New cycling guidelines a huge step forward for inclusive cycling

This article was published in 2020, in Magazine 148.

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The long-awaited Cycle Infrastructure Design manual, known as Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20, was finally released on 28 July 2020. From the very beginning, it promises to be a massive step forward for safe, inclusive and general-purpose cycling throughout England and Northern Ireland (separate guidance applies to Wales and Scotland).

In the document’s foreword, Chris Heaton-Harris MP says the guidelines aim to make sure that cycling becomes a form of mass transit in more places around the UK (in London cycle journeys now make up a third of rush-hour traffic and large increases in cycling have been seen during the Covid-19 lockdown). The government say that they want to make sure that cycling is no longer treated as marginal, or an afterthought, but placed at the heart of the transport network, with the capital spending, road space and traffic planners’ attention befitting that role.

Key to this promise is the statement that government funding for new cycle infrastructure will only be allocated to schemes that are designed in a way that is consistent with this national guidance. Funding for any local highways investment, even where the main element is not cycling or walking, is dependent on the project delivering or improving cycling infrastructure to the standards laid down in LTN 1/20. This is pretty strong stuff, although the test will be in the ability of the proposed inspectorate, Active Travel England to enforce this.

The new guidelines aim to make sure that cycling becomes a form of mass transit in more places around the UK

The five core design principles which represent the essential requirements to achieve more people travelling by cycle or on foot are the same as those used in the Netherlands: networks and routes should be coherent, direct, safe, comfortable and attractive. As with Dutch CROW Manuals for Bicycle Traffic, LTN 1/20 also puts network planning ahead of other design considerations, although it does not go into quite as much detail. Still, this document is twice as long as the guidelines it replaces (LTN 2/08) and there are plenty of diagrams, tables and photos to illustrate best practice, along with some examples of what not to do under each core principle – which may elicit a good laugh or sigh from many Camcycle members!

The new guidelines make clear that cycle infrastructure must be inclusive. For example, designers should ensure that objects between the carriageway surface and a height of 2.4m are visible from an eye height in the range of 0.8m to 2.2m. These values accommodate a range of cyclists including recumbent users, children and adults.

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Imagery is hugely improved from LTN 2/08 which featured a young helmeted male on the cover and photos almost exclusively of standard two-wheeled bicycles. In LTN 1/20 the influence of the charity Wheels for Wellbeing is clear throughout the document and it’s good to see photographs of their campaigner Kevin Hickman using his recumbent tricycle on a snowy cycle track.

Phil Jones, one of the key advisors on the document, makes clear that one of the most significant changes is the focus on what is inclusive, not just what is safe. This can be seen in the new Junction Assessment Tool which ranks junctions from those ‘suitable for only confident existing cyclists’ to those ‘suitable for all potential and existing cyclists’. LTN 1/20 acknowledges that high-quality cycle infrastructure should work for all; no more ‘dual network’ approach of forcing cyclists to choose between inconvenient shared-use pavements and a hostile on-road environment. Camcycle is already using the guidelines to scrutinise local planning applications: let’s hope their influence becomes quickly apparent.