A trundle along EuroVelo 1 (La Velodyssée) in Charente-Maritime, France. By Mike McKillen.

Along with Marion and a group of six pals we set out in late June to cycle about 120 km of EuroVelo (EV 1) route south from La Rochelle to Talmont-sur-Gironde in the Charente-Maritime region of France. We hired bikes in La Rochelle (Serge of CycloPark) and had booked accommodation along the way at approximately 60 km intervals - Rochefort (Trizay) and Royan.

EV 1 is the Atlantic Coast route running from the Rio Guadiana (Portuguese border with Spain), along Atlantic coasts of Portugal, Spain and France right through to Rosslare and then south and west to our Wild Atlantic Way. Marion and I have now done about 600 km of EV 1 - Portuguese Algarve (260 km) in 2011, Achill to Oughterard (250 km) in 2013 and Charente-Maritime (130 km).

Although it is billed as a cycleway it really is a mix of piste cyclables, local roads and some D-routes, the latter heavily trafficked with Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) showing scant regard for cyclists’ safety. The myth that French drivers understand how to interact safely with cyclists was blown away for me on this trip. HGV drivers failed to slow down when overtaking us and hence we were destabilised by the wind vortex when big grain carriers went by (it was harvest time).

The pistes cyclable sectors were mostrly grit-based which is not ideal as you have to take care on bends and while braking. The route south of La Rochelle to Chatelaillon is heavily trafficked by pedestrians out with dogs on long retractable leads and with many runners out training and it is far too narrow for mixed-use. We must not make the same mistake with our greenways - a greenway attracts mixed-use and so designers must understand and accept this fact.

From Talmont we headed east into the Cognac region and circled back to La Rochelle via Cognac and St. Savinien entirely on D-roads and some main roads with no provision for cyclists. We finished on L’Ile de Re which is a cyclists’ paradise. Total distance 300 km in five days.

The bikes were touring-type with rear panniers. I brought my own handlebar map bag. I did the navigation and used an IGN Topo (1:100,000 scale) plus ViewRanger downloaded map set for the route and Sports Tracker on my iPhone. We had no punctures or mechanical issues and Serge picked the bikes up by van from St. Martin on Ile de Re on the final day. We did not wear any yellow Lycra. I was in my normal summer mountaineering wear.

Open Letter

Tuesday, 5 August 2014 (All day)

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