Design Guide

This article was published in 2003, in Newsletter 47.

The Campaign, in its many dealings with the County and City Councils, has long argued for the creation of a Design Guide, outlining standards and, to some extent, policy for provision for cyclists. The County Council has at last produced a first draft, which is a very welcome step. (Their Guide will also be used by the City Council.) Thank You

Any such guide is clearly of very high strategic importance, because a good design guide could raise the standard of provision across the County and the City, whereas a deficient one could hinder it, leaving Cambridge Cycling Campaign the task of constantly complaining, which would be unfortunate.

As we have made clear to council officers, we would like to be in a position actively to welcome schemes – and indeed the Guide itself – rather than continually criticising in the many cases where this is necessary. We have often seen the same problems arising, time and again, which is one good reason for a standards manual in the form of the Design Guide. Sometimes these problems have been corrected during the consultation phase; other times not.

We were very happy, therefore, to see that the first draft of the Design Guide generally seems of a good standard, although there are a few omissions. The biggest danger, however, is that this first draft, which is about 170 pages long, has been written by consultants rather than by council officers and so may not bear great similarity to any finalised version. We will do all we can to push it in the right direction.

Our main criticism of the draft we have seen is that it ‘feels’ disorganised. Very different types of provision – such as on-road and shared-use – have been mixed together and spread across various chapters.

We have strongly suggested that the Guide should be reorganised so that the initial chapters are presented in a way which mirrors the hierarchy of provision set out in the national guide, Cycle-friendly Infrastructure. This says that, if providing for cyclists, the following list should be worked through in order, starting with the first; if that is not possible, then the second, and so on:

  • Traffic reduction
  • Traffic calming
  • Junction management and traffic management
  • Redistribution of the carriageway
  • Cycle lanes and [then] cycle tracks

Starting the Guide with a series of chapters covering these distinct topics would help clarify the sort of direction that traffic engineers should be moving in when thinking about how to provide for cyclists.

We met a few council officers to discuss the Guide, and followed this up with a list of specific suggestions. At this stage, we are not considering the detail of the document, as this will necessarily follow later. We have not yet heard back what the next stage will be in the Guide’s production.

Let us hope the next draft is even better: organised and not watered down.

Martin Lucas-Smith