CTC comments on UK Cycle Infrastructure Design guide

The Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) is the national cyclist advocacy organization in the UK. The CTC recently released their comments on the UK National Cycling Infrastructure Design (CID) guide which was published last October [PDF].

The CTC mostly welcomes the new guide, which brings together and updates guidance previously available in different Local Transport Notes and other advice published by the UK Department for Transport.

According to CTC, the CID’s most useful feature is its ‘Hierarchy of Provision’ for cycling. This fundamental design principle says that planners and engineers should start by looking for solutions that reduce the volume and speed of traffic – that is, tackling the factors that most deter people from cycling. As such, the CTC says, “We are particularly pleased to see CID state that: ‘The road network is the most basic (and important) cycling facility’.”

They also welcome the fact that the CID doesn’t just outline raw design principles, but gives the reasons behind its recommendations. It sets out how cyclists tend to ride and why they like and benefit from certain features and conditions, and not others. CID also explains how drivers react to cycle facilities and cyclists, and how this should influence design. This helps ground the advice in road user experience, attitudes and behaviour, making it – and its more ‘counter-intuitive’ stances – easier to appreciate.

CID’s weaknesses are mainly sins of omission. The guidance says little on cycle provision at major junctions or the amount of cycle parking needed at key destinations, and nothing much at all on cycle-friendly road maintenance.

CID’s biggest problem is its failure to rule out cycle lanes of less than 1.5m, even though it acknowledges that narrow lanes encourage dangerously close overtaking and steer cyclists towards the edge of the carriageway – a position that official cycle training advises against because it makes them less visible to motorists. CTC’s view is that we’d rather have no cycle lane at all than one that puts cyclists in danger. If that means reducing either the volume or the speed of the traffic (i.e. the top two options from the ‘Hierarchy’), then so be it!

An even bigger problem is that many local authority officers won’t read CID and will continue with little understanding of the principles of good cycle planning. CTC will will be pressing the DfT to disseminate the document widely, and to get the principles of the ‘Hierarchy of Provision’ written into other planning and engineering guidance, not just this one on cycle infrastructure. CID has been published jointly by the DfT, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government.

Read the full CTC critique here. Props to Bob Shanteau for the forward.

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