Cycling Infrastructure Design

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 74.

More national guidance

The Department for Transport (DfT) has just published a consultation draft of its new Cycling Infrastructure Design document. Effectively this is a design guide for cycling.

According to the DfT, ‘The intention of Cycling Infrastructure Design is to bring together current Government guidance and advice on providing and planning for cycle friendly infrastructure that is already publicly available into one document.’

Much of it looks like good stuff, and we will be submitting a formal response. Naturally, as with any guidance, there are areas which could do with strengthening towards a road environment which actively favours cycling, but it does seem to outline the right approach: make the general road environment safer before considering specific infrastructure.

Recycling: a new version 2

Cover of booklet

We understand that the document is effectively a second edition of Cycle Friendly Infrastructure (CFI) which is the cycle campaigner’s design bible, and which contains an enormous amount of excellent advice. (Unfortunately, CFI has never been available online.)

It is being produced as a Local Transport Note because the DfT consider that this will give it more status, and (though this does not appear to be mentioned in the Introduction) should be read in conjunction with the Local Transport Notes on Walking and Cycling LTN 1/04 and 2/04.

These two documents (which theoretically remain in draft but are no longer marked as such on the DfT’s website) were reviewed by us in Newsletter 56, and our full response letter is also on our website. In general, we strongly welcomed them, though wanted some areas improved.

The new Cycling Infrastructure Design document seems to contain a fair amount of crossover with the LTNs, so it will be interesting to see whether they end up being finalised.

A Cycling Design Guide for Cambridgeshire?

Cambridgeshire still has no Cycling Design Guide, despite the draft produced a few years back. We have not pressed the County Council on this because the Local Transport Notes appeared shortly after the local draft appeared.

We took the view that these LTNs could sensibly just be adopted locally, with a few small additions covering issues relating to cycling over the commons and the need for more generous space requirements due to the relatively high levels of cycling. The Gonville Place crossing has been a good example of where such guidance would have been useful, as a DfT-standard crossing here has proved totally unsuitable.

The non-appearance of the LTNs in finalised form has led us to question the merits of that strategy, but the Cycling Infrastructure Design potentially presents us with the same dilemma. Hopefully, this time, it will be finalised quickly and will end up saying what we want it to.


The document generally follows the hierarchy of provision:

‘For existing urban highways, the preferred form of provision is to try to achieve conditions where cyclists are content to use the carriageway. This is because in urban areas there is seldom the opportunity to provide a quality off-carriageway route that does not compromise pedestrian facilities or result in potential hazards and loss of priority for cyclists at side roads.’

‘Cycle lanes should ideally be 2 m wide on busy roads, on roads with traffic travelling in excess of 40 mph, and in cycle contraflow arrangements. A general minimum width of 1.5 m may be considered elsewhere.’ Cycle lanes can benefit cyclists but poorly designed lanes can make conditions worse.

‘In general, the conversion of existing urban footways to permit cycle use should only be considered when other, on-road options have been rejected.’

Sections on reducing vehicle speeds, reallocating road space, cycle lanes, and also off-road cycle routes appear, in that order.

There are also plenty of examples of cycle-friendly traffic calming (some of which look decidedly fussy).

Sadly, the sections covering bollards and obstructions do not give a clear impression of the need for a permeable and unobstructed layout of the sort we found so refreshing in our trip last year around Holland – there a ‘pole in cycleway’ sign was used for the rare occasions when such a pole existed!

Cycle lanes and their width

The section on cycle lanes starts from a clear position which many cyclists in Cambridge will quite understand:

‘Cycle lanes can benefit cyclists but poorly designed lanes can make conditions worse.’

Sadly, some of the photographic examples depict rather narrow lanes of the sort which the text (correctly) advises against:

‘Narrow cycle lanes may encourage cyclists to stay closer to the kerb than is advisable. If a lane is too narrow to comfortably ride in, it may defeat the object of providing it in the first place.’

‘Cycle lanes should ideally be 2 m wide on busy roads, on roads with traffic travelling in excess of 40 mph, and in cycle contraflow arrangements. A general minimum width of 1.5 m may be considered elsewhere. Narrower cycle lanes may be acceptable where their purpose is to allow cyclists to get to the head of a queue of stationary traffic such as on the approach to junctions, but widths below 1 m are best avoided.’

We think this needs to be strengthened further, to make clear that a minimum width means exactly that, and that no provision is better than substandard provision in such cases.

The need for a buffer zone (see the Trumpington Road article in this newsletter) is also clear:

‘There should be a buffer zone between the bays and the cycle lane of between 0.5 m and 1.0 m.’

Again though, we will be arguing strongly that the corollary to this should be made explicit, i.e. that if there is no space for a buffer zone, then no lane should be provided.

We would like to see a photograph of a continental-style ‘hybrid’ cycle lane (see the Hybrid Lane article in this newsletter) as a suggestion for designers to consider.

On roundabouts, the advice opens with a clear statement which again reflects the need to avoid infrastructure when it is preferable to let drivers just watch out for cyclists in the usual way:

‘There is no evidence to suggest that annular cycle lanes in themselves offer any safety benefit to cyclists, and unless accompanied by some of the geometric features described above they may introduce additional hazards.’

Cycle tracks

This starts with a clear summary of our most pressing concern with such tracks:

‘Cyclists often feel safer on a cycle track than on the carriageway, but where a cycle track runs parallel to the carriageway there is a risk of collisions at side road crossings.

Drivers turning into and out of side roads tend to focus their attention on vehicles within the main road carriageway. Whether intended or not, cycle tracks tend to be used by cyclists travelling in both directions along a road, and drivers may not anticipate this. Cyclists are particularly at risk from drivers turning right from a main road into a side road. A report into cycle tracks crossing minor roads concluded that “the risk (of crossing the minor road) must be weighed against the risks to cyclists using the major road. The safer option will depend on a variety of site-specific factors. If satisfactory crossings of minor roads cannot be provided, the creation of a cycle track may not be a sensible option.’

We could not agree more. Cambridgeshire County Council, please note!

It continues:

‘As a result of concerns over the poor safety record of cycle tracks at side roads, it is becoming common in continental Europe to dispense with the side road crossing by taking cyclists off a cycle track and onto the carriageway before a junction with a side road, and returning them to the cycle track afterwards. Cyclists join the carriageway from a build-out, ramped down to carriageway level to give cyclists physical protection while joining in line with the main flow (see Fig 9.4). The cycle route is then continued as an advisory cycle lane past the junction… The advantage of this technique is that the cyclist has priority at the side road by being on the main carriageway.’

Fussy perhaps, but sensible where a cycle track ends up being used.

Cycle parking

There is a good summary, on page 60 of the draft version, of the key attributes of good practice for cycle parking. The addition of a diagram clearly showing the space required around stands would improve this section of the document.

Draft available online

The deadline for responses is 5 November 2007. Details are on the DfT website

The 64 page draft can be seen in full and is well-illustrated. The final version is intended to be published in early 2008. The DfT welcomes comments from all.

Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator