In 1986, a group of activists from across Europe met in Sweden to discuss the topic of dying forests due to acid rain. They saw the need for a transnational movement and formed EYFA (European Youth Forest Action, later renamed to European Youth for Action to focus on other topics as well).
For the next few summers, EYFA organized a bus tour to raise awareness about the dying forests. The bus would carry a group of activists across Europe, stopping in multiple towns each day, where the activists would gather on a busy square dressed up as trees, and then some other activists dressed up as factories would arrive and cause all the tree to die. They called this bus tour “Ecotopia”, inspired by the book by Ernest Callenbach.
In 1989, the first Ecotopia Gathering was organized to be the final destination of the bus tour. The Ecotopia Gathering was an ecological utopian festival and action camp with a focus on environmental issues. During the gathering, the idea came up to make a bicycle tour instead of a bus tour as a more environmentally friendly way of transportation. So for the next Ecotopia Gathering in 1990, the first Ecotopia Biketour was organized.
EYFA organized an Ecotopia Gathering and an Ecotopia Biketour each summer until 2008 (except 1997, where there was a Gathering but no Biketour). When the Gatherings stopped, people still wanted to continue the tradition of cycling each summer, so the Ecotopia Biketour became an independent collective that has been organizing a Biketour each summer since (except 2020). The Biketour is now independent from EYFA, but we are still good friends and sometimes collaborate.
In 2010, some former Ecotopia participants tried to revive the idea and organized a 3-week gathering in Germany (archive).
In 2019, 2021 and 2022, an association called “ecotopia emerging” and “Ecotopia Europe” has been organizing festivals and calling them “Ecotopia Gathering”, claiming to be a continuation of the history of gatherings. However, these festivals do not seem to have a lot in common with the original idea of Ecotopia, and they are in no way affiliated with the Ecotopia Biketour.
Here you can see graphically where the Biketour has travelled (approximately) on the past 30 tours (until 2021) and where the (original) Ecotopia Gatherings have taken place:
If you want to zoom in on it in more detail click here.
1990: “Take a bike to Ecotopia (take a car to hell)”
The first biketour connected with ecotopia, i. e. the first Ecotopia-Biketour took place in the year 1990. It started with the UNSAID-festival in Bergen (Norway) in the middle of May 1990. And it ended two and a half months later in the beginning of August 1990 in Bugac-puszta in Hungary. Route: Bergen (Start 16. 5. 1990) – Oslo – Göteborg – Malmö – Kobenhavn – Rödby – Puttgarden – Blekendorf – Lübeck – Hamburg – Hannover- Göttingen – Kassel – Erfurt – Bamberg – Regenburg – Passau – Linz – Wien – Bratislava – Budapest – Ecotopia (Bugac-puszta, 1. 8. 1990). The whole distance was about 3300 km! Conclusion: long biketours starting quite early in the year are possible! Note: All this was possible without email, Internet and mobile phones!!! Some highlights of this biketour: there was a biketour-booklet with 84 pages and partly in two languages (English and German)… Further comments: this biketour was very well organised, everything was prepared, including the food, which was cooked by Rampenplan. This Dutch kitchen-collective was accompanying the biketour with a big bus (the famous dragonbus) and providing three meals every day. So life was really easy, but it was no 100% biketour, because of this bus. There were really too many people at least at this part, we were about 125 people!!! There were discussions in at least 4 languages and it was impossible to share all informations with everybody. After Bratislava the number of participants decreased below 100 people.
1991: « (Re)cycle around the Baltic Sea. »
From Scheveningen in the Netherlands to Ecotopia at Tudulinna in Estonia (more than 4.000 km) The second Ecotopia-Biketour became even longer than the first one! It started in Scheveningen (Netherlands) on 17. 5. 1991 and ended in Ecotopia (Tudulinna, Estonia) on 4. 8. 1991. Political messages: Lets not waste the Baltic Sea! (Re)cycle to Ecotopia! No more meter of motorways! Stop Scan-link bridges! Route: Scheveningen (17. 5. 1991) – Deventer – Groningen – Leer – Oldenburg – Bremerhaven – Hamburg – Lübeck – Kiel – Flensburg – Odense – Kobenhavn – Malmö – Linneryd – Jönköping – Linköping – Norrköping – Nyköping – Stockholm – Grisslehamn – Aland – Turku – Helsinki – Lappeenranta – Vyborg – Zelenogorsk – Leningrad/St.Petersburg – Petrodvorets – Narva – Ecotopia/Tudulinna (4. 8. 1991). The whole distance was more than 4.000 km, the longest Ecotopia-Biketour ever (so far).
1992: « Follow the Danube by bike up to Ecotopia. »
From Freiburg (Germany) to Ecotopia (Reselets, Bulgaria) 12. 6. – 2. 8. 1992. Political messages: energy issues, ecological traveling, GATT, IMF and Worldbank, EU and ERT (European RoundTable of industrialists). Route: Freiburg (12. 6. 1992) – Villingen – Ulm – Nürnberg – Erlangen – Plzen – Praha – Telc – Brno – Bratislava – Gabcikovo – Györ – Tatabanya – Budapest – Szolnok – Oradea – Alba Iulia – Sibiu – Brasov – Predeal – Bucuresti – Ruse – Svistov – Pleven – Ecotopia (Reselets, near Cerven Briag) (2. 8. 1992) The biketour becomes shorter …
This (4th) Biketour was rather short compared to the first three ones, starting in the Netherlands (Sittard) on 29. 6. 1993 and ending in Ecotopia (Chateau de Saint Barthelemy (near Durban), Pyrenees) on 7. 8. 1993. Route: Sittard (29. 6. 1993) – Maastricht – Brussels – Gent – Lille – Amiens – Paris – Sens – La Charite sur Loire – Digoin – Lyon – Valence – Grignan – Nimes – Montpellier – Beziers – Narbonne – Carcassonne – Mirepoix- Pamiers – Le Mas d’ Azil – Ecotopia (Chateau de Saint Barthelemy (near Durban)), 7. 8. 1993
Biketour became very short this year: only about 2 weeks of cycling… Route: Tiszafüred (21. 7. 1994) – Tokaj – Vésérosnamény – Satu Mare – Valea Chioarului – Gilgan Almasului – Gilau – Cheile Turzii – Tirgu Mures – Sovata – Bucin – Gheorgheni – Lacul Rosu – Ecotopia (Ardeluta) (5. 8. 1994). Whole distance: about 900 km.
Nearly the same time but a little bit longer distance than 1994. Route: Budapest (21. 7. 1995) – Esztergom – Györ – Rajka – Bratislava – Breclav – Nove Mlyny – Dukovany – Moravsky Budejovice – Slavonice – Nova Bystrice – Chlum – Trebon – Ceske Budejovice (Rudolfov) – Temelin – Milevsko – Sedlcany – Praha – Kralupy nad Vltavou – Doksy – Mimon – Liberec – Zawidow – Lesna – Ecotopia (Wolimierz) (5. 8. 1995) whole distance: a little bit more than 1000 km. This year we had some days with more than 100 km distance.
Political issues: Transport in Central Europe, diverse environmental issues, and the nazi-concentration camp in Terezin. Route: Sarospatak (13. 7. 1996) – Hollohéza – Rakaca – Aggtelek(i nemzeti park) – Radnovce – Hnusta – Cierny Balog – Zvolen – Banska Bystrica – Cerveny Kamen – Zlin – Brno – Nedvedice – Hlinsko – Malesov – Konojedy – Praha – Velvary – Rip – Roudnice nad Labem – Terezin – Lovosice – Duchcov – Ecotopia (Libkovice)(4. 8. 1996)
1998: Cycle Flight to Ecotopia
Political issues: transport in Central Europe, promoting bikes, nuclear power (Wackersdorf, Germany) Route: Wroclaw (Poland, 15. 7. 1998) – Karpacz – Trutnov (Czech Republic) – Miletin – Nymburk – Praha – Karlstejn – Rokycany – Plzen – Domazlice – Wackersdorf – Ingolstadt – Augsburg – Oggelshausen – Tuttlingen – Löffingen – Ecotopia (Freiburg) (Germany, 1. 8. 1998) whole distance: about 1.000 km
Route: Amsterdam (10. 6. 1999) – Utrecht – Ahaus (Germany) – Münster – Gütersloh – Eisenach – Erfurt – Weimar – Gera – Johannesgeorgenstadt/Potucky (Czech Republic) – Karlovy Vary – Zlutice – Praha – Tabor – Slavonice – Znojmo – Wien (Austria) – Katzelsdorf – Fürstenfeld- Murska Sobota (Slovenia) – Maribor – Krsko – Zagreb (Croatia) – Bjelovar – Pécs (Hungary) – Szeged – Timisoara (Romania) – Ecotopia (Bogda)(2. 8. 1999) Still online page in the web: www.britskelisty.cz/9906/19990629o.html
Krakow – Turku Polish text still online: http://www.zm.org.pl/?a=biketour2000 Route: Krakow – Warszawa – Vilnius – Riga – Tallinn – Helsinki – Turku
2001: Balkan Unity Ride
Through Romania, Serbia, Macedonia to Ecotopia at Sinemorets in Bulgaria.
2002: Celtic Safari Biketour
Dover in England to Ecotopia at Lough Derg in Ireland
2004: Bread & Water Tour
From Vienna in Austria to Ecotopia at Gorinchem in the Netherlands website backup: http://www.ecotopiabiketour.net/old/2004
Banja Luka – Belgrade – Sibiu – Iasi – Chisinau to Ecotopia at Saharna nature reserve in Moldova. weird website backup: http://www.ecotopiabiketour.net/old/2005/
2006: bike it yourself
From Šiauliai in Lithuania via Ecotopia at Zajezová (Slovakia) to World Carfree Day in Split (Croatia) fancy website backup: http://www.ecotopiabiketour.net/old/2006/ blog: http://ecotopiabiketour.blogspot.com/ More on Biketour 2006
2009: Feel the Heat!
We started in Serbia and took a train to Macedonia, from where we cycled through Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzgovina to Jagnjedovec, Croatia. See btwiki/Biketour 2009 for the plans made for the route. In the end, it was about 2400km.
We started in northern Yorkshire, England on 26 June, cycling via Wales, crossing the English channel at Portsmouth, through France, Belgium & the Netherlands, to Cologne, Germany. More on Biketour 2010
2011: Sustainable Agriculture And Food Sovereignty
Italy, 26th July- 31th of August 2011 More on Biketour 2011
In summer 2012 Ecotopia Biketour cycled through Catalunya, France and Italy and the project was hosted by Research and Degrowth. The theme was “towards degrowth” – challenging the damaging growth mentality of capitalism which currently dominates and overlooks real social and environmental values. More on Biketour 2012
2013: Beyond Borders!
In 2013, Ecotopia Biketour cycled from Berlin in Germany to Cluj in Romania. The collective explored issues around real and conceptual borders on the way. See more on Biketour 2013
2014: Bottom Up! Sovereignty vs. Exploitation
In 2014, the Biketour went far south, passing through two countries where the Biketour had never been: Kosovo and Greece on its winding way from Sofia to Athens. En route we exchanged with collectives in social centres and squats and visited several places where people are trying to find ways of sustainable living in the countryside, often motivated by the economic crisis in the Southern Balkans. Find all the detailed info here on this site.
We started at Makvärket close to Copenhagen and cycled for 3 months via Copenhagen, Malmö, Göteborg, Oslo, Stockholm, Turku and Tampere to Helsinki. We dumpster-dived so much that we spent only around 0.50 € per person per day on food. A natural highlight was the Åland archipelago, where we even saw the northern lights. Among the projects on the way were several big social centres, some permaculture communities, an alternative school, some anti-mining protest groups, and even an alternative bank. Read more here.
This year the Biketour started in Warsaw, found its way to cross the Belarusian border with a lot of struggles, then went through Lithuania, joining the Sapfo Queer Fest. Reaching the delta of Nemunas river we took a ferry to the Curonian Spit and cycled along the Baltic Sea to Latvia. The tour went on to Estonia and finished in Tallinn. More about the Biketour 2016 on the blog and here.
2017: Vélo Anarchademy
We cycled from Strasbourg via Nancy (Vélorution Universelle DIY bike festival) to Bure (anti-nuclear waste occupation), then back into Germany, passed by Freiburg, crossed Switzerland visiting Orbe (collective farm) and Lausanne (bike kitchen and squats), then went on back to France to Grenoble and Valence. Then we met with another bike tour, AlterTour, and spent 3 days together with them. After we reached the sea in Montpellier, cycled along it for a while, and then went back into the hills to a community called Rocalet. After a ride through the Corbières mountains to Perpignan, we crossed into Catalunya at the degrowth community Can Decreix. In Catalunya we visited several communities on the country side and stayed in Barcelona for 4 days at Can Masdeu, also visiting the World Carfree Day. The tour ended in a small town Valls, where at the time the independence referendum happened and some of us joined the blockades against the Spanish police. Find more information on the Blog and the route page.
2018: Reclaim the Fields
The tour started in Pamplona, Spain and continued through Euskal Herria. And there we visited ecovillages in the valley of Arce in Navarra, a squatted neighbourhood Errekaleor in Gasteiz, a social centre Txirbilinea in Bilbao. Then we followed the Cantrabric coast to Asturias, visiting Gijón and Avilés, until Galicia, passing through Ortigueira and Vigo. After that we turned south towards Portugal. After visiting social and bike initiatives in Porto we finished the tour in the mountains of Benfeita that suffered big forest fires a year before.
2019: Scotland, Ireland and Wales
We wanted to visit the British isles before Brexit would make visas more difficult to obtain, and because we had not been there really much. So we started in Edinburgh (Edinbruh), we followed the est cost of Scotland till Aberdeen, then we entered the Highlands and crossed the Cairngorms National Park till Inverness. Then we went south following Loch Ness and the Caledonian canal down until Fort Williams. We visited Faslane Peace Camp and stayed in Glasgow, visiting GalGael and GAS and Talamh housing coop in the countryside. After that, we cycled until Cairnryan and we took the ferry until Belfast, in Northern Ireland. From there we followed the north part and the west coast of Ireland until Galway, and then we crossed the island until Dublin, from where we took another ferry to Wales. There we crossed Snowdonia mountains and visited a housing project in Lampeter and the Teepee Valley. The tour was finished by the last ecotopia remainers in Cardiff.
We had already decided and started to prepare a tour very much following the tracks of Ecotopia Biketour 2013, from Prague in Czechia to Timişoara in Romania. Then the Coronavirus caught us all by surprise. With different regulations in every region with unpredictable changes every week and many borders completely closing for several months, cycling a route that would cross exceptionally many countries became an impossible idea. We decided to skip the Biketour that year, although some Ecotopians did some small regional bicycle tours if their local situation allowed it.
2021: Prague to Pula
With the Corona situation calming down a bit over the summer and the regulations being loosened in many countries, an Ecotopia Biketour happened again, although with a rather small number of participants due to the still restricted travel possibilities, restrictions in some countries and very different needs and morals regarding the risk of infection.
The tour started with a one-week preparation meeting in Prague with great support from the local bike kitchen. From there the group cycled to Linz in Austria, where a Cyclocamp happened for a bit more than a week. During this time, the Biketour built and welded a new trailer, named “Iron Maided” due to its solid and heavy nature. In Vienna, the tour visited a protest camp against the construction of the Lobau highway. From Vienna the tour cycled south, passing close to Graz, to Ljubljana, Zagreb and finally ending in Pula on the Mediterranean Sea.
2022: Amsterdam to Marseille with a FLINTA+queer start
After the Corona gap the energy and number of active people was low, so we tried to give it a fresh start by choosing a route that we expected to be interesting for as many people as possible: from the Netherlands via Germany and France to the Mediterranean Sea.
We decided to address the concern that the Biketour had become more and more cis-male dominated over the last years by trying out a new idea: The first 3 weeks of the tour were open to LGBTQIA+ and FLINTA people only, so anyone who is not a cis-hetero man.
Highlights on the route were the forest occupation in Lützerath, the KTS squat in Freiburg, the Labo M community on the countryside not far from Basel, the refugee squat Sans Soussi in Lyon, the Récyclerie La Volte close to Valence and finally Marseille. A small group of people continued cycling along the sea towards Spain, visiting our old friends at Can Decreix.