BY SHERI HEIN
QUEBEC CITY, Canada—Quebec should receive a welcome boost in
tourism dollars this month as the province celebrates the inauguration of its long-awaited Route Verte.
A multi-million dollar project that’s been 15 years in the making, the Route Verte is a network of bicycle paths and
trails covering almost 2,500 miles and stretching across the entire Quebec province. Its grand opening will officially take place in Quebec City Aug. 10 to coincide with the arrival of Le Grand Tour, a popular weeklong bicycle tour of Quebec.
Back in 1992, Velo Quebec, a nonprofit advocacy organization, revealed its ambitious concept for the Route
Verte at the Velo Mondiale Conference. And three years later, the Quebec government joined its ranks, investing an
initial $88.5 million in the project.
Since the Route Verte links off-road bike paths, abandoned rail corridors and low-traffic rural roadways, oneof the major challenges faced was the bureaucracy of working with different jurisdictions, said Jean-François Provonost, executive director of Velo Quebec.
The Route runs through 16 regions, and crosses 320 municipalities. So far it has garnered involvement from
nearly 1,000 organizations and businesses, and a $160 million investment.
One of the main goals in creating the Route was to boost tourism in Quebec, especially in regions that previously
were not mainstream tourist attractions. This would in turn bring in more dollars as well. According to a study by the University of Quebec, spending by cyclists using the Route
totaled $95.4 million in 2000. Provonost expects that number to increase to $134 million with the inauguration this year.
To promote the Route’s tourism appeal, Velo Quebec began a program to certify hotels, bed and breakfasts, and camping grounds as cycling friendly. In order to receive a “Bienvenue Cyclistes!” designation, establishments
must provide safe and covered bicycle parking, a pump and selection of bicycle tools, and, if food is served, special
consideration for cyclists’ nutritional needs. Camping locations with the designation must guarantee a site to bike
travelers and offer a sheltered location where cyclists can sit out bad weather.
Many enterprising businesses that have gained the designation have already created packages to attract cyclotourists and vacationers. The Auberge de la Fontaine in Montreal offers a package that includes bike rental and
a map of the local routes.Hotel des Coutellier in Quebec City also offers a package designed for cyclists including
a hearty breakfast and box lunch.
Nearly 500 locations along Route Verte have been granted the designation so far. Pronovost said the program is advantageous to both parties—businesses benefit from the positive publicity and the Route becomes a viable
destination for a cycling vacation.
But Velo Quebec didn’t stop there. It also looked to the local cycling industry to gain the Route more publicity,
inviting several manufacturers to participate in the project as promotional partners.
The Quebec province produces 86 percent of the bicycles made in Canada and is home to well-known cycling companies such as Louis Garneau, Miele and Devinci, among others that
have joined as promotional partners.
“Our promotional partners increase visibility by promoting Route Verte on their Web sites and other marketing materials. They provide us with great support and it is a beneficial relationship for us all,” said Provonost. “When
something like the Route succeeds, it is a success for all of the industry.”
David Bowman, president of Outdoor Gear Canada, believes the Route will increase cycling and cyclotourism in Quebec. OGC has offices in Quebec. While he’s quick to point out that cycling has always enjoyed healthy participation in Quebec, the Route may help riders discover more ways to enjoy the sport.
“Velo Quebec has always been a strong force in cycling advocacy, and the Route Verte is the pinnacle of their
efforts and showcases Quebec so beautifully,” Bowman said.
Though Bowman is unsure of the specific effects the Route Verte may have on the local cycling economy, he’s certain that anything that promotes cycling will benefit the industry.
But even as the Route’s inauguration takes place this month, the work is far from done. Velo Quebec holds a yearly
contract with the Ministry of Transport for the construction and maintenance of the paths.
An additional 200 to 250 miles of paths are yet to be developed, and maintaining the infrastructure in urban
areas will continue to be a challenge. But with all of the planned additions, Quebec will enjoy 5,000 miles of bicycle paths, making it home to the longest network of bike paths in the Americas.
“We want to continue to improve the facilities and quality of the Route, and we must make sure that it’s here to stay,”
As head of the organization responsible for the Route Verte’s creation, Pronovost offers sage advice for organizations working on creating extensive bike paths: “Be patient, be passionate and believe in your dream. If it’s possible here, then it is possible elsewhere.”