Designing cycling infrastructure: good advice

Photo by Yoss Cinematic on

Making Canberra a cycling city is not hard. It has been done elsewhere already. The UK Department of Transport explains how to make cities better for cyclists. We can learn from this. 🙂

Putting into words what makes sense for a cyclist.

Recommendations of the UK

Source: Cycle Infrastructure Design Local Transport Note 1/20 July  2020, UK Department of Transport, pages 30-31. 

4.2 Core design principles 

4.2.2 When people are travelling by cycle, they need networks and routes that are:

  • Coherent
  • Direct
  • Safe
  • Comfortable and
  • Attractive.

4.2.3 These design principles are further described below. 


4.2.4 Cycle networks should be planned and designed to allow people to reach their day to day destinations easily, along routes that connect, are simple to navigate and are of a consistently high quality. Abrupt reductions in the quality of provision for cyclists – such as a busy high-speed roundabout without facilities – will mean that an otherwise serviceable route becomes unusable by most potential users. Sections that do not meet accessibility standards, such as steps on a cycle route, will render a whole journey inaccessible for some people. 

4.2.5 Main roads are often the only direct, coherent route available to move between places, but these are usually the roads where people most fear the danger from motor vehicles. Consequently, the provision of adequately safe, attractive and comfortable facilities along these roads is crucial to creating a coherent cycling network. 

4.2.6 A cycle route may vary in nature along its length, for example a signed route along a quiet street may continue as a motor traffc free route through a green space, but the connection between successive sections should be obvious. Similarly, a route through a complex junction should be clear to all road users. Direction signs, road markings and coloured surfacing in combination with physical design features can all help to provide coherence. 


4.2.7 Directness is measured in both distance and time, and so routes should provide the shortest and fastest way of travelling from place to place. This includes providing facilities at junctions that minimise delay and the need to stop. Minimising the effort required to cycle, by enabling cyclists to maintain momentum, is an important aspect of directness. An indirect designated route involving extra distance or more stopping and starting will result in some cyclists choosing the most direct, faster option, even if it is less safe. 

4.2.8 To make cycling an attractive alternative to driving short distances, cycle routes should be at least as direct – and preferably more direct – than those available for private motor vehicles. Permitting cyclists to make movements prohibited to motor traffc, allowing contrafow cycling, and creating links between cul-de-sacs to enable cyclists to take the shortest route, should be the default approach in traffc management schemes and new road networks. Area-wide schemes and new developments can enable fltered permeability, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to take more direct routes than motorised traffc. 


4.2.9 Not only must cycle infrastructure be safe, it should also be perceived to be safe so that more people feel able to cycle. 

4.2.10 Safety and environmental improvements for all road users can be achieved by reducing motor traffc volumes and speeds, for example by introducing fltered permeability or traffc calming. Reducing motor traffc may also release space to enable the construction of separate facilities for cyclists on links and at junctions.

4.2.11 On busy strategic roads where a signifcant reduction in traffc speeds and volumes is not appropriate, safety will need to be achieved by providing dedicated and protected space for cycling, which may involve reallocating existing space within the highway (or providing a parallel route). Reallocation will typically involve moving kerb lines and street furniture, and providing well-designed crossings and facilities at junctions where most casualties occur. The potential for confict between pedestrians and cyclists should be minimised by keeping them separate except in low speed, low traffc environments (see Figure 4.2). Where pedestrians and cyclists share surfaces, suffcient width should be provided to enable users to feel safe by allowing them to see other users and to avoid each other when passing. 

4.2.12 Cycle routes remote from roads may have other risks relating to crime and personal security. The risk of crime can be reduced through the removal of hiding places along a route, by providing frequent access points, by providing lighting, and by passive surveillance from overlooking buildings and other users. 

4.2.13 Maintenance to address surface defects, overgrown vegetation, fallen leaves, snow and ice will all help to reduce the likelihood of falls and crashes for all people and preserve available width and sight lines for cyclists. Cycle parking should be sited where people using the facilities can feel safe from traffc and crime, and away from pedestrian paths.


4.2.14 Comfortable conditions for cycling require routes with good quality, well-maintained smooth surfaces, adequate width for the volume of users, minimal stopping and starting, avoiding steep gradients, excessive or uneven crossfall and adverse camber. The need to interact with high speed or high-volume motor traffc also decreases user comfort by increasing the level of stress and the mental effort required to cycle. 

4.2.15 Adequate width is important for comfort. Cycling is a sociable activity and many people will want to cycle side by side, and to overtake another cyclist safely. It is important that cyclists can choose their own speed so that they can make comfortable progress commensurate with the amount of effort they wish to put in.

4.2.16 Designers should consider comfort for all users including children, families, older and disabled people using three or four-wheeled cycles. Families are more likely to use off-carriageway facilities. Young children may need additional space to wobble or for an accompanying parent to ride alongside. 


4.2.17 Cycling and walking provide a more sensory experience than driving. People are more directly exposed to the environment they are moving through and value attractive routes through parks, waterfront locations, and well-designed streets and squares. Cycling is a pleasurable activity, in part because it involves such close contact with the surroundings, but this also intensifes concerns about personal security and traffc danger. The attractiveness of the route will therefore affect whether users choose cycling as a means of transport. 

4.2.18 The environment should be attractive, stimulating and free from litter or broken glass. The ability for people to window shop, walk or cycle two abreast, converse or stop to rest or look at a view, makes for a more pleasant experience. 

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

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