UK Cycling Infrastructure Guidelines

The main focus of the Beyond the Kerb blog has always been the aspect of road use in general which I find—literally, in all too many cases—morbidly fascinating: people’s attitudes, which are manifested not just in people’s personal use of the roads, but also in the media and, most concerningly of all, law. But, occasionally, I mention cycling infrastructure.

For the most part, I don’t write about infrastructure because there are many people who do it far better than I could ever hope to (if you want infrastructure-rich blogs, check out A View From the Cycle Path, As Easy as Riding a Bike, The Alternative Department for Transport and Crap Waltham Forest to name but a few). But to my mind infrastructure has always been, if anything, a somewhat incendiary topic, not least because until a few years ago I’d only ever seen stuff that was dire: so dire that, unhesitatingly, I’d rather take my chances among the fast, heavy vehicles of the main carriageway than use it.

So, instead of blogging diligently about infrastructure, I tweet somewhat facetiously about it, via Bollocksinfra (and before that, it lived on Tumblr). But I thought it might be time to pick out a sort of “greatest hits” collection for an article.

So, without further ado, here are The Bollocksinfra UK Cycling Infrastructure Guidelines.

1. Don’t spoil the atmos

As we all know, cycling is not a valid means of getting to an actual destination. It’s for those days out when you’re happy to stop at every junction to whip out a map and see where you are and where you’re going. It’s all part of that image that everyone is chasing when they jump on a bike: the freedom and quiet of the 1950s British countryside. You’ve probably got a wicker basket containing either a Scots terrier or a picnic with plenty of ginger beer. If we were to put up signs telling people where routes go, your idyllic day out would be ruined by all sorts of working class people trying to get to factories and coalpits and stuff, and that simply wouldn’t do.

Obviously, sometimes the signage department slips up and lets people know where they’re headed. But don’t worry: the planning department is always there as a backup, to show these ghastly commuting types that the bicycle is wholly unsuited to purposeful transport.

2. Be concise

Never let it be said that signage is not a useful tool. Sometimes, it’s so useful that it can make up the entire of a project.

In recent times, however, the public have been more discerning, and some highway engineers consider painting just a bicycle symbol in the carriageway to be insufficient.

3. Never forget the hierarchy of provision

As everyone knows, the bicycle is the lowest form of transport. Anyone using one must always give way: to drivers leaving their driveways…

…to drivers leaving car parks…

…to, er, parking spaces…

…and to, well, nothing at all.

It’s only fair.

4. Know your customer

All cyclists are able-bodied, fit, and love nothing more than to get off their bike and lift it into the air. No-one uses bicycles for shopping, for assistive mobility, for carrying luggage, for carrying passengers or for towing loads. No-one uses tricycles or handcycles, and no-one would ever want a safe, accessible route for a mobility scooter or wheelchair. All of which means that cycling infrastructure should take its inspiration from cyclocross courses and The Crystal Maze.

5. Less is more

Don’t think that a project has to be big in order for you to leave your mark as a designer. Sometimes the smallest projects offer the greatest freedom of expression. From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks!

6. Think inside the box

Too much freedom can actually inhibit your creativity. As a highway engineer, you’ll relish the fascinating challenge of dividing up existing bits of tarmac with some new paint.

Don’t forget that cycling infrastructure is incredibly versatile.

7. Think outside the box

You are slave to no-one. You have the power. Rules are for squares. It’s not like cyclists ever stick to the rules anyway, so there’s no point making it clear to anyone who’s got priority or what the hell’s generally going on. Draw some stuff and take the afternoon off.

8. Speed doesn’t kill

Speed isn’t important: what’s important is that everyone stays on their own bits of the tarmac. Adding infrastructure to a 70mph-limit road is fine, because if anything goes wrong, someone must have been crossing a bit of paint, which means it absolutely isn’t your fault.

9. Stick to the brand guidelines

If you call it a Superhighway, it must be good. Don’t listen to the naysayers.

10. Everyone rides mountain bikes these days

People all ride mountain bikes, and they do so because they love the adventure of cycling. They love the mud and water that their bikes are specifically adapted to, and we should make them feel as at home as possible on cycleways.

What’s more, people love the technical challenge of obstacles. It gives them a sense of satisfaction.

11. Design to prevent crime

Bicycle theft is a serious and growing problem. The infrastructure community can help to prevent bicycle theft, by making it as difficult as possible for people to leave their bikes unattended.

12. Keep the dream alive

It would be a grey day indeed if we were to let reality shackle our hopes and dreams of convincing people that bicycles are not proper transport. If we have an opportunity to spread that message, we should do so.

Don’t worry, though: once the following year’s budget comes in, we’ll be back to sort it out.

13. Carpe diem

One day, there will come a rare opportunity to demonstrate to the world your true feelings about people who ride bicycles. Seize it!

Oh, and wheelchairs? They’re just sideways bicycles. We hate them, too.

6 thoughts on “UK Cycling Infrastructure Guidelines

  1. burtthebike 31 October 2015 / 18:03

    I’m considering going to a highway engineers’ conference with some of these pictures and asking them to explain themselves. Until we are able to hold these people to account, there will be no improvement, and currently there is no way to make them take responsibility for their incredible incompetence. How can we make them responsible?

  2. Bob MacQueen (@bobmacq) 31 October 2015 / 20:05

    You’re the only guy who uses “bollocks” more than me, but all I can say is these are the biggest BOLLOCKS I’ve seen!

  3. paulc 1 November 2015 / 07:41

    This is a shared use path leading to my local Sainsburys… I can’t get my bike with cargo trailer through there…

    and yet again, I have trouble getting through here on my bike but again impossible with the trailer behind me


    Trailerproofed… and I have enough fun lifting my handlebars over that frame…

    but even if I did get my trailer through that I’d be defeated by this nasty steep sharp turn with a horrible gate and barrier at the top

    What are they doing this for? To stop motorbikes and scooters using it? Well they’re making it difficult for the rest of us

  4. Notak 4 November 2015 / 16:39

    Yep, I think it is, in someones’ minds, to counteract the huge danger of scooters using cycle paths. Well hell, I’d rather have a few kids on minimotos, annoying as they can be, than have to stop every hundred yards to slalom round a chicane.

    As for signage: it happens I know someone in Sustrans who is responsible for signage (nationally, I think, though could be just regional). She is fully aware of th crapness of many/most of the signs put up but hamstrung by budgets and planning regs (eg not allowed to put up poles specifically for these signs, they have to go on pre-existing poles, lampposts, etc). It also doesn’t help that there is no nationwide authority for this stuff – different LAs have different attitudes both to forms of signage and whether it can be put up by Sustrans Rangers (volunteers) or only HA staff. Of course, the fact that it is like that is another reflection of “hierarchy”.

    • James Metcalfe 16 January 2016 / 21:37

      regulations cannot be blamed for putting up signs with no destination though.
      Although it does explain my difficulties following NCN57 from Oxford to Princes Risborough.
      (I am getting closer to finding my way onto the pheonix trail (NVN57) from the Thame End. Do the regulations also prevent paint on the floor. It seems paint on the floor is magic when sharing space with cars, but impossible when using traffic free routes.

  5. Bimbling 25 November 2015 / 20:51

    Write to the Council Chief Executive, your local Councillor and ask why your Council Taxes are being wasted on this rubbish.

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