2.2 Cycle friendly infrastructure:
Basic requirements: When investing in cycling infrastructure, we need to make the right choices. What is needed to really improve cycling conditions, to make cycling safe and to attract as many cyclists as possible? Starting from cyclists’ needs five key requirements can be defined.
2.2.1 Cyclists’ needs
First we need to be aware of the essential user needs of cyclists and the characteristics of bicycles.
It is vital to keep in mind that the bicycle is mainly used for short distances. More than 80% of all bicycle trips are less than 5 km long. The table below shows the share of bicycle trips per distance category for the Flemish region in Belgium. In other countries or regions a similar division of cycle distances will be found. Cycling is essentially a local transport mode. Looking at the travel purpose, the bicycle is useful for all kinds of trips and all ages. The diagram below shows the range of purposes cycling is used for in the Netherlands, with its high rate of cycling. In More than 50 % of trips to school are made by bicycle but, of course, school travel only represents a small share (9%) of all trips. For the other travel purposes such as work, shopping and leisure the bicycle has a 20% to 30% share, meaning that overall 26% of trips in the Netherlands are made by bicycle.
In many cycling policies there is a strong emphasis on school travel. This makes sense: making children experience cycling as a normal daily means of traveling is the first step towards keeping them on their bicycle in their adult lives. However, we need to be well aware that school travel trips only represent this small share of trips. If we want to have a significant impact on towards cycling, we need to focus on the promoting cycling across the entire range of travel purposes, especially commuter travel and shopping. Apart from daily utility trips, the bicycle also plays a major role in recreational trips. In the last decade recreational cycling has increased systematically in all European countries. Besides the qualities of the surrounding landscape, attractive cycle facilities are a key element in promoting recreational cycle trips. When these cycle facilities are also run through more urban areas, they also have a potential for supporting daily functional cycle trips at the same time. While the needs of functional and recreational cyclists differ, facilities should be closely integrated in urban environments so that double use is promoted.
2.2.2 Cycle infrastructure works
There are clearly large differences in cycle use among the various European countries and cities. It may be a bit too simple to state that countries with high-quality cycling infrastructure have a higher modal share of cycling, but there is undeniably a relation between good cycling infrastructure and cycle use.
We need to be careful, because there is a lack of reliable international and European-wide statistics, comparing bicycle use per country. The following figures have been culled from different sources via internet research. Although they are fragmentary and calculated in different ways, they do give a rough indication of varying cycle use in European countries and cities. The highest shares do correspond with higher qualities of cycling infrastructure.
More specific research projects have shown that good cycle infrastructure indeed leads to a higher cycling share. The benchmarking ‘Fietsbalans’ project, conducted by the Fietsersbond (Dutch cycling association), has revealed a clear link between levels of cycling in a municipality and the quality of the cycling infrastructure. The quality of the infrastructure was recorded objectively using measuring equipment and is expressed in the so called bicycle Balance Score. In Dutch municipalities with a high bicycle Balance Score, bicycle use is on average 14% higher than in municipalities with a low bicycle Balance Score. Once again, it needs to be underlined that cycle-friendly infrastructure is not the same as dedicated lanes and tracks. The bicycle balance score is partly based on ‘route testing’: a route may partially run through a 30 km/h area with traffic calming measures but without cycle lanes or tracks: this raises the quality score.
2.2.3 Quality requirements for cycling infrastructure
What is it that makes cyclists want to get on their bikes? Starting from user needs, it is possible to define five main requirements for cycle-friendly infrastructure. These were developed in the Netherlands, but have been internationally recognize as valid policy guidelines.
It will not always or everywhere be possible to fulfill each requirement, not even in CHAMPION CYCLING CITIES. But the point is that the more of them are fulfilled, the more people will be attracted to get on their bikes. These requirements must always be kept in mind as objectives to strive for. And they can also be used as criteria to assess the quality and shortcomings of existing infrastructure.
1. SAFE. Safety is undeniably the basic requirement and must be the overriding concern. Cyclists cause no significant danger, but they themselves are and feel vulnerable when moving in the same space as motorized traffic. Risk results from the major differences in mass and speed. Safety can be provided in three main ways. Reducing traffic intensities and lowering speeds below 30 km/h makes mixing safe. Separating cyclists in space and in time from fast and heavy motorized traffic reduces the number of dangerous encounters. Where conflict points between motorized traffic and cyclists cannot be avoided (at intersections and crossings), these should be presented as clearly as possible, so that all users are aware of the risk and can adapt their behavior.
2. DIRECT. Directness means that the cyclist can as direct a route as possible to his destination. Detours must be kept small and overall travel time for cyclists needs to be minimized. This makes cycling highly competitive over short distances, since travel time will mostly be lower than when travelling by car. All factors with an impact on travel time influence directness: detours, number of stops at crossings, traffic light regulation, slopes etc. Cycling can then be promoted as a smart choice and a fast means of transport into a city center or to local schools, to work or other amenities.
3. COHESIVE. Cohesion is about the extent to which cyclists can go from any origin to any destination without interruption. This basically means that cyclists will strongly appreciate an area-wide or city-wide network. Black spots and barriers, cycling provision that suddenly stops are strong disincentives to cycling. Cyclists need to be confident that wherever they go, they will easily find a route with a consistently good quality of provision. Every home, every company, every amenity must be accessible by bike and connected to the overall network. Cohesion also means good connections to other networks, mainly public transport stops and hubs.
4. ATTRACTIVE. Attractiveness means that bicycle infrastructure is well integrated into agreeable surroundings. This is a matter of perception and image, which can strongly encourage or discourage cyclists. Since perceptions are highly variable and personal, general rules are hard to give. But perception should receive full attention in planning and when analyzing usage levels and complaints. Apart from design and landscape qualities and the image of an area, this also includes the factor of actual and perceived ‘personal security’. This is particularly crucial in the evenings and at night.
5. COMFORTABLE. Comfort is about creating an enjoyable, smooth and relaxed cycling experience. Physical and mental effort should be minimized as much as possible. For smooth driving irregular efforts should be avoided: having to stop and start repeatedly is tiresome and stressing. Bad material design or maintenance cause annoying vibrations, shocks and obstacles: this makes cycling a more complex task, requiring more concentration and effort to control your balance and spot nuisances in advance. In practice these requirements may sometimes conflict. Then it becomes a matter of striking the right balance. Consider the following common situations. · The most direct route often runs along a busy road and is therefore less safe or attractive than required. Building segregated cycle lanes can guarantee safety. An alternative route away from traffic may be safer and attractive, but probably longer and less direct. · For safety reasons, cyclists are sometimes required to make a detour via a tunnel or bridge, or to stop frequently at traffic lights. Both reduce directness (detour, waiting time) and comfort (climbing slopes, stopping and starting). · The most direct route runs through green parks or outside built-up areas. This may be visually attractive, but is often insecure at night or felt to be so. There are no hard and fast rules for solving all of these contradictions. But there are some rules of thumb: · Safety must always be the top priority. · Utility routes and recreational routes have a different set of priorities, as shown in the table below. Fast and easy routes are crucial for daily functional cycling trips, even running through less than attractive surroundings. For recreational routes, attractiveness is a major concern and detours are much less of an issue. More on the distinction between utility routes and recreational routes.
2.2.4 Design requirements: stability, zigzagging and section of free space
The physical design of cycling infrastructure needs to take into account the physical space needs of cycling. This is includes the dimensions of the cyclist and the bicycle, but also the physical characteristics of the activity of riding a bicycle.
Stability. Bicycles are unstable vehicles. Crosswinds, lorry slipstreams, bumps and holes in the road surface and involuntary low speeds determine the stability and hence the room required for maneuvering. To maintain balance, a speed of at least 12 km/h is required. At speeds below that, the bicycle starts to wobble. This happens when pulling away from a stationary position, slowing down in tight bends and riding uphill.
Zigzagging. When riding, cyclists constantly have to maintain their balance. That is why they always move slightly from side to side, even when riding fast. This is called zigzagging. Apart from the speed, zigzagging also depends on age, experience, physical capacity, disruptions in the road surface and cross winds. At normal cycling speeds in normal conditions, the zigzagging movement is about 0.20 m. In situations where cyclists are forced to travel at less than 12 km/h, more free space is required. This is the case at traffic lights, for example, where cyclists have to pull away from stationary position and when cycling uphill. In that kind of situation, zigzagging may require a track width of up to 0.80 m. Fear distances from obstacles. Designers also have to take the fear of obstacles into account: cyclists will want to keep their distance from kerbs, edges and walls. The Dutch Design Manual indicates the following obstacle distances2: for green verges and low kerbstones, the obstacle distance is 0.25 m; for higher kerbstones 0.50 m, for closed walls 0.625 m.
Section of free space. Now we can calculate the pavement width required for one cyclist: take the width required by the bicycle and its rider (0.75 m) and add to that the zigzagging margin and fear distances from obstacles (these margins may overlap). The most common situation is that of a cyclist riding along a high kerb on one side: an absolute minimum pavement width of 0.9 m is required.
Whenever possible, we should provide room for side-by-side riding: this makes cycling a more enjoyable social activity, allows adults to drive next to children and allows faster cyclists to overtake slower ones. This means we should go for a recommended minimum width of 1.5 m.
For comfortable driving in tunnels, provide minimum 0.75 m headroom.
2.3 Planning cycle networks
With these general quality requirements of cycle infrastructure in mind, the next step is to apply them in developing a cycle network. This chapter offers some planning principles for an effective cycle network.
The development of a cycle network must start from the cyclists’ travel needs of, independent from other transport modes. A correctly developed cycle network starts from this principle and targets cycle facilities on these locations where high cycle flows are present or expected.
2.3.1 Routes (not tracks or lanes), structure (not design)
But what exactly is a cycle network? Here is a working definition: a cycle network is an interconnected set of safe and direct cycling routes covering a given area or city. It is worth stressing once again that a network consists of routes, not tracks or lanes. The quality of a route or a network does not depend on one particular type of infrastructure, such as segregated tracks.
A quality cycling route is an uninterrupted itinerary fitting as closely as possible the criteria outlined above: safe, direct, cohesive, comfortable and attractive. The physical shape this takes may vary from route to route and even within one route. A route may start in a residential 30km/h area mixed with light traffic, move onto a cycle lane where traffic is slightly heavier, run through a dedicated cycling tunnel under a ring road, continue as a segregated track along a main road, cut through a park as a short-cut and through a pedestrianized shopping area reach to the railway station. The quality of the network as such depends on its structure: how well does it fit together; how easily does it make urban destinations accessible; how well does it avoid or manage risky situations? This is a different issue from the quality of the design (more on design below).
2.3.2 Selective and progressive (not a master plan or blueprint)
At some stage it is worth actively developing a desired cycling network as a planning tool. Basically this means drawing coloured lines on a map to connect urban destinations. As such it becomes a guide for designers in the field: if the designer has a clear view of the function of a link or an intersection within the network he will be able to come up with the most appropriate design solution. If a link is a top level cycling route, carrying many cyclists from one urban area to another, the design must be very different from that of a local route connecting a residential neighbourhood to a main route or a local train stop.
This does not mean, however, that a STARTER CYCLING CITY needs to start by developing a detailed master plan of a complete city-wide network and then implement it in a short time span. However refined the research and analysis of potential travel patterns, this kind of prediction of the needs of not-yet-existing cyclists is inherently abstract and risky. Implementing it in one-go may turn out to be a costly mistake, providing a large share of underused facilities.
At the start, it is recommended to make a rough outline of the most likely city-wide connections, just to have an overview. But then it makes more sense to build a network selectively and progressively. An option would be to start with the city center and one adjacent residential district, make those cycle-friendly, and create a high-potential main route to connect both. Progressively other districts can follow and more routes be developed, gradually interconnecting. Such an approach has several advantages.
- We can start in areas with the highest potential, where people already cycle to some extent, where traffic is already quiet or calmed etc. This increases the initial chances of success.
- In addition, the use of the network can be monitored and constantly improved. Counting flows and feedback from cyclists on missing links will give valuable input. With careful monitoring a network can be built and adjusted that closely fits users’ needs and is thus highly effective as well as cost-effective.
2.3.3 Main requirements of a cycle network
For a cycle network, three of the five main requirements (see above) are essential: safety, directness and cohesion. The other two, comfort and attractiveness, are less relevant at the network level but more on the level of specific design of routes and road sections (see below).
The most elementary network requirement is network cohesion. Without cohesion there is no network, only a bunch of single routes. This is a matter of degree: the more routes interconnect and allow cyclists to freely choose their itinerary, the stronger the network is.
For cyclists, cohesion is a very real quality: it is the extent to which they can reach their destination via the route of their choice.
To make a network cohesive, a clear understanding of major origins and destinations is important. By drawing in lines of desire between those, we can get an idea of potential travel flows. Using computer models to calculate travelling patterns is only feasible for CHAMPION CITIES with sufficiently large numbers of cyclists to provide meaningful data.
Apart from major connections, the mesh width and density are important factors of cohesion: the smaller the distance between routes, the more the cyclist has the choice, for instance between a fast route along a busy road or a slower but quieter one, or between a direct uphill route and a longer one avoiding steep hills.
Apart from the internal cohesion of a cycle network, the cohesion with other networks also plays a role. Especially the intermodal connection for the cycle network to public transport points is very relevant as cycle trips are an import means of transport to and from public transport.
Mesh width. A mesh is the smallest, closed element in a network. The mesh width is the distance between parallel routes. The larger the mesh width, the lower the network density (the total link length per surface unit) and the lower the level of cohesion.
The mesh width is only relevant in built-up areas, where there is a demand for cycle trips. For cycle networks a maximum mesh width of 250 meters is recommended. Outside the built-up area, it is only relevant that there are bicycle connections between villages, centers and amenities that attract cyclist.
The network directness concerns the distance or time you need to cycle between points of departure and destination. In terms of policy, the bicycle should have more direct routes than the car in the built-up area. This way cycling is quicker than taking the car. Directness in distance can be determined by calculating the detour factor. The more a route from A to B approaches a straight line, the better for the cyclist.
Detour factor. The detour factor is the relationship between the shortest distance over the network and the distance as the crow flies. The lower the detour factor the higher the directness of the network. The detour factor must of course be related to distance: the same detour factor over a longer distance implies a longer absolute detour. For a dense cycle network a maximum detour factor of 1.4 applies as a guide value. To make cycling attractive over short distances (in the built-up area) the detour factor of the cycle network should be less than the detour factor for cars.
Directness in time concerns the provision of connections that optimize the flow of traffic. The number of intersections per kilometer at which a cyclist does not have right of way applies as a criterion. For main cycle routes, this number should be zero or as close to zero as possible. The stopping frequency per kilometer could also serve as an indicator for the directness in time. A survey of cycle networks in different Dutch cities (Fietsbalans, 2000) gave a stop frequency of 0.40 to 1.56 stops per kilometer.
The basic requirement of safety is more than a matter of physical design. Much can be done to ensure safety on the network level. Here are some guidelines to ensure network safety.
- Avoid conflicts with crossing traffic. Especially in the built-up area this is not obvious to accomplish without reducing the quality of traffic flows. In theory grade-separated crossings (bridge, tunnel) with car roads would be perfect with regard to safety, but in practice traffic lights and traffic calming facilities are often more appropriate to avoid conflicts with crossing traffic.
- Separate different types of road users. When speed differences between motorized traffic and cyclists are too high these road users should be separated from each other and have their ‘own’ network of connections. A basic rule of thumb is always to separate cyclists from motorized traffic at speeds over 560 km/h.
- Reduce speed at points of conflict. When separating vehicle types is not possible, the speed differences between motorized traffic and cyclists should be minimized. The speed of the slowest means of transport (the bicycle) is used as the basis. The maximum recommended speed for mixing is 50 km/h but 30 km/h is much more preferable, if only because injuries in case of accidents are significantly less severe.
- Ensure recognizable road categories. Creating recognizable and comprehensible traffic situations is essential for safety. Consistent design solutions on roads with similar functions (in terms of road hierarchy) makes potential conflict situations more predictable for cyclists and other users, while also inciting everyone to behave more predictably.
2.3.4 Developing a utility cycle network
If we focus on cycling as a daily transport mode, we need to set up a utility network, as opposed to a recreational network. The goal of a utility or functional cycle network is to connect destinations for functional trip purposes such as shopping, working, education, socio-cultural visits etc. The connections should be as direct as possible. Developing a utility cycle network for a city or a wider area usually takes three main steps.
Step 1: determining major origin and destination areas and links Origins and destination depend on the size of the study area. At the level of the urban region, a city centre can be regarded as a single point of origin, while for the network inside the centre the various neighborhoods and districts will be regarded as separate points of origin.
Typical main cycling destinations are: o Residential neighbourhoods and districts; o schools and universities; o shopping areas; o sports amenities o employment concentrations, such as large companies and business parks; o major public transport hubs and interchanges (railway, bus, tram, metro)
All these destinations can now be connected on a map with simple straight lines. The result is called the preferential (theoretical) network, a set of high-potential links that the network must contain.
Step 2: detailing preference lines into routes
Next, the origin-destination links should be detailed into preferential routes. This means they should be drawn in on a map, along existing roads and cycle infrastructure, possibly indicating missing links and cycling shortcuts to be created. The shortest most direct route should be considered first and checked against the other criteria. Defining the routes and their required design qualities will depend on the importance of the link, in other words the numbers of current or expected cyclists. If numbers of current cyclists between areas are available, these can be allocated to the route to be created. Data on travel behavior or numbers of cycle flows at different points in a city can also help in determining the main cycle routes. Only in cities or areas with high rates of cycling is traffic modeling an option, for instance to determine the potential of building a cycling bridge as a shortcut.
Step 3: Creating a hierarchy in the network
An extensive cycling network is most effective when it has a clear hierarchy. We are all familiar with this from the road network, from motorways to district roads and local roads. Similarly, across an urban area cycle network users have different priorities at different times: short trips or long trips, utility or recreational purposes, speed or safety. In some CLIMBER CITIES and certainly in CHAMPION CITIES, some routes will be heavily used by important flows of cyclists, needing sufficient space and sufficiently smooth flow management. To respond to these different needs, cycle routes can be classified into three levels (more details on design implications below): o MAIN ROUTES have a connecting function at city or intercity level. They connect centres, villages, towns and cities with each other, outside the built-up area. o TOP LOCAL ROUTES have a distributor function at the district level of the built-up area. They provide the main cycling connections between urban districts and major urban areas. o LOCAL ROUTES have an access function at the neighbourhood level. They include basically every street or track that can be used by cyclists, connecting all buildings and other origins and destinations to higher level routes. In actual practice road authorities often use the two highest levels of cycle connections. The lowest level (neighborhood level) is often not represented in the cycle network. This is not because it has no relevance, but because it is far too detailed and dedicated cycling infrastructure is often not necessary. Cycling will be possible or made possible by noncycle- specific measures (or ‘invisible infrastructure’) such as traffic calming, speed reduction and traffic deviation.
2.3.5 Integrating utility and recreational cycle networks
The focus of this guide is on daily urban cycling, in other words utility networks. Nevertheless, in and around urban areas there is growing user demand for recreational networks. For these, the attractiveness and experience offered by the cycle route and its surroundings is more important than direct connections. The traditional concepts are the signaled long distance routes and the signaled touristic theme route, which are still attractive. But more recently, recreational cycle networks have been developing. They are structured as a number of nodes connected with links, offering cyclists the freedom to determine their own trip on a network. Exploring a region by bicycle is the goal of these networks. Many of these recreational routes pass trough urban areas and centres.
As shown above explained utility and recreational cycle networks definitely respond to widely different user needs: utility cyclists want to get as quickly as possible from A to B whereas the recreational cyclist is looking for a leisurely attractive ride while exploring a region. In practice, however, utility and recreational networks tend to overlap and should be integrated. Many recreational departure points and destinations are in or near a (city) centre or a (railway) station. At the same time there is also a demand for utility trips along alternative quiet and attractive routes, parallel with busy roads but at a distance from them. In designing cycle networks, it makes sense to take both uses into account. This makes it possible to combine efforts and means of the touristic sector and the road authorities. This allows for a more solidly funding basis to realize more consistently high-quality facilities. Integrating major transport hubs is vital, both for utility and recreational trips, because of the potential of combining public transport and cycling in one trip chain.