Dissemination event held in Orestiada, Greece by ANTIGONE – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non–Violence, 5th June 2013

On Wednesday, June 5th 2013, the non profit, non governmental organisation (NGO) “ANTIGONE-Information and Documentation Center on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non-Violence” carried out a dissemination event under the framework of South East Europe (SEE) project “Iron Curtain Trail – Sustainable mobility along the newest EuroVelo route”. Main aim of the event was to raise information and awareness on the progress of the project as well as to inquire into the development of the european cycling route EuroVelo 13 in the Prefecture of Drama. 

Mr Giorgos Farfaras, administrator of the National EuroVelo Coordinator Center for Greece, opened the event with an introductory presentation before he presented the action and research plan of “Iron Curtain Trail”. The general presentation of the project and its aims was held by “ANTIGONE” NGO and project partner for Greece. 

Participants in the event were representatives of municipalities and prefecture of Orestiada, representatives of development enterprises, cycling and athletic associations, tourist business, NGOs on ecology issues as well as representatives of local press.

Mr Farfaras opened the dissemination event with a presentation on the benefits on bicycle use as the absense of contamination, the energy conservation etc. He also presented the results of a World Health Organisation (WHO) research on the health benefits of cycling. 

Speaking about the need of local authorities' contribution in promoting cycling and cycling infrastructure he presented cycling good practices from Australia and Switzerland. To counter factors that restrain bicycle use (altitude, long distances, weather conditions etc.) Mr Farfaras spoke about PEDELEC (pedal electric cycle) bicycles and mechanisms that can be adapted to conventional bicyles so as to facilitate cycling.

Furthermore, he presented the various uses of bicycle in everyday professional life (collection of rubbish, ice-cream selling, taxi-bicycles etc.). As far as it concerns cycling tourism, Mr Farfaras presented succesful examples of cycling tourism from Spain while he also refered to the european cycling tourism market that includes 2.795 billions of trips per year. 

Followingly, representative of “ANTIGONE” NGO made the general presentation of “Iron Curtain Trail” that concerns the connection of various countries related to the Cold War and located in South East Europe with a long distance cycling route of 9.000 km. It was indicated that one of the main targets of the project is to extend, improve the access and promote cycling route EuroVelo 13.

All project partners were introduced and the participation of the Prefecture of Macedonia and Thrace as an observant partner was pointed out during the presentation. Targets and main activities of “Iron Curtain Trail” concerning research and development of the final route such as the promotion of sustainable tourism and transportation, implementation of activities for the communication of the project activities as well as creation of a cycling friendly service network were pointed out.

Giorgos Farfaras took on to discuss on the potential cycling routes of EuroVelo 13 in local area. He insisted on the fact that the cycling route should be connected to Cold War period monuments and spots so as to meet the expectations of “Iron Curtain Trail” project. He presented the EuroVelo guidance on route development process as well as the standards that need to be met in order for a route to be documented as a EuroVelo one. Cycling Athletic Association “Rissos” expressed their will to cooperate towards the planning of the cycling routes in the area. The need of collaboration with public transportation services for “Iron Curtain Trail” project was pointed out by Mr Farfaras as cyclists travelling on EuroVelo 13 “Iron Curtain Trail” routes should be able to carry their bicycles by public transportation means of transport.

Followingly there was a discussion with the participants on the lack of national legal framework to indicate planning and development of cycling routes as well as the lack of safety for cyclists. Participants discussed on the existing routes in Orestiada and Mr Farfaras informed them on the signposting european regulations for cycling routes. The Prefecture of Evros, “Rissos” association and the municipality of Orestiada discussed the posibility to cooperate so as to develop a route proposal and eventually take on the restoration of the route.

Mr Farfaras presented “Cyclists Welcome Hellas” guide that consists an attempt for a creation of a cycling friendly services' network that brings together food and drink business, hotels, hostels as well as other relevant to cycling tourism services. He presented the basic conditions under which a service can be inscribed in “Cycling Welcome Hellas” guide and he invited services of Orestiada to participate.

The existence of various touristic programmes in the area of Evros was commented by the participants who discussed the need to coordinate all programmes including “Iron Curtain Trail”. The potential of organising other events in the area with the aim to communicate the project and EuroVelo 13 route was discussed and representatives of associations and organisations expressed their will to participate in events and study tours that will be carried out for “Iron Curtain Trail” project.

As a conclusion, Mr Farfaras pointed out the need of coordination and collaboration of the various stakeholders and he added that “Iron Curtain Trail” can be considered as a first opportunity to raise awareness on sustainable tourism that on local level can prove more than profitable and succesful for local communities of Orestiada area. Mr Farfaras renewed his meetings with relevant stakeholders as he will return to Orestiada for an in depth research on the potential cycling routes of EuroVelo 13 and “Iron Curtain Trail” project.