LONDON TO PARIS BY BIKE
By Richard Peace
Published by Sustrans
Second edition 2017
Spiral bound soft back with fold-out front cover
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
A cycle route linking two iconic sites in two major European capitals, originally opened in 2012 - though with major route developments since and more to come - aimed at all cyclists, but especially those new to cycle touring, families and those seeking a gentler route between London and Paris than offered by the ubiquitous fund-raising challenges. That is the Avenue Verte and this is a fully updated guide to replace the first edition published in 2013.
Commence the journey on the Avenue Verte at either the London Eye or Notre Dame, decide which of the two options to follow north of Paris and complete the 247 or 287 miles of the avenue Verte. Sounds easy? Well, there’s a mix of terrain but this guide contains everything you need to find the way, eat, drink, sleep and be, generally, merry.
Richard Peace is an experienced guidebook writer and a touring cyclist. He has written other volumes on cycling in France and must know it like the saddle of his bike. Having published guides under the Excellent Books imprint, this one is published by Sustrans. If you have taken a look at their recent guide to LeJog on the National Cycle Network, you will recognise the format.
Spiral-binding allows the map pages to be exposed whilst riding, and, though it took some wiggling about, the guide did fit under the map-cover of my bar bag. It is a snug fit in my traditional cycling jersey rear pocket. Fortunately, given the weather Britain and Northern France share, the pages are capable of resisting a drop or two of rain, but don’t overdo it.
Mapping is excellent, with bold colours used to indicate the route and its status as traffic-free or on-road. Though anyone who has cycled in France will know that many of the roads are very quiet, the aim of the Avenue Verte project is to increase the proportion of traffic-free mileage (currently approximately 40%), for example between Dieppe and Forges-les-Eaux.
Of course, it is in the urban areas that many cyclists will appreciate traffic-free riding most, so identification of occasional traffic-free options - shown in lighter green on the map - is a very useful addition in the new edition. Similarly, there are on-road options identified. Slightly confusingly, there are three shades of green and purple, the lightest identifying other routes that are not part of the Avenue Verte.
Description of official and alternative sections are sharp and broken down into manageable sections. Importantly for some cyclists, where some traffic-free routes are identified as likely to be rough (mainly in the Vexin area north-west of Paris) road alternatives are given.
Signage will vary, as the Avenue Verte follows a number of different NCN routes as well as French equivalents. However, the text and mapping should be more than sufficient if you get confused. there is an Avenue Verte logo, but it is not used consistently. The route is shown at 1:100 000, with more detailed maps of some towns and cities. Some of the symbols are used only on the former.
Each section has accommodation details, with significant updates from the 2013 version. More general contacts are contained in the introduction. Of course, there are major tourist sites en route, or a short diversion from it. Bike shops are shown on the larger scale maps.The guide suggests places to visit, though, for many British cyclists, simply soaking up a bit of cafe culture may be enough.
Much of the introduction is aimed at the newcomer to cycle touring, which is admirable and sensible. There is an emphasis on showing that the journey is an adventure that is in the reach of just about anyone. There is reference to French cycling culture; the guide makes it easy for those who have never experienced this to go and do so. French roadsigns with specific impact on cyclists are explained.
If you have the old guide, do you need the new one? I’d say yes. Out of date information is of little use - especially to the less experienced cycle tourer - and there are a number of significant changes. Equally there are going to be more developments in the future. Even so, this will be the definitive guide in English for a good while.
Apart from pedalling for you, it has everything you need for a successful trip.