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Positive news for EuroVelo 2 in Belarus

26.10.2015
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Sometimes improbable things happen when a group of people genuinely believe in their creating power. Nobody thought that Belarus could be part of the EuroVelo network but today reality proves them wrong. Jens Erik Larsen shares his impressions.

In fact, when the first feasibility study was made about the proposed EuroVelo 2 – Capitals Route by a consultancy from The Netherlands about 17 years ago, their conclusion regarding Belarus was to forget about the country because it was impossible to find contacts!  I mentioned this at the first workshop we had in October in Minsk. Together with Rein Lepik from Estonia (another EuroVelo pioneer), I was invited by Minsk Cycling Community (MCC) – the National EuroVelo Coordinator – to help to progress the realisation of EuroVelo 2 – Capitals Route in Belarus. We met very enthusiastic cyclists and cycled approx. 130 km of the proposed itinerary west from Minsk. We had several workshops teaching cycle route planning etc. along the way.  Plus we had lots of time to discuss various criteria and the best solutions for Belarus.

P1130632We cycled through wild forests (with wolves and bears!) and isolated villages on good and bad gravel roads. To sleep for the night, the project manager Pavel Harbunou led us to special B&Bs, called Homesteads. The first night we stayed in was a big timber house where we were joined by a group from Brest who were also participating in the workshops. They had cycled 100 km from Minsk and put up tents for the night even though the temperature came down near zero.  We spent the evening together around the fireplace and the fire – and some vodka! – kept us warm as we exchanged cycling experiences in different languages from Russian to Spanish.

Back in Minsk we participated in a cycling conference – the largest event ever organised by the MCC.   According to MCC Board Member John Lynn Roseman, the 40 participants ranged from representatives of government ministries, the police, the national forestry commission and traffic planners. Rein and I gave several lectures that seemed to be very useful combined with the consecutive discussions. We proposed to establish a national working group in order to realise the EuroVelo 2 – Capitals Route from Minsk to Brest. Some funding for the project has already been received from the U.S. Embassy in Belarus (through the  U.S. Embassy Small Grants Program), and hopefully the first part of the route will be opened next year.

Finally, we had some time to cycle in Minsk. The capital, home to over 2 million inhabitants, has some broad pavements with integrated cycle lanes. With an increasing number of cyclists, conflicts with pedestrians will increase and there are some problems to solve at the crossings. Fortunately, a separate cycle path already exists along the river which will be used for the first stage of EuroVelo 2 – Capitals Route through the city.

We wish Belarus and Minsk Cycling Community good luck in future, and will be looking forward to cooperate.

Jens Erik Larsen (EuroVelo council member)

More information

www.bike.org.by

http://eurovelo.by/

http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos/eurovelo-2

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