NIK about Green Velo

The NIK audit revealed that the split of responsibilities for individual sections of the cycle trail did not foster proper maintenance or coherent promotion of the Trail. Therefore, it is essential to select or appoint one entity to manage Green Velo.

Map of Poland with marked Green Velo Cycling Trail and local government units covered by the audit. Source: NIK’s analysis including Green Velo Cycling Trail as presented on the website https://greenvelo.pl/ and Green Velo logo provided by the Regional Tourist Organisation of Świętokrzyskie Province

Technical condition not always good and sporadic inspections

New and rebuilt cycle paths, and pedestrian and bicycle trails account for about 300 kilometres of the route, and renovated, unpaved roads for around 150 kilometres. The Trail runs through 5 provinces of diversified sightseeing value. The route leads through national parks, landscape parks and bird reserves as well as in the vicinity of local tourist attractions.

As many as 228 Cyclist Service Points (CSP) have been organised on the route of Green Velo, each equipped with sheds, benches and bicycle racks, as well as rubbish bins and information boards. Some of them also have portable toilets and water containers. The Trail has a consistent marking, a logo and a friendly website https://greenvelo.pl. It has been linked to the Cyclist-Friendly Places system (CFP). That status is given to facilities offering accommodation, food as well as tourist attractions that meet certain requirements being part of the adopted recommendation system.

The entire investment was financed in 85% from the EU funds, 10% came from the state budget, 5% was paid by beneficiaries.

The Trail is unique, not only in Poland. But it has been controversial from the very beginning .The project itself was criticised and in 2015 NIK identified threats to its timely implementation. Some experts still have reservations about that investment, which is shown in the results of NIK’s survey.

In the audited period, passability on the Green Velo route was maintained. However, the NIK audit revealed numerous irregularities concerning proper technical condition of roads and bridges through which the route leads, as well as some gaps in its marking. Some issues were identified only in the course of the NIK audit.

Despite administrators’ efforts, the biggest problems were caused by private macadam roads or field access roads (regularly damaged by agricultural equipment), or forest tracks (damaged during wood transports).

 A stretch of Green Velo route in Lubelskie Province . Source: NIK’s own materials

The inspection revealed that in ⅔ of the audited communes the trail marking was incomplete. Reasons included thefts as well as negligence on part of administrators of individual stretches of the route. Most Cyclist Service Points were properly marked and their equipment was kept in a good technical and aesthetic condition.

The NIK findings show that the problems with maintaining road surface and proper route marking were caused among others by the fact that the audited entities did not earmark funds exclusively for tasks related to Green Velo. The main reason, though, was the absence of adequate supervision.

Every fifth local government unit (out of 23 audited ones) failed to make warranty inspections or periodic inspections (defined in the Construction Law) of roads and bridges located on the Trail route. Moreover, some of the follow-up recommendations were not implemented.

An extreme example is the pedestrian and bicycle bridge in Podkarpackie Province. It was used by car drivers, against its purpose. Periodic inspections in 2018 and 2019 showed that it posed a threat to the health and life of the road users and could have ended in a serious breakdown or a construction disaster. Then a recommendation was made to install a blockade to prevent cars from accessing the bridge. Another inspection made in 2020 revealed that the commune authorities did not implement the recommendations. Instead of the blockade, only signposts were placed before the bridge (notoriously destroyed and removed), standing for a ban of traffic. They were inadequate as they referred also to bicycles.

NIK notified the commune head of a direct health and life threat. Efforts taken by the commune head were insufficient so NIK notified the District Inspector of Construction Supervision. He ordered closing the bridge by the time blockades for cars are installed.

Condition of the bridge during NIK audit – unprotected access to the bridge, damages and inadequate signpost.  Source: NIK’s own materials

NIK identified dangerous places in 4 audited provinces (except for Lubelskie Province). But the primary causes of accidents on Green Velo routes in 2016-2020 included: non-compliance with the priority right and failure to adjust speed to driving conditions.  All in all, in five provinces there were 288 occurrences with the participation of cyclists (3 casualties and 59 injured).

Cyclist-Friendly Places

The owners of guest houses, inns, restaurants, museums, open-air museums, shops and even petrol stations may apply for the Cyclist-Friendly Place status for their facilities. They have to meet certain standards, though. Above all, they should offer safe and free-of-charge storage places for bikes, provide basic tools for their repair as well as up-to-date information about nearest bicycle service centres. The owners also have to meet some obligations arising from the cooperation bylaw.

In line with the data from the website www.greenvelo.pl, at the beginning of November 2020 there were nearly 1300 facilities in the CFP recommendation system, chiefly in the following categories: 

  • accommodation- 504,
  • monuments - 212,
  • gastronomy - 149.

Since 2017, the CFP status has been awarded mainly by individual Marshall Offices. It is their responsibility to check if a given facility meets specified standards. The NIK audit showed that the monitoring and audits conducted by some Marshall Offices in that area were ineffective, though.

NIK has underlined that due diligence should be maintained in that respect. After all, a facility with the Cyclist-Friendly Place status may be granted a loan on preferential terms, and information on facilities with the CFP status is placed on Green Velo website which offers free promotion of those facilities.

Promotion of Green Velo

Green Velo is not only an offer for cyclists but also a powerful promotion tool and an opportunity for communes, especially villages, and districts to make more money. For the promotion to be effective, and develop e.g. tourism, it needs to be addressed directly to properly identified recipients. Therefore, it is essential to systematically collect and process data on the Trail users. It turns out, though, that in the project sustainability period such a study was made only once.

Data collected by an external company shows that from May to September 2018, the total of. 415.5 thousand persons travelled on the Trail, of whom Polish tourists made up 99.5%, mostly from Podkarpackie Province - 22.4%. Foreign visitors of Green Velo came mainly from Belarus - 60.5%, as well as Ukraine (15.9%), Germany (13.4%) and Russia (10.2%).

In 2017-2019, provincial governments spent nearly PLN 2.2 million on the Trail promotion.

What are the users’ objections?

Last year NIK made an internet survey addressed to persons who used the Trail in 2018-2019. Recreation and tourism were the main reasons why more than a half of 1400 survey participants chose Green Velo. An absolute majority of them would recommend the Trail to others.  

The primary issue indicated by respondents was the route of the Trail. In line with the project, a part of the Trail leads through public roads with heavy traffic (including lorries), without a separate lane for bikes. On the other hand, some parts of the Trail cover dirt or forest tracks which are hard to maintain. The survey participants complained about poor quality of their surface, including holes which make it really difficult to ride on the track, especially with a bicycle trailer.

A big part of criticism was related to the technical condition of Cyclist Service Points, unmarked and inaccessible Cyclist Friendly Places as well as unavailable promotion materials or insufficient functionality of the website.

Experts who took part in a panel on Green Velo organised by NIK argued that at least some of the solutions adopted at the beginning can and should be corrected now. It is the case mainly with the road surface, elimination of ”bottlenecks” or architectural barriers in towns and cities. Alternative stretches of the route and access roads should also be considered.

The experts were of the opinion that a single entity should be selected or appointed to manage the Trail. Also, private companies interested in the project maintenance and development should be involved.

How about the future of Green Velo?

NIK is concerned about the future of Green Velo not only because of the identified irregularities or poor cooperation among the local government units. More than a half of the audited communes and districts declared expansion of bicycle trails in the coming years, additional accompanying infrastructure and attractions, road development or repairs. However, at the end of the day, the implementation of those projects was mostly determined by funding - whether or not the local government units manage to acquire funds from outside of their budgets.

Despite identified issues and criticism, Green Velo is a recognisable and recognised brand. According to NIK, all endeavours should be taken to maintain and rationally develop this Trail. It should also be incorporated in Poland’s tourism promotion system.

Article informations

Date of creation:
24 March 2021 10:23
Date of publication:
24 March 2021 10:23
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
31 March 2021 10:33
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
A group of cyclists on cycle trail and a map of the Green Velo Cycling Trail © Adobe Stock, Regional Tourist Organisation of Świętokrzyskie Province, NIK

Read content once again