Cycling Infrastructure

Cycling Infrastructure


Cycling infrastructure is infrastructure that is provided for and used by cyclists. This infrastructure can include on-road provision such as cycle lanes or cycle-friendly junction designs, or off-road provision such as cycle tracks and paths. There are many different types of cycling infrastructure; a number of these are discussed in this synthesis.

Overall there has been an upward trend in people using pedal cycles as a mode of transport in recent years in Great Britain, however this varies in different places, with some areas seeing a significant increase in people cycling whilst there have been smaller increases or decreases in other areas. As the number of cyclists on the roads has increased, the number of cyclist casualties has also generally increased.

In London the number of people using pedal cycles has increased. This in part has been attributed to a number of initiatives, such as the Santander Cycle Hire and Cycle Superhighways schemes, as well as a response to congestion and crowding on other modes of transport

The risk for cyclists is greatest at road junctions, and this can be exacerbated by segregation along links if this places cyclists into conflicting positions and turns when cyclists get to junctions and crossings.

When highway infrastructure changes are made for capacity, safety or network reasons, cyclists’ needs should be considered from the start of the project so that cyclists’ safety and comfort is built into all elements of the design.

Cyclists have differing and potentially conflicting needs from cycling infrastructure. Confident cyclists favouring speed and directness may prefer to cycle in the carriageway with the rest of the traffic. Other cyclists wanting to avoid conflict with motorists prefer separate cycle lanes, or segregated provision such as shared use paths and cycle tracks.

During cycling infrastructure design it is important to consider both ‘actual’ road safety measured by the number of casualties in an area and the ‘perceived’ road safety, i.e. how safe do cyclists feel? It is often possible to improve ‘perceived’ road safety significantly by providing cycling infrastructure, but it is more difficult to prove that cycling infrastructure has reduced casualty numbers.

If people feel safer when cycling they will be more inclined to cycle more often, which leads to safety in numbers and associated health benefits.

Providing dedicated cycling infrastructure might not always be necessary. Depending on traffic flows and speeds, and the primary function of the road or street, measures to manage speeds and encourage safe sharing of the carriageway may be more appropriate than creating separate facilities, which are more necessary where flows and speeds are high and the road’s primary function is for movement. In some circumstances off-road paths can provide cyclists with more direct routes, especially in business parks and residential areas where roads can be less direct and may meander. Off-road paths may also provide opportunities for recreational cyclists and as a means to avoid complex or busy junctions or roads for less confident commuter cyclists.

Research has been conducted on a number of different types of cycling infrastructure including cycle lanes, roundabouts, crossing facilities, advanced stop lines, shared used paths and cycle tracks. The research has highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of each type of cycling infrastructure.

There are a number of gaps in the research; evidence on the amount of cycling activity in the UK needs to be improved. Accurate casualty numbers are also required to assist cycling infrastructure designers.

In conclusion, cycling infrastructure has a role to play in improving road safety for cyclists but should not be used in isolation. A range of interventions should be used including marketing, education, legislation and enforcement to improve the culture of road sharing and road user behaviour.

  • Date Added: 05 Mar 2013, 11:21 AM
  • Last Update: 26 Aug 2016, 04:01 PM