Design Guide… what design guide?

Over many years, Cambridge Cycling Campaign has had great difficulty in getting cycle facilities designed, constructed, and maintained to what we consider acceptable standards. We’ve always faced the problem that in many areas of road design there are apparently ‘standards’ which must be met, but for most cycle facilities there is just ‘guidance’ such as Cycle-friendly Infrastructure (CFI)

In earlier Local Transport Plans there was a commitment to specify a ‘Local Design Guide’ but although drafts were produced no final version appeared. Cambridgeshire County Council was criticised in a report by the (now defunct) English Regions Cycling Development Team for its failure to meet such commitments.

The lack of such a document gives us and other agencies much difficulty; for example, what does a planning authority tell developers about ‘standards’ on major new schemes? With major urban expansion around Cambridge it will be vital to embed good standards for cycling provision into the planning guidance.

It is not just a local problem. Two sets of Government documents to which reference might be made are both over a year late! Both the Manual for Streets (which for cycling issues should replace CFI), and the three Local Transport Notes on cycling have yet to be issued, although drafts for two went out for consultation over 18 months ago. Of course such drafts cannot be referred to in official documents.

So what is available for us with which to batter the local councils and developers, and will it be more effective than wet fish?

In 1999 the Scottish Executive issued Cycling by Design. We’ve quoted this in the past as official guidance, but it might carry more weight if Cambridgeshire was in Scotland, and now there are the London Cycling Design Standards published earlier this year, but Ken’s influence does not reach Cambridge! Both these have tons of good stuff, and even if not ideal they would be far better than the void we have at present.

Cartoon - engineer on bridge, holding enormous manual, saying: The regulations say that new buildings have to be able to support at least theweight of a departmental design manual

Even though Cambridge has twice the rate of cycling of anywhere else in the UK, many major recent schemes fail to meet even the minimum requirements in the above documents.

We understand the problem that Cambridgeshire does not wish to put resources into a local guide, which is then at variance with the national standards, but we must have something such as one of the above to fill the void.

So what are these ‘Standards’ that must be met, and often conflict with providing even adequate facilities for cyclists?

It is the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. We’ve been told that although the standards in these fifteen volumes are mandatory for motorways and trunk roads, they should only be treated as advice for other roads. In fact in an answer to a Parliamentary Question on 13 December 2004, Lord Rooker said ‘The Design Manual is recommended as good design practice to other highway authorities, but it is their responsibility to decide the extent to which documents in the manual are appropriate in any particular situation.’

Jim Chisholm

Many of these documents are available on line:

After this article was written, I found Footway and cycle route design, construction and maintenance guide (Application Guide AG26 version 2, TRL, 2003) on the Web at footways.org/publisheddocs – we hope to review this in another Newsletter.