A Manifesto for Cycling Provision

This document contains a general outline of what the York Cycle Campaign would like to see in terms of highway design and traffic management as it applies to cyclists. We hope that it will be taken into consideration whenever changes to the highway in York are contemplated.


  • Summary
  • Cyclists in York need to be able to go everywhere
  • Reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic
  • Provision for cyclists doesn't just mean cycle facilities
  • Provision for cyclists should cater for their "natural desire lines"
  • Reclaim road space from motor traffic
  • Go for quality rather than quantity
  • Cycle routes should be capable of being cycled on
  • Some cyclists will always prefer to use the road
  • Cycle tracks should be as convenient as the main carriageway
  • Consider personal security on quiet cycle routes
  • Maintenance matters


Cyclists need more than just cycle facilities or cycle routes. These can be valuable, but they are not enough. Cyclists need the whole road environment to be suitable for them. Few cycle-specific facilities will be attractive to all cyclists - cyclists must always have the right to use the road if they wish

In this document we describe some of the ways in which the ordinary road network can be made more cycle-friendly without providing specific cycle facilities. The most important way is to reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic. Another is to design the road layout to minimize conflict between cyclists and other road users. At the very least, those features of road design that are notoriously hostile to cyclists should be avoided. York has a legacy of road layouts that are unfriendly to cyclists; these should be eliminated and certainly not added to.

In some places it will, however, be appropriate to provide specific facilities for cyclists. It is important that such facilities are well planned, well designed and well made, useful and convenient. Poor quality facilities, or facilities in the wrong place, are at best a waste of money and at worst can be downright dangerous. There is significant evidence that some types of cycle facility have higher cyclist accident rates than the road

In this document we describe some characteristics of "good" and "bad" cycle facilities, in the hope that we can improve the standard of cycle facilities being built.

Cyclists in York need to be able to go everywhere

Cyclists in the York area ride on the entire highway network, along the main urban road corridors and side streets alike. Designated routes such as signed cycle routes using linked, quiet back streets or making use of areas of open space can, if well-designed with adequate crossing points at road junctions, be valuable in promoting cycling and its image. They will, though, never remove the need for cyclists to continue to use the adjacent and wider road network.

The reasons why cyclists need to be able to use all the ordinary road network include:

  • The start and end of any cycle journey is virtually always on the standard road network
  • The standard road network frequently offers the most direct and convenient route.

So the ordinary road network must be suitable for cyclists. In particular, it is essential that junctions on the ordinary road network are suitable for cyclists. Diversionary routes will never be enough.

Junction design should take into account that the main direction of cycle flow may be different from the main direction of flow for motor vehicles.

Reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic

The most effective way of providing for cyclists is to reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic.

Traffic speeds can be reduced by:

  • Greater enforcement of existing speed limits.
  • Changing social attitudes to speeding,so that speeding becomes socially unacceptable in the same way that drink driving now is.
  • Reducing existing speed limits.

Traffic volume can be reduced by:

  • Provision and promotion of other means of transport: public transport, park-and-ride, - and cycling.
  • Land use policies which reduce the demand for travel.
  • Bans and restrictions on motor traffic - and not just in shopping streets.
  • Fiscal measures, such as road pricing and increased parking charges, to decrease the attractiveness of motoring.
  • Physical closure of streets and rural lanes (where there are nearby alternative routes for motor traffic) to all but local residents' vehicles, horse-riders, cyclists and pedestrians.

Provision for cyclists doesn't just mean cycle facilities

Cyclists need more than just cycle facilities. They need a cycle-friendly road environment. Because cyclists need to be able to use the entire ordinary road network, the entire ordinary road network needs to be suitable for cycling. This means that roads and road schemes should always be designed with the needs of cyclists in mind. The City of York Council's laudable "road-user hierarchy" has cyclists near the top and private motorists at the bottom, so that cyclists' needs should be considered before those of private motorists.

This is not technically difficult, and need not necessarily require extra money. It simply means avoiding features of road design which cyclists find difficult, unpleasant, or dangerous, and replacing them with more cycle-friendly equivalents.

  • Avoid high-volume, high-speed roundabouts and circulatory schemes. The "Fishergate gyratory" is perhaps York's most prominent example. Consider using traffic signals instead.
  • Avoid multi-lane roads, especially lanes that join on the left and left-turn-only lanes: these features both force cyclists to cross lanes of motor vehicles.
  • Avoid measures that make the road so narrow that cycles cannot be overtaken safely, particularly when designing traffic calming schemes and when extending the pavement into the road. Pavement build-outs should be designed to avoid the effect of pushing cyclists out into streams of overtaking vehicles.

York's "footstreet" policy excludes cyclists from many quiet, useful routes for large parts of the day. Re-admitting cyclists to the footstreet area would be a major step forward in provision for cyclists in the city centre. Available evidence suggests that this would not lead to any significant conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.

Provision for cyclists should cater for their "natural desire lines"

Cyclists should not be expected to make diversions away from the natural desire line. It should be recognised that the ideal route for a cycle is a straight one between origin and destination.

Cyclists shouldn't simply be diverted away from a difficult junction, if this results in a longer journey. If anybody should be forced to make a long diversion it should be the motor traffic. After all, cycling requires physical effort; driving a car doesn't!

Reclaim road space from motor traffic

If, in order to provide for cyclists, additional road space is needed, then this should be taken from motor traffic rather than from pedestrians, as would be suggested by the Council's "road-user hierarchy". Where taking space from pedestrians is the only option, it may be acceptable to do so; it is not acceptable simply because it is the easy option.

Go for quality rather than quantity

When cycle facilities are to be provided, we believe it is more effective to spend a given quantity of money on a smaller number of high-quality schemes rather than on a larger number of lower-quality schemes. We believe that, to be cost-effective, spending should be aimed at solving cyclists' real problems, such as making right turns, crossing main roads, lack of convenient, secure cycle parking and, not least, the dangers posed by speeding motor traffic.

Amongst some notably good schemes, such as the route along Tadcaster Road, York has a number of cycle facilities that are of poor quality, or are barely used, or both. These simply represent a waste of money. We don't want York to waste any more. In particular, many shared-use footway schemes are unsuitable and of poor quality, even potentially dangerous. In some cases, though, shared-use paths can be useful additions to the cycle network, for example the A1237 from Poppleton to Rawcliffe and the A19 from Rawcliffe to Skelton.

It would be a mistake to aim for "x km of cycle routes" each year, since this would encourage quantity at the expense of quality. The real measure of success is the amount of use a facility gets, especially by people who are new to or returning to cycling.

Cycle routes should be capable of being cycled on

Remarkably, many "cycle routes" cannot actually be cycled on for their entire length.

"A cycle route which requires a cyclist to dismount is not a cycle route."

In addition to be being capable of being cycled on, a good cycle route should be physically convenient to use. This means that:

  • Cycle routes must have a smooth road surface: this need not always mean tarmac.
  • The cyclist should not be asked to dismount at places along the route. Remember that most utility cyclists sometimes carry loads and that some, especially families or those with special needs are likely to use tricycles, tandems and trailers. Ironically these groups not only are in greatest need of the protection from traffic afforded by cycle routes, but are also those most affected by barriers and obstacles on them.
  • The route should have suitable gradients, curvatures, widths and visibility to accommodate a steady pace of 30km/h and to allow two bikes, or a bike and a pedestrian, to pass easily.
  • The route should require as few stops, turns and awkward manoeuvres as possible.

A good cycle route should be capable of attracting cyclists to use it, and a convenient cycle route will be more attractive than an inconvenient one.

Some cyclists will always prefer to use the road
It should be recognised that there will always be cyclists who will prefer to use the road rather than an off-road cycle facility.

The provision of a cycle facility should never compromise such cyclists. In particular, provision of an alternative route for cyclists should never be regarded as an excuse for rendering the original road or junction unsuitable for cyclists. All new roads should be suitable for cyclists. Changes to existing road layouts should either improve their suitability for cyclists or not be undertaken.

Spending money to make a road less safe or less attractive to cyclists is not acceptable.

Cycle tracks should be as convenient as the main carriageway

(By "cycle track" we mean a segregated cycle path alongside a road, possibly shared with pedestrians).

Where cycle tracks are provided alongside roads, the cyclists using them should have the same (or greater) priority at junctions with side roads as is enjoyed by traffic using the main carriageway. Cyclists should not be penalised for using a cycle track. This means that cycle tracks alongside roads must have priority over side roads. Continuing the cycle track across side roads on a raised level can reinforce this.

Cycle lanes on the carriageway (as opposed to tracks) should simply continue straight across a junction with a side road, to emphasise their existing priority over side roads.

Cycle tracks alongside roads can be valuable if they are of high quality, but can be useless if they are not.

Cycle tracks are frequently totally unsuitable for cyclists because:

  • of the need to give way to side roads
  • they are invariably less well-maintained than the road itself
  • they are frequently overgrown
  • they are hard to turn right (or rejoin the traffic) from
  • they are often poorly lit (sometimes being behind the street lamps)
  • they are often blocked by parked cars
  • they are sometimes blocked by street furniture, road signs and trees
  • they are rarely gritted in icy weather

However, in places where these problems can be avoided (such as rural and semi-rural locations) cycle tracks can be valuable.

Facilities which segregate cyclists and pedestrians are much preferred by both groups. If a path is to be shared by pedestrians and cyclists, there are additional requirements. In addition to the points above, cycle tracks should only be shared with pedestrians if:

  • they are wide enough
  • both cycle and pedestrian traffic is low enough

Whilst this is the case for some facilities in and around York, it is by no means the case for all.

Consider personal security on quiet cycle routes

When considering off-road cycle routes, or cycle routes away from main roads, issues of personal security must be considered.

Routes across open spaces, through subways and along back streets can be scary in the dark, even if the actual risk of assault is low and such fears are not justified. After all, the Police do consistently advise people to avoid such places after dark.

This has two main implications:

  • Cycle routes in quiet areas may require additional measures to make users feel safer, such as improved lighting.
  • Even though quiet routes can make ideal cycle routes during the day, many people will prefer to use the main road when it is dark. This is yet another argument for keeping the ordinary road network cycle-friendly despite the existence of alternative routes.

Maintenance matters

Cyclists are more sensitive to a poor road surface than the occupants of motor vehicles or pedestrians. This means that standards of road maintenance are particularly important to cyclists.

A poorly maintained road surface is at the very least uncomfortable, and can be dangerous. A pothole or badly filled trench can be enough to throw a rider off their bicycle, possibly into the path of a following motor vehicle.

Particular attention should be paid to the edges of the carriageway, since this is where cyclists ride for most of the time. Unfortunately this is also the part of the carriageway where most of the hazards tend to be - in particular, sunken or badly- maintained drain covers.