Making space for cycling

This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 114.
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Making Space for Cycling is a major new publication we have put together for Cyclenation (the federation of cycle campaign groups). It was made possible by a grant from Bike Hub, the cycle industry’s levy fund. It was written by our very own Robin Heydon and Martin Lucas-Smith.

Described on the front cover as ‘A guide for new developments and street renewals’, it effectively forms an update to our Cycling in New Developments guide, published in 2008, which has long been in need of a substantial update. Once we had written it, it was clear that 99% of the text was suitable for street redesigns as well as new developments, and so it was renamed and adjusted accordingly.

Some 5,000 copies have been printed. Most of these will be distributed around the country, though we shall be making heavy use of it in our own campaigning here in Cambridge. We can send copies to people on request, and the website contains the full text and a free PDF download.

An overview

Many modern towns and cities throughout Europe recognise that providing space for cycling creates efficient and attractive places to live. They experience the benefits that this brings, in terms of attractive streetscapes, economic use of land, simplicity of moving around, and healthy lifestyles.

Making Space for Cycling aims to be the definitive guide for developers on achieving this in the UK. In it we explain the different way of thinking that is needed. The patchy, inadequate provision that has characterised most developments in the UK in recent decades has failed. Our guide shows how high-quality cycle infrastructure leads to high levels of cycling and the benefits this brings.

This guide covers the design principles required, from main roads down to local streets, as well as complementary measures such as cycle parking. The 36 pages aim to change developers’ and decision-makers’ view of cycling, showing it to be a mainstream and desirable mode of transport.

Allocation of space for cycling

Almost everything in the guide is already legally possible in the UK. What it emphasises is the different mindset that is needed. It is unashamedly aspirational.

The guide explains how the key to enabling high cycling levels is excellent quality infrastructure, appropriate to the location, as well as bicycle parking.

People don’t like mixing with heavy traffic. Space for cycling is needed, away from motor vehicles, with care taken in relation to pedestrians. For instance, mixing cycles with pedestrians on narrow footways is never acceptable.

The stance of the guide draws very heavily on the national debate on cycle infrastructure which has taken place over the last two years, advocating strongly the provision of dedicated space for cycling.

In particular, it stresses the importance of infrastructure suitable for everyone – whether people new to cycling or those who wish to cycle at speed without hindrance.

The guide steers well clear of the failed model of the British ‘dual network’ approach (where ‘less confident’ cyclists have to put up with inconvenient shared-use pavements mixed with pedestrians, and ‘confident’ cyclists are deemed to be happy mixing with hostile traffic).

Instead, it argues much more strongly for the Dutch and Danish approach whereby people of any ability can start to cycle and do so easily and efficiently. Indeed, the guide unashamedly proposes that street designers should use existing best practice that is tried-and-tested.

This is the first guide that has united all the national cycle campaigning groups from across the spectrum. It must surely send a clear message to the DfT about what we all think.

It is also expressly a pro-pedestrian guide, steering designers away from old-fashioned ‘solutions’ such as shared-use alongside roads that neither cyclists nor walkers want to see any more of.

Almost everything in the guide is already legally possible in the UK. What it emphasises is the different mindset that is needed. It is unashamedly aspirational.

Endorsements from across the cycle campaigning spectrum

Transport Minister (right) receiving our ‘Making Space for Cycling’ document. Photo: Carlton Reid.
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We made extensive efforts to create wording which groups across the cycle campaigning spectrum would agree with and buy into. And they did.

We want the DfT to incorporate the mindset and design concepts clearly outlined in MSfC into official guidance.

It has been endorsed by Cyclenation, CTC, British Cycling, Bike Hub, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, London Cycling Campaign, CPRE – and of course Cambridge Cycling Campaign. Sustrans have also since been in contact. We invite others to come forward to add their endorsement.

To see agreement among such a wide range of groups, some of whom often have not always seen eye-to-eye, surely sends a strong message to the Department for Transport. Indeed, it is our aim that its contents should make its way into official DfT guidance.

The response to the launch on social media was extremely positive, for example:
@Gwa_C: “This is the best website EVER. Councillors, transport ministers, street designers READ THIS.”
@BespokeEB: “This is more like it – really good publication on cycle infrastructure. Please take note, oh powers that be at DfT.”
@RantyHighwayman: “Now this is pretty damn awesome and will be emailed round the team at work in the morning! ”

Coincidentally, Sustrans launched their own design guide on the same day. That guide discusses design in the context of the dual-network model that campaigners have been trying to move away from. This resulted in some negative commentary, with some on Twitter making the point that it was deeply unhelpful for such a guide to be issued exactly at the point when the cycle campaign community is unifying against what that guide proposes.

The launch in Leeds

Our guide was launched at the Cycle City conference in Leeds at the start of May (see later in this Newsletter).

The Minister for Transport, Robert Goodwill, was handed a copy at the end of his keynote speech which opened the conference. We look forward to hearing what the his views on it are.

Thanks must go particularly to Outspoken Delivery, who kindly got 18 boxes of the guide up to Leeds so it could be distributed to the conference delegates and to campaigners in the north quickly and easily. Our designer, Ayesha, did an amazing job in a very short amount of time, so that we could get the guide printed for the conference – thanks!

The guide is available as both a PDF and a browsable web version at