Cycling for All Ages: some thoughts on infrastructure

I will be presenting at a number of events on planning for inclusive cycling (including a number of invited conference talks and a seminar to DfT analysts). Pulling together some slides and pictures for these, I happened to find a table I’d created that didn’t quite make it into the first published paper from the Children and Cycling Survey.

The table makes some recommendations based on the ten types of infrastructure that the survey asked people about, drawing conclusions about how suitable (or not) each is for cycling with and by children (and indeed, ‘most people’ – it was interesting how respondents tended to think building for child cycling fitted well with building for mass cycling more broadly).

I thought it was worth putting it up here, as part of what I hope will be a growing debate about cycling for everyone and how we get there. As I acknowledge in the paper, the Children and Cycling survey’s just a small start. It should be supplemented with more research and detailed work at specific locations with target groups, including parents and children, disabled people, and older people who are so under-represented among UK cycling’s success stories so far.

The table does highlight some particularly problematic issues with some London Quietway plans that I’ve recently seen. For such routes to be suitable for all ages and abilities they must be properly quiet, which may well imply the removal of through motor traffic. (Many respondents to the survey highlighted how non-cycle-friendly residential streets could otherwise be, with an unpleasant combination of rat-running motor traffic, poor sight lines round parked cars, and bad driver behaviour.)

A second and even less well recognised point is the need to ensure that where back streets cycle routes cross busier roads, cyclists are prioritised and protected. Too often the default is still to give priority to the main motor traffic flow, meaning people using what is meant to be a priority cycle route must make their way across busy and/or fast moving motor traffic with nothing to help them. By contrast, Portland’s bicycle boulevards routinely involve ‘flipped priority’ making the cycle desire line, not the motor route, into the ‘main road’.

Pictures of the situations used in the research, and explanations of each, can be found in the paper.

Situation Comments/recommendations
Armadillo Segregation This may not be good enough for all-ages, all-ability cycling, although it is preferred to paint alone or to sharing with buses. More testing and research is needed to establish the suitability of this approach for different groups.
Crossing a Busy Road Uncontrolled crossings of busy roads without priority should be seen as barriers on cycle routes. Rules governing priority at intersections should take account of inclusive cycling and desired/projected levels of cycle traffic. Where priority is not provided controlled crossings should be considered.
Filtered permeability Filtered permeability is the obvious intervention required to turn residential streets into high quality cycle routes. Area-wide programmes will be needed to ensure rat-running is not simply displaced to other residential streets, although in the shorter term key routes can be prioritised for filtering.
Kerb Segregation Kerb segregation is seen as a gold standard for inclusive provision on roads where filtering is not possible.
Mandatory Bicycle Lane Mandatory cycle lanes count as relatively good cycle infrastructure in the current UK context, where many lanes are only advisory and often interrupted by car parking. However they are not good enough for inclusive cycling.
Parking Segregated Segregating cyclists using car parking is encouraged. Where residential roads cannot be filtered, this may be an alternative solution. Planners should consider moving existing cycle lanes inside rather than outside car parking.
Residential Rat Run These streets can be much more problematic than is often assumed, because of poor driver behaviour, speeding, poor visibility (particularly of/for children) and the lack of space to escape. Filtering or segregation should be considered.
Shared Bus and Cycle Lane Shared bus and cycle lanes, while a standard part of UK infrastructure, are not suitable for all-ages cycling. Without segregation from buses, most children will be unable to ride along bus routes.
Shared Park Route These routes are highly suitable for child cycling and consideration should be given to permitting cycling in parks as a default. Where a park is on a priority cycle route, segregation should be considered as allowing cyclists to ride faster without endangering pedestrians or being obstructed by them.
Two Lane Road Clearly unsuitable for inclusive cycling. As mentioned above, segregation by kerb or by car parking should be the first solutions considered here.
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2 Responses to Cycling for All Ages: some thoughts on infrastructure

  1. Pingback: Bicycle Facilities Best Practices Report from Transport for London |

  2. Adam Edwards says:

    As a local cycle campaigner, I am constantly amazed how few local councillors and officials do not know that the law requires 11 year old children to ride on the road. I often challenge them to tell me if they believe such and such a plan or location are fit for an 11 year old. Very hard for a councillor to argue that we should not invest to make things safe for 11 year olds.

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