Contra-flow cycling (2-way cycling in 1-way streets)

Briefing
Contra-flow street (Photo: Alasdair Massie)

Contra-flow cycling (2-way cycling in 1-way streets)

Headline Message 
  • Allowing cyclists to ride two-way in one-way streets makes cycling in town and cities more convenient by opening up the street network and providing short-cuts. It can also help make cycling safer by offering alternatives to busy roads, and may help stop people riding on the pavement.
  • Contra-flow works perfectly safely in many other European countries, where it is already widespread.
  • As it gives cycling an advantage over driving, contra-flow helps encourage a shift from cars to cycles for short local journeys.
Policy Key Facts 

Evidence from Belgium suggests that, compared to the road network, the risk of injury is lower in a one-way street with contra-flow cycling or at crossroads including such a street.

Cycling UK View 
  • One-way systems put cyclists at a disadvantage, making their journeys longer and more stressful. Restoring two-way cycling on one-way streets can significantly improve the safety, convenience and attractiveness of cycling.
  • Each local authority should review all its one-way streets, with the aim of progressively converting them either to two-way use (particularly for one-way systems on more major roads), or permitting contra-flow cycling (e.g. on narrower streets), unless it can be demonstrated that there are overriding hazards affecting cyclists.
  • Contra-flow cycling should be facilitated through appropriate engineering treatments, depending on the traffic volumes, speeds and road widths involved.
  • In many cases, e.g. on quieter roads, unsegregated two-way cycling on an unmarked road is an appropriate solution. More heavily trafficked one-way roads should be provided with contra-flow lanes. 
Download the full detailed campaign briefing 
Allowing cyclists to ride two-way in one-way streets makes cycling more convenient and attractive.