The road is only about three kilometers long, but it is the only and very busy direct connection between the village of Castro Marim and the city of Vila Real de Santo António. It is now possible to do this section by bicycle or on foot, in comfort and safety, on the cycle path that was inaugurated on Friday, which flanks the EN122, from the Revelim de Santo António area, to the level crossing at the entrance to VRSA.
On the morning of the 28th, Friday, several dozen cyclists and walkers debuted the new link between the two county seats in Raianas, named Ciclovia da Lezíria. Among them was the cyclist Ricardo Mestre from Castro, one of the few from the Algarve to have won the Volta a Portugal and owner of a successful career.
And, despite being used to high cycling, Ricardo Mestre doesn't hide that it's always good to cycle close to home – even more, if it's safe.
“I will have traveled this road hundreds of times. Now, the feeling of security is totally different», he said.
«This connection was already needed, mainly for the population of Castro Marim and Vila Real, who now have all the conditions to make this road by bicycle, or even on foot. When I walked here to school myself, three or four classmates would join us and go on foot. Now, you can do this much more securely. I think it's an evolution», believes Ricardo Mestre.
An idea reinforced by Francisco Amaral, mayor of Castro Marim. “In recent decades, cycling or walking between Castro Marim and VRSA was extremely dangerous. There were several accidents. Finally, this journey can now be done safely».
«For me, the intervention is only late, it should have been done tens of years ago. But better late than never!” he said.
Francisco Amaral does not hide that this bike path "is a dream come true" or, at least, part of it. «We are already launching the work that will connect Castro Marim to Praia Verde, which will later be complemented with another cycle path to Altura, along the EN125».
"On the other hand, we continue to cherish the dream of connecting the county seat to Monte Francisco, Junqueira and the headquarters of the Sapal de Castro Marim Natural Reserve," he added.
“And there is another dream, mine and that of the mayor of Ayamonte, which is to link Castro Marim to Spain by bicycle path, across the Guadiana International Bridge. Today, we learned from the president of the CCDR of the Algarve that the process is underway. Things are well underway and we hope that they materialize», wished the mayor.
As was evident on the opening day, this type of infrastructure can be of great help to tourism, especially in low season. On Friday, there were many tourists, the vast majority seniors, who took the opportunity to cycle on the bike path.
«I've been riding some of our bike paths here and I've come across many foreigners, who take the opportunity to enjoy our fantastic landscapes», said Ricardo Mestre.
Also for professionals, it is more pleasant to train in places with good views, «but what counts, above all, is safety». Hence, the existence of well-defined and signposted cycle paths is important, such as the network that is growing in the Eastern Algarve.
For this network to be a reality, considerable sums of money must be invested.
“We are talking about works worth hundreds of thousands of euros. The one we are now launching and which will start soon will cost around 800 thousand euros. This one that we inaugurated today also surrounded the same values. They are, therefore, major works, which if they were not co-financed by the European Union, would be impossible to carry out», revealed Francisco Amaral.
Hence, the Castromarinense mayor thanks the CCDR of Algarve, manager of CRESC Algarve2020, operational program from which the support for the interventions comes, «for being sensitive to these needs of ours».
Also thanking Conceição Cabrita, president of the Chamber of VRSA, in this case, the neighboring municipality of Castro Marim.
«This is a route that has been desired for a long time. Fortunately, Castro Marim advanced with this work. This is an asset for our area, which has tourism and a different quality», he considered.
“This work comes to economically dynamize these two peoples, who have always been so connected. There was a divorce motivated by the lack of this bike path», concluded, for his part, Francisco Amaral.
Photos: Hugo Rodrigues|Sul Informação