Beyond the usual roads of our bicycle trips or the tracks where we can squeeze ourselves with the bike of gravel or the mountain bike, there is one more alternative, forgotten on many occasions, but it offers undoubted interest for pedaling in the era in which we find ourselves; the Greenways.
Everything was born in 1993. Then, a Spain there were more than 7,600 kilometers of lines that no longer had train service, or that never got to have it because the construction works were unfinished. It was the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Environment of the time which launched the Green Ways Programframed and promoted a year later by the Program of Natural Pathsin collaboration with ADIF and the coordination of the Spanish Railways Foundation.
The goal? Recover disused railway routes for the purpose of ecotourism and sustainable mobility, rescuing from oblivion a large part of the railway heritage – stations, ramps, bridges and tunnels, for example – and making them accessible to cyclists, pedestrians, people with mobility reduced and, even, skaters (in the case of the asphalted Greenways). Since then, as we said, more than 50% of this recovery task has runalong practically the entire peninsula.
From the point of view that interests us, that of the cyclist, the Greenways they stand out for their low physical and technical difficulty, beyond the number of kilometers we want to cover. And it is that, as is logical, the railway routes were designed – and are designed – looking for the least orographical difficulties possible. And, in the case of finding them, they were saved with long and gentle slopes. It is strange, therefore, to find us in one Green Way with percentages higher than 4-5%.
Another characteristic of these itineraries is the surface they offer. In some cases, and after the removal of the old railway tracks, the land is compacted and asphalted with materials similar to those of the bike lanes we all know, which allows them to be used by road bikes without further complications. In other Greenways, it has been chosen to keep the soil compacted. A surface that withstands inclement weather well, and is perfectly suited to gravel bikes and mountain bikes.
The conditions, therefore, are ideal for pedaling these autumn and winter dayswhen many of our favorite trails may have been denied by mud, or the idea of riding on the road, in open traffic, in the rain and on wet surfaces, may not be the best option for many.
In the same way, the more familiar and playful cycling finds a magnificent setting in the Vies Verdes. Less experienced children, accompanied by their parents, have on these itineraries a good opportunity to familiarize themselves with cycle tourism, improve their confidence on the pedals, while discovering surprising places such as abandoned stations, mysterious tunnels or large viaducts over rivers And all this, in a safe environment without motorized traffic.
Now that the claim of the so-called ‘Empty Spain’ is on everyone’s lips, the Greenways Program for almost 30 years it has contributed its grain of sand to revitalize rural development, through the recovery of all this railway heritage. It is a good proof that, until the beginning of 2020, more than 100 old stations have been recovered to host different uses and tourist facilities and cultural such as accommodation, restaurants, bicycle rental points, tourist information offices, small museums, motorhome areas, interpretation centers or even swimming pools.
In short, it is about contributing to improving the quality of life of the inhabitants of the areas where the itineraries run and satisfying the experience of users or visitors, through sustainable development. A good example can be found in Via Verda de la Serrastraddling the provinces of Cádiz i Sevillewhich provides more than twenty jobs directly related to the management and maintenance of rehabilitated stations, and receives around 300,000 visitors a year.