New principles for cycle infrastructure design

28th July 2020

Leeds Bradford Cycle Superhighway
Leeds Bradford Cycle Superhighway

The Appendix to the government's Gear Change report contains 22 principles for cycle infrastructure design. The full new guidance on cycle infrastructure design is in Local Transport Note 1/20.

The aim is to create a national default position where high-quality cycle infrastructure is provided as a matter of course in local highway schemes. These are the principles.

1) Cycle infrastructure for everyone from 8 to 80

Routes that are accessible to all regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or disability - and do not create hazards for vulnerable pedestrians. Improvements to highways should always seek to enhance accessibility for all, and deliver a right to cycle.

2) Cycles should be treated as vehicles not as pedestrians

Shared use should not be used in streets with high pedestrian or cyclist flows. It may be suitable away from streets, for example on canal towpaths or paths through parks.

3) Cyclists must be physically separated and protected from traffic, at junctions and on the stretches of road between junctions

Full kerb segregation or light segregation; closure of roads to through traffic using bollards or planters.

'On roads with high volumes of motor traffic or high speeds, cycle routes indicated only with road markings or cycle symbols should not be used as people will perceive them to be unacceptable for safe cycling.

4) Side street routes

Side street routes which are closed to through traffic can be an alternative to segregated facilities, but only if they are truly direct.

5) Volume, and non-standard cycles

Bike routes should be designed for significant numbers of cyclists, and for recumbents, trikes, handcycles and cargo bikes. To make room for these, and to allow faster cyclists to overtake, tracks should ideally be 2m wide in each direction, or 3-4m for bidrectional tracks.

6) Cycling as part of local highway schemes

In local highways investment where cycling or walking is not the main element, there will be a presumption that schemes must deliver or improve cycling infrastructure, unless it can be shown that there is little or no need for cycling.

7) Cosmetic interventions won't be funded

This is aimed at schemes which prettify the status quo, for example by installing nicer-looking pavements but doing nothing to restrict through traffic or provide safe space for cycling.

8) Network approach

Routes should be planned as part of a network; isolated stretches of provision are of little value.

9) Cycle parking

Cycle parking should be provided in city centres and areas with flats where people can't store their bikes at home.

10) Legibility

There should be no doubt about where the cycle route runs, and where pedestrian and vehicle space is supposed to be.

11) Signposting

Users must feel like they are being guided along a route.

12) Showpiece structures

Items like overbridges are sometimes built as costly showpieces without enough thought about the rest of the route. They will only be funded where they are essential because they overcome a major barrier on a desire line.

13) Maintenance of routes

Routes must be properly maintained and swept for debris and broken glass.

14) Surface type

All-weather surfaces that are easy to maintain should be used.

15) Trials

A scheme can be trialled with temporary materials to see if it works, but 'it is important that the scheme is designed correctly at the beginning, to maximise the chances of it working.'

16) Barriers and dismount signs

Access control measures like chicane barriers and dismount signs reduce the usability of a route for everyone, and may exclude non-standard cycles and cargo bikes. Such control measures should not be used.

17) Simple, cheap interventions

The bollard to prevent through traffic is inexpensive but effective.

18) Directness and flow

Users shouldn't feel as though they have to double back on themselves and turn unnecessarily, or go the long way round.

19) Ease and comfort

Schemes should not impose constant stopping and starting, nor unnecessary level changes.

20) Designers should experience the roads as a cyclist

Ideally, all schemes would be designed by people who cycle regularly; in any event, a designer should get out there, cycle the route, and observe users' behaviour.

21) Consistency

Avoid inconsistent provision, such as a track going from the road to the pavement, or a track which suddenly vanishes.

22) When to break these principles

There may be rare occasions where it is absolutely unavoidable to make less good provision for a short stretch.


There are some words about consultations. A clear stakeholder engagement plan will articulate the case for change and increase political and public acceptance of a scheme.

A proposal should present an attractive alternative to the status quo, with a clear vision of what you want a place to look like. Work out all the details, so you can pre-empt likely objections. Be clear and open about your proposals, the benefits and the disadvantages.