Car free asphalt cycling paths in Europe
August 17, 2018 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for car free cycling paths in Europe, that have smooth asphalt. It should be worth traveling to, so minimum length about 50 kilometers. It's okay if the cycling path crosses regular roads every once in a while, or if there is a small portion that is not asphalt, but at least 95% should be great asphalt, no cars. Two examples of what I'm looking for are the Flaeming-Skate in Germany, near Berlin and the Klarälvsbanan in Sweden, near Karlstad.
posted by blub to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The Tarka Trail in the UK (48km).

"This route gives you superb views across the mouth of the Taw Estuary and features several wonderful sculptures and shelters created for the route; the perfect place to rest and enjoy the surroundings.
Travelling the route you will experience many wildlife habitats including estuary mud flats and salt marshes, oak woodland, hazel coppice, hedges, ponds, streams, ditches and meadows."
posted by KateViolet at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2018

Routes along rivers or on old rail routes often apply.
One on my list is the Loire Valley which is 800km in total, some of which is shared routes, but you can probably find a long enough stretch that isn't.
The Eifel-Ardennes cycle route has 130km, tho bits of it are on roads. (check out the rest of the site, too)
The Rhein Radweg I THINK is entirely car-free?
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:32 PM on August 17, 2018

Various sections of the Danube in Austria would probably fit the bill. The full Passau to Hainburg stretch is 317 km long and is described here as 90% traffic-free. I have done Linz to Vienna and it's quite beautiful, but admittedly there might have been a little bit of gravel in there.
posted by EtTuHealy at 1:35 PM on August 17, 2018

You want Bodensee. Also known as Lake Constance. It's almost 100 miles of protected bike lane with the beautiful lake in view, through wine country and lovely towns. We used this company that leads tours, supports self-guided tours, and transports rider luggage for a reasonable price no matter whether you're touring with them or not. We rented bikes from this shop in Konstanz, and Radweg Reisen reliably moved our luggage around to all the hotels we stayed along the way. You can cross through Germany/Austria/Switzerland with no trouble at all, and your trip can be any distance you like. Ours was about 120 miles which we split into 4 days. It felt so easy since there's hardly any elevation gain! Highlights include the Island of Lindau, the beautiful gardens of Mainau, and the view from this amazing hotel in Rorschacherberg. (the only big hill on our route) We took the ferry from Konstanz to Meersburg which was a bit of a short cut, so I can't vouch for the path quality of the extreme western portion that intersects with the Rhein. Memail me for more details.
posted by oxisos at 7:16 PM on August 17, 2018

I would 2nd EtTuHealy in recommending the Danube River Trail. (Link 1 2 3) However, depending on how purist you are in insisting on both NO motor traffic whatsoever and 100% paved, you should understand that quite a lot of the route is either soft surfaced or allows some kind of motor vehicle traffic. Some other portions meet your criteria exactly.

Most of the sections that allow motor traffic--especially in Germany, Austria, and Slovakia--are very innocuous. For example, much of the path is on former towpaths (often marked "Treppelweg" in ie Austria), so they are more or less narrow one-lane paved roads, mostly used by cyclists, but also used by low volume, very slow-moving traffic to access camping spots, fishing spots, the occasional beach, rural homes, etc. Sometimes it will had across farmlands towards a village etc and again, those roads are often shared with a few slow-moving vehicles from time to time, and then maybe you head along some sidestreets through the village center (generally a pedestrian/bike only zone) and then back out. So low traffic, low stress, used by many families, older people, relatively inexperienced cyclists, etc, but not 100% cycle-only.

I've been puzzling about how you might determine precisely which portions of the path are paved vs unpaved and bicycle-only vs the low-stress shared use.

Google maps with the bicycle layer turned on works pretty well in countries like Germany & Austria. (I know for a fact that there are some very nice paved sections of the Danube trail in Slovakia & Hungary that don't show up there, however.)

OpenStreetMap with the cycling layer turned on is quite helpful as well.

Eurovelo maps all of the major European cycling routes but their maps don't seem to distinguish along paved/unpaved cycle only/low stress shared in the way you seem interested in. However, you might be able to contact them & ask.

Another approach would be to contact a bicycle tour operator like EuroBike and ask for suggestions that meet your particular criteria. They list a number of pre-packaged type tours but when we contacted them they were quick to assure us that they are happy to set up customized tours to meet whatever criteria you would like (ie, want to travel only 15-30 km per day, want to travel 200 km every day, want to completely avoid riding on roads, etc etc etc--whatever, just ask and they would put something together if they could).
posted by flug at 8:19 PM on August 17, 2018

The Swiss have a very good national bike network, with 9 routes broken into stages; their website has a ton of information about the elevation change (often low) and amount paved (usually 90%+) of each stage. I don't remember what portion are non car and what portion was just quiet road. The Brienzersee - Thunensee (ie via Interlaken) stages of route 8 and the Lac Leman portion of 1 (esp. Lausanne to Montreux) are both good starting places for further investigation.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:26 PM on August 17, 2018

Anywhere you go in Flanders/Netherlands will have beautifully paved cycle paths free of cars in a relatively dense network for recreational cycling. I run an annual London to Amsterdam cycle ride in memory of an old campaigner friend, and we use the Knooppuntennetwerk to navigate.

Check out the description of the system on page 22 of our ride manual. You'll see the lists of circled numbers in the margin of subsequent pages, and those are typically all you need to get around!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:39 AM on August 18, 2018

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