Cycle lanes, tracks and shared use footways

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Shared use footway
Shared use footway
Headline Messages: 

Cycle lanes

  • Cycle lanes are painted on the carriageway, and the surface is often coloured red or green (the chosen colour has no significance).
  • If the painted white line is solid, it means that the lane is ‘mandatory’ and drivers have to stay out of it, but cyclists don’t have to stay within it.
  • If the white line is dotted, it means that drivers are advised not to enter the lane, but it isn’t an offence if they do. To stop stationary cars blocking an advisory lane, it is common practice for councils to introduce parking, waiting and loading restrictions, so drivers must still observe the rules that any yellow lines impose on them.
  • Unfortunately, many cycle lanes are too narrow and not well maintained (see Cycling UK View below).
  • Research suggests that the presence of cycle lanes may encourage drivers to overtake cyclists more closely than they would if the lane wasn’t there.

Cycle tracks and shared-use footways (pavements)

  • Cycle tracks or shared use footways are off the carriageway.
  • High quality cycle tracks alongside fast, busy roads, may well be welcome, and paths through parks, along canals, rivers, old railway lines etc can supplement the road network very usefully and help encourage people to take up cycling.
  • However, cycle paths away from the road aren’t always a complete, risk-free blessing.
  • There are some groups, such as the elderly, visually impaired and those with mobility issues who oppose sharing pedestrian facilities with cyclists.

Do cyclists have to use cycle facilities?

No, they don't - and Cycling UK has always defended the right not to do so. 

Cycling UK View (formal statement of Cycling UK's policy): 

We are currently revising and updating our detailed views on all aspects of cycling infrastructure and these will be published in due course. For general principles, please have a look at our 'overview' briefing on cycle-friendly design and planning. 

The following is an extract from our Policy Handbook (March 2004):

  • When considering the advantages of choosing cycle tracks or lanes and their design, highway authorities should refer to the hierarchy of provision. Implementation of measures higher up the hierarchy may make it easier to introduce cycle lanes or may render them unnecessary.
  • Except through protected cycle by-passes or to pass stationary traffic at junctions, the absolute minimum width for cycle lanes is 1.5 metres, but 2 metres is preferred and essential at higher speeds. Anything less than this deprives cyclists of road space and encourages traffic to pass too close.
  • Full width advisory lanes can be used on roads of any width, even the narrowest. Advisory cycle lanes should be thought of as indicators of the space cyclists need when they are being overtaken, not necessarily as exclusive space for cyclists.
  • Car parking restrictions should be introduced and enforced to keep cycle lanes clear.
  • Some local authorities have overused cyclist dismount signs. ‘Dismount’ signs are useful for pelican (not toucan) crossing sites, subways and other irresolvable design problems. White lining rather than ‘dismount’ signs should be used at side road crossings.
  • Wherever possible a cycle track should continue priority across side road junctions in order to maintain continuity for cyclists.
  • Local cyclists and pedestrians should be consulted on the impact of shared use facilities.
  • Shared use facilities could be greatly improved by using best practice in design to minimise conflict.
  • In particular, clear demarcation, would improve all shared use facilities.
  • Other improvements include: appropriate width; proximity to other users; quality of signing and markings; priority at side roads, accesses; good lighting; good maintenance and cleaning.
  • Cycling UK encourages cyclists to be considerate of other users needs while using shared use facilities and either use a bell or give an audible call to let other users know they are coming.
Publication Date: 
April 2012

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