Cycle Infrastructure Design (DfT 2008)

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The Department for Transport (DfT) published 'Cycle Infrastructure Design' (CID) in 2008 to guide professionals on providing for cyclists on the highway network. The following is CTC's take on it, highlighting the most enlightened aspects of the guidance, but also areas where it could do better.
Cycle Infrastructure Design
Cycle Infrastructure Design

2) CID and cycle lanes (Chapter 7. p35-40):

a) What’s welcomeCycle logo

    The road network is the most basic (and important) cycling facility available, and the preferred way of providing for cyclists is to create conditions on the carriageway where cyclists are content to use it, particularly in urban areas (1.3.2, p10)

    Creating space for cyclists by taking existing footway space from pedestrians is generally the least acceptable course of action (1.3.3, p10)

    In general, off-road cycle routes in urban areas tend to be the least desired option, and it is usually better to cater for urban cyclists on-road if this is practicable. (8.1.2, p41)

Key quotes from Cycle Infrastructure Design

  • CID states prominently that: ‘Cycle lanes can benefit cyclists, but poorly designed lanes can make conditions worse for them. There is no legal obligation for cyclists to use cycle lanes (or any other type of cycle infrastructure provision)…’ (7.1.1. p35)
  • CID explains the need to be aware of the link between official cycle training recommendations and the presence and layout of a cycle lane:

‘Cycle lanes are not always suitable and may encourage cyclists to adopt inappropriate positioning if the lanes are poorly designed. Designers need to decide whether a cycle lane is going to help or not. If so, its alignment should ideally reflect guidance and training on safe techniques (Franklin 2007) for manoeuvres undertaken by cyclists.’ (7.1.4, p35).

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for cycle lanes to steer cyclists into positions that make them most vulnerable, hard to see or be seen, likely to be overtaken too closely etc.

  • CID says: ‘Drivers do not always realise that cyclists need to move away from the kerb to avoid surface hazards and may expect cyclists to stay in lane regardless of its width. A narrow cycle lane may therefore give motorists (misplaced) confidence to provide less clearance while overtaking than they would in the absence of a cycle lane.’
  • CID goes on to advise on what to do where localised width restrictions might tempt practitioners to reduce a cycle lane to an unacceptable width: ‘At localised carriageway width restrictions, designers can continue a full width advisory cycle lane alongside a sub-standard all-purpose lane, or the cycle lane can simply be discontinued. A narrow cycle lane should not be used here.’ (7.4.3, p37)
  • CID says that two-way cycle lanes should be designed carefully, noting the potential for cyclist vs driver conflict at the mouths of side roads, where a driver waiting to emerge may not expect to come across cyclists approaching from two directions. (7.9, p40)
  • CID notes that ‘A cycle lane downhill can make conditions worse for cyclists’ (because the speed differential with motor traffic reduces or disappears and the cyclist has to take up a more prominent position further out from the kerb). (7.1.6, p35)

b) What’s missing

  • CID fails to clarify that a wide advisory lane is preferable to a narrow mandatory lane (although it does say that a 1.5 minimum advisory lane through a pinch-point should be considered where there isn’t enough space to introduce a mandatory lane of this width, 5.7.4, p30).
  • CID says that where mandatory cycle lanes encounter side roads, they should be replaced by short sections of advisory lane to allow motor vehicles to cross them (7.2, p36). We feel that coloured surfacing, plus cycle logo only (i.e. no lane markings) is another option here. This helps accommodate cyclists riding out wider than a lane might prescribe; and stops motorists thinking that a lane’s space is all cyclists need at these junctures.
  • Similarly, coloured surfacing is not mentioned as a way of maintaining the path of a cycle lane through the controlled area of a pedestrian crossing, where no lane markings are allowed (7.5.1, p37), or through a marked bus stop area. (6.4.1, p33)

c) What’s weak – and wrong

  • CTC believes that cycle lanes must always be of best practice width for the circumstances and never compromised. This dictates a recommended width of 2m, and a minimum of 1.5m. If this is not possible, then introducing a cycle lane at all will almost undoubtedly cause more problems than it solves. We feel that CID does not state this nearly strongly enough, although it details the space required by cyclists so thoroughly in ‘General design parameters’ (Chapter 1, p16).
  • CID should rule out cycle lanes of less than 1.5m (although we agree that they might be acceptable for short lengths in a few very limited circumstances). It is dangerous to suggest that drivers can overtake cyclists safely with less than this to spare.

Where road-space is limited, it is better to narrow the general traffic lane and mark a cycle lane of adequate width as ‘advisory’ rather than 'mandatory' (i.e. dashed rather than solid lines, advising drivers against entering it, but not making it illegal). If that is not practicable (e.g. on narrow roads with significant bus or goods vehicle flows), then a cycle lane should not be entertained. Instead, traffic volume and speed should be reduced, i.e. a solution from higher up the ‘Hierarchy of Provision’ must be found.


  • In ‘Pedestrian refuges, traffic islands and central hatching’ (5.7.4, p31), CID says ‘There is evidence that overtaking motorists refer to the cycle lane marking rather than the cyclist when overtaking, and cars may pass too closely if the lane is narrower than 1.5 metres.’ This good, width-specific advice should be quoted again in ‘Cycle lane widths’, (7.4, p37).
  • CID says: ‘For cycle feeder lanes to advanced stop line arrangements, a minimum width of 1.2m may be acceptable. Cycle lanes less than 1.2 metres wide cannot easily accommodate tricycles or child-carrying cycle trailers wholly within the lane’ (7.4.2, p37). 1.2m for an ASL feeder lane may be tolerated as an ‘exceptional minimum’ (e.g. where the general traffic lane really can’t be reduced to allow for a 1.5m cycle lane), but it should not become the norm.
  • CID says: ‘In general, a cycle lane located between two all-purpose traffic lanes should have a minimum width of 2 metres’ (7.1.4, p35). We believe that cycle lanes in these locations should ALL have a minimum width of 2m (i.e. the wording ‘in general’ weakens this recommendation).
  • CID says: ‘Cycle lanes should be 2 metres wide on busy roads, or where traffic is travelling in excess of 40 mph’ (7.4.2, p37). We feel that 2m should be given to cyclists wherever motor speeds of up to 40 mph are permitted (not merely 40 mph+).
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