Statutory definition of a cycle lane

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insouciant's picture
Statutory definition of a cycle lane

I was thinking about why authorities install scrappy pieces of cycle lane in silly places (e.g. between runs of parked cars). My conclusion is that authorities like to be able to say that they manage x miles of cycle lanes, even if that statistic comprises of tiny chunks of lane which are totally unusable.

Now that the cycling community is calling for segregated facilities for cycling, perhaps it's time to lobby for a statutory definition that excludes these ridiculous lanes. Before lobbying, however, we need to think up some minimum standards.

Some ideas:

  • Minimum width: 1 metre per direction. Is that wide enough?
  • Minimum length: 15 meters. I don't think a lanes shorter than this are worth counting.
  • Non-mandatory lanes shouldn't count at all (e.g. ones which cars can drive or park in). I'm thinking of all of those lanes that disappear under parked cars for all or part of the day.
  • The last 5 meters of an lane that could end in an obstacle which requires a cyclist to rejoin the main traffic flow should not count (e.g. a bus stop).
  • The first 10 meters after and the last 10 meters of any lane before any "cyclists dismount" sign should not count. Could you imagine a car driver being asked to get out and push? I'n my view a "cyclist dismount" sign indicates that the authority has given up on any attempt to provide suitable infrastructure.

Those are my suggestions to get the ball rolling. What are yours?


They often put in cycle lanes alongside the road where they've widened the road, but not on the rest of the road - which leads to miles of completely meaningless lanes. I think on rural A roads only cycle lanes or tracks which go from one junction to the next should count

AKA TownMouse

Zandranna's picture

Trouble is even going from one junction to the next isn't enough.  Junctions seem to be where most accidents happen, so cycle lanes should also be part of a junction. 

darditti's picture

There is a more fundamental problem though with UK bike lanes: there is no law that stops parking in them. This is the most fundamental difference between Dutch lanes and UK ones.

The idea of an advisory cycle lane is not a bad one, and it occurs in the Netherlands: it's a space where cars are allowed if no cyclists are around, and they can enter if they need to to pass cars coming the other way, but if there are cyclists there they cannot cut in, but must wait behind.

In the Netherlands there is, however, no parking in either mandatory or advisory bike lanes. That is a basic rule. In the UK, to keep parking out there has to be a double yellow line plus lots of signs on ploles. This makes it all more expensive, creates more street clutter, and ruins the inner 18 inches of the bike lane. Another factor is the way drains are done. Traditional UK drains also take up space in the lane and force cyclists further out. The Dutch tend to build the drain into the kerb (which also is seen in the UK sometimes as well).

One thing to bear in mind is that bike lanes are mostly only used in the Netherlands on quiet roads. This enables the surfaces to be kept up to a high standard. On routes with heavier traffic, even if the traffic was respectful of cyclists, the surface would get damaged too fast and would not be of good enough quality, so segregation is used (as well as for reasons of subjective safety).

The underlying problem in the UK is not that authorities are trying to put in x miles of bike lanes, as "insouciant" suggests, it is that they have no criteria and standards for the installation of segregated tracks. Most of the places where UK authorities try to install cycle lanes would be seen as requiring segregated tracks under Dutch and Danish standards. Tracks completely eliminate the problems associated with parking and bus and taxi stopping. But such tracks are not even referenced in DfT guidance, and get confused in UK practice with cheap, rubbishy pavement conversions.

There needs to be a new overall set of standards with "separation criteria" built-in, covering tracks, lanes and shared roadspace. That would eliminate the problems the OP points to.

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