More complex than standard solutions

By Will Haynes,
cyclists using segregated track in Manchester

Designing good places to cycle is about more than just implementing standard solutions

On my daily commute into the office I often dream about how good it would be if my experience were like that of someone in say, Copenhagen, and how this might be achieved.

There is a whole host of factors that need to be addressed if we are going to see levels of cycling in the UK comparable to a number of our northern European neighbours.

As an engineer the bit that is within my ability to influence is design of good places to cycle. This starts with well-tested, best-practice guidance for cycle route designers, highways engineers and transport planners.

So how do we design good places to cycle?

There is a wide range of design guidance out there, from the UK and beyond. Therefore one answer would be to simply pick the best bits of the design guidance and implement that.

However, I would like to suggest that the reality of most situations means that there is rarely a perfect solution that can be lifted from the design guidance.

At Sustrans we consider the key is the way in which designs are arrived at. Our Handbook for Cycle-friendly design and accompanying design manual recommends 10 top tips that designers should follow.

One of these relates to the adherence to the widely quoted Five Core Principles (Coherence, Directness, Safety, Comfort and Attractiveness). However, how the principles are actually implemented is often relatively subjective and in many cases may conflict.

One way to objectively consider the principles is to use a level of service or route audit tool, such as the Cycling Level of Service assessment tool in the London Cycling Design Standards and Cycle Route Audit tool in the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 Design Guidance.

Weighing the pros and cons of each option

In most cases different route options within a corridor, or different types of provision for a particular route, will have a number of advantages and disadvantages. By applying these tools it is possible to compare different options for a particular route, or to compare different options for a corridor and have meaningful information on which to make a decision as to which is the best solution.

Designing good places to cycle is more than just implementing standard solutions, no matter how high quality they are.

For example a traffic free greenway is likely to provide a high level of safety in terms of being segregated from motor traffic, but is likely to be less advantageous in terms of personal safety at night and directness.

Alternatively, a high quality segregated cycle track may provide good levels of safety and directness but by increasing severance for pedestrians wanting to cross a route it may not contribute to an attractive provision where a high place function is desired.

In summary designing good places to cycle is more than just implementing standard solutions, no matter how high quality they are.

Thorough consideration of the relative merits of different options against the Five Core Principles should result in the most appropriate solution being arrived at for a particular context and thereby result in a good place to cycle.

Read our route design and construction resources.

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