New Developments: our latest position paper

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 76.

Cycling in New Developments Position Paper

In November we drafted a Position Paper on New Developments, which seeks to explain to developers what we want in practice in the huge new developments being built around Cambridge.

The Position Paper on New Developments should be on our website by the time you read this, and we are happy to send copies to members on request.

The background to the paper is that there is an awful lot of guidance out there nationally which discusses cycle-friendly infrastructure, but little of it relates to new developments. In the last year, we have often found ourselves needing a really good practical and concise guide to what ‘cycle-friendly’ actually means in practice when there is a clean sheet, as is the case with plans to build over huge areas of greenfield land.

The position paper will dovetail neatly with our Cycling 2020 initiative, the main brochure for which is also to be published and launched . However, the New Developments paper is more practical in focus and does not deal at all with existing problems around the network. The paper is also specifically aimed at housing developers rather than the range of stakeholders intended for Cycling 2020.

The Executive Summary, which we reproduce in edited form here, sets out a summary of the 24-page contents of the new Paper.

We set out in this briefing our aspirations for the new developments being planned for the Cambridge sub-region. In it we summarise the best way to provide for cycling.

Cycling fits perfectly with a range of national policies on transport, health, the environment and CO2 reduction; it also dovetails well with the government’s desire for ‘eco-towns’. Over 25% of all journeys in Cambridge to work are by bike and a large proportion of other trips are too. We want to ensure Cambridge’s cycling culture is maintained in the new developments.

Most British cycling infrastructure is of poor quality, because it is not designed with cyclists’ actual needs in mind. Firstly, developers need to make space for cycling. Secondly, whatever seems daft to a car driver is equally silly to a cyclist. Yet in the UK, poles in cycle paths, constant give-ways, etc., are the norm. This approach must be avoided in the new developments. Cyclists really want the same as car drivers want: Convenience, Directness, and Speed.

Pedestrian and cycle access to the Beehive Centre from the ‘back left’ corner of the new development off York Street
Image as described adjacent

Providing for cycling often doesn’t mean cycle-specific infrastructure, but simply a cycle/pedestrian-friendly environment. Cycling is much easier when traditional, inter-connected street layouts are used, in line with the government’s new Manual For Streets. Cul-de-sacs and winding roads should be avoided.

We then outline ten key principles for cycling, setting out what convenience, directness and speed mean in practice. As we then demonstrate, the ten principles tend to match what drivers would expect for themselves, too, when driving.

In terms of the actual on-street environment, developers should avoid pavement-style cycleways next to roads. These rarely meet cyclists’ needs properly. Instead, developers should remember that the normal street environment is where cyclists spend most of their time travelling, and make those areas as cycle-friendly as possible. So developers should:

  • design the overall development in a way which minimises the need to travel, through land-use integration, e.g. by locating facilities and ideally workplaces reasonably near to the housing;
  • for the main roads through a development: provide on-road cycle lanes of good width (at least 2m wide), or so-called ‘hybrid lanes’ (which are also on-road but which provide some protection but good visibility and directness) like that shown on the front cover.
  • in the local connecting streets where most housing is located and most journeys take place, design for lower traffic speeds, e.g. avoiding excessive visibility. This will also encourage children learning to ride.

We welcome any feedback you may have, as we will no doubt produce updated editions in future years.

Martin Lucas-Smith