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Ward Segers, first plenary speaker of the EuroVelo and Cycle Tourism Conference

04.10.2018
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The EuroVelo and Cycle Tourism Conference’s morning plenary session featured 4 speakers, who gave three presentations all very different from each other. Ward Segers, project coordinator at Toerisme Limburg, introduced the cycle node network in Limburg and explained how it is adding new experiences.

Ward Segers’ presentation about the cycle node network in Limburg aroused a lot of interested among the participants, who had many questions to ask him afterwards. He took a historical perspective, explaining with some pictures that people used to drive cars a lot in Limburg. Bike lanes were badly maintained, and until 1994 few people were riding a bicycle for their daily journeys.

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But after the closing of the coal mines (the coal mine of Zolder was closed in 1992 as the last Belgian mine), things began to change. One man in particular brought the change: Hugo Baur, who had the idea to create a cycle node network, with overview maps at each node and a connection to the town center, so that everything would be connected and people could easily leave from home and go on a cycling trip. Moreover, new cycle paths were created, to enable cyclists to ride on car-free cycle paths.

Ward Segers then showed a map of the very first cycle node, concluding: “And that is how the cycle node network in Limburg started in 1995”. The network was at once very successful, counting 500,000 users after one year; a number that never stopped rising!

Plenary 1_Ward Segers (7)

Later came the creation of services points, facilitating the start of cycling on the network. A new label was soon introduced as well, highlighting the restaurants and hotels meeting a selection of bike-friendly criteria. Along the Meuse River, cyclists can now stop at “spotters”, that is binoculars showing videos or texts related to the river.

More recently, an app was introduced, which links to the World Tourism Day’s theme, relating tourism and digital transformation. 2003 was the first time that the cycle node network of Limburg had 2,000,000 visitors a year, making it more successful than ever. This number remains until today! And in 2006, the cycle node network was crowned ‘8th World Wonder’ by Radio 2.

The current objective of Toerisme Limburg is to go even further, with the creation of thematic cycle routes. Here are a few of their projects:

  • Cycling through Water in Bokrijk (Genk), in the center of Limburg. This 3-meters large cycle path going through one of the many ponds of De Wijers welcomes up to 5,000 visitors a year!
  • Cycling through Trees, on an elevated platform of 10-meters high.
  • Cycling through the Heat, an experience of cycling through a national park
  • Cycling Underground, a 500-meters long cycle path through the coal mines, enabling visitors to experience how people used to live and work there 50 years ago and to see their drawings that remained on the walls.
  • The Meuse Cycle Route, going along the Meuse River and soon to be EuroVelo 19.
  • The Mine Trail, which gives to experience the mining region and its industrial heritage.
  • The Fruit Trail, crossing what used to be a large fruit industry in the south of Limburg. The cycle path can be combined with the visit of a syrup factory.

“Experiences and tourist routes are what we want to create today, and by doing so we hope to stay on top of the cycle tourism innovations”.

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Ward Segers’ presentation will be available soon on the Conference’s website.