ECF Safer Cycling Advocate Program

17th January 2020

Bike lane, Zandvoort, NL
Bike lane, Zandvoort, NL

The European Cyclists' Federation (ECF) has produced a guide for organisations looking to encourage cycling and improve road safety. It is called the Safer Cycling Advocate Program, and it's based on Dutch and Danish expertise and best practice.


ECF Benefits of Cycling graphic
Benefits of cycling, © ECF

The Introduction stresses the benefits of cycling (see graphic above).

It also explains the Safe Systems Approach (SSA), which aims to ensure a safe transport system for all road users, taking account of the fact that we're all human and make mistakes. Priority is given to human life and health, rather than favouring a cost-benefit analysis of safety measures. That includes valuing the health benefits of active travel, and for example checking that a road safety intervention doesn't act as a barrier to cycling.

The Introduction also assesses Electric Power Assisted Cycles (EPACs). Evidence shows that often EPACs replace car trips, not public transport, so they have the potential to reduce congestion. Health benefits of EPACs are similar to ordinary bicycles.

Road user behaviour

This section includes comments on how the bicycle helps Dutch children establish their independence and connect to a wider network of friends, resources, and institutions. It also has a sub-section on the role of the police using bikes, and says that it makes officers more approachable than when travelling by car.


This is a major section of the document, and there's a lot of information - but well worth reading and absorbing.

Five design principles for cycling infrastructure

These principles are aimed at safety, comfort, and ease of use.

  1. Safety - cycling infrastructure should guarantee the safety of cyclists and other road users; one aspect of this is that those on a particular piece of infrastructure should have similar mass/speed/direction
  2. Comfort - including a good surface, space for overtaking, as little stopping as possible, no obstacles in the road, and as few turning manoeuvres as possible
  3. Directness - as short a route as possible, and traffic lights set in favour of the cycle route
  4. Attractiveness - socially safe and running through well-designed and maintained public spaces
  5. Coherence - this 'has to do with the ability to get somewhere and with the need for a complete and comprehensible bicycle infrastructure. Connections connect to (all) origins and destinations of cyclists'

When to build segregated cycling infrastructure

The principles of when to separate cyclists from motorised traffic are based on traffic speed and volume. There are two separate matrices, for inside and outside urban areas.

Cycle matrix inside urban
When to segregate cycle routes, inside urban areas, graphic from ECF Safer Cycling
Cycle matrix outside urban
When to segregate cycle routes, outside urban areas, graphic from ECF Safer Cycling

Note that separate infrastructure is always required on a 50kmh (30mph) road.

Cycling infrastructure design

There's a detailed sub-section on cycling infrastructure design that covers surface, curves and turns, visibility at conflict points, width, and lighting (including motion-sensitive lighting).

Light cycle infrastructure
Light cycle infrastructure image from ECF Safer Cycling report

Light infrastructure is mentioned. The ECF say it isn't common in the Netherlands or Denmark, but can be a useful stopgap measure. Advantages include the low cost (about 10% of more permanent physical separation), and the fact that it is quick to implement and can be re-positioned at minimal cost.

Dutch roundabout
Dutch roundabout, image from ECF Safer Cycling

There's information on junctions and roundabouts, including Dutch roundabouts. Priority is mentioned, particularly priority of cycle tracks over vehicles entering or exiting side roads, two-stage left turns at busy junctions, and right turns on red.

Safer Cycling also deals with Fietsstraats, or Bicycle Streets. In residential areas, motorised traffic is allowed, but drivers may not overtake cyclists, and must treat them with utmost care, with clear right of way in favour of cyclists.

Read the full ECF Safer Cycling Advocate Program report.