (190 miles) - about 100km (62 miles) shorter than the shorter version of the Avenue Verte.
What kind of bicycle do you need?
Our reporter completed the route on a road bike with 23mm-wide tyres, without suffering a puncture. However, large sections of the route in the UK, and the Seine towpaths in France, are more suited to a robust hybrid or mountain bike.
What age groups is the route suitable for?
There are only a few challenging climbs (the toughest would be the scarp face of the North Downs for those travelling north, from Paris to London). A fit and healthy pensioner with plenty of cycling experience would have no major problems.
There are at present, however, a few sections where cyclists share roads with heavy traffic, for example the A259 near Seaford, and around the Port of Gennevilliers in Paris. These sections will not be appropriate for children until new cycle paths are created.
Where can you stay?
A brochure with some accommodation suggestions has been created for the Dieppe-Forges les Eaux section of the Avenue Verte.
Tourist information centres also exist in a number of towns along the route.