About Why investing in cycle highways?

Cycle highways are an effective, cost-efficient and low-emission solution for daily trips to work or school. In combination with the growing number of e-bikes, they can bring a city's cycling policy to a new level and incentivise a wider set of the population to change their commuting habits. However, they are not a universal solutions for all mobility problems - not every cycle path has to be a cycle highway and cycling in general needs to be integrated in wider policies. Below we show a few reasons for investing specifically in cycle highways.

Further improving conditions for cycling in champion cycling cities

Het Groentje cycling bridge in Nijmegen, part of the F325 cycle highway.

In those cities that have already developed a good cycling network and that have a high cycling modal share, cycle highways can provide exceptional time savings and enhanced safety to commuters. The high standards recommended for cycle highways also provide the right context to attract new potential users, even among less experienced users.

These aspects can help justify the relatively higher cost needed to upgrade main routes.

Tapping into the potential of e-bikes

In 10 years sales of e-bikes in Europe grew 17 times.

Electrically Power Assisted Cycles (EPACs) create a possibility to cycle faster and on longer distances. They also makes cycling a viable option for new groups of users, including those less fit. But to keep the new users safe, higher design and maintenance standard of infrastructure is required. 

Example: between 2012 and 2018 the share of EPACs on the F3 cycle highway in Belgium grew from 9% to 26%. 

Expanding the range of daily cycling

Many cities have a high share of cycling inside their borders, but lower for trips from suburbs or satellite towns. Cycle highways also help alleviate the problem of congestion and make the city accessible by bicycle also from the surrounding region.

Example: in Copenhagen the average length of cycle trip is 3-4 km, but on cycle highway C95 connecting the city with north-western suburbs it is as high as 15 km. Among the users of the F3 cycle highway in Belgium the average distance from home to work is even higher, 23 km. 

Tapping into new sources of funding

Feasibility study for the RS1 cycle highway in estimated that it can remove up to 50,000 motorised vehicle journeys per...

Cycling infrastructure is usually focused on local mobility needs (with the exception of touristic routes). Cycle highways, on the other hand, have a much wider scale that reaches the supralocal level.

This also means they can compete for supralocal funding. Investing in cycle highways can be considered as a regional congestion busting measure, alternative to e.g. adding motorway lanes.

Example: a study by Goudappel Coffeng concluded that building 675 km of cycle highways would reduce time spent in congestion in the Netherlands by 3.8 million hours per year. A further 9.4 million hours of car travel time could be saved each year if the use of electric bicycles increased. Similarly, a traffic demand study in Germany’s Ruhr area estimated that the 101-km long cycle highway RS1 can remove up to 50,000 motorised vehicle journeys per day. 

Size of the city itself

Morning rush hour on Cycle Superhighway 6 in London.

Even if the share of cycling in modal split is relatively low, the transport demand in large agglomerations can easily fill cycle highways with cyclists. Cycle highways are not cheap, but the alternatives (e.g. expanding capacity of a metro line) can be even more expensive.

Example: although the share of cycling in London is only around 2.5%, the raw volumes of cyclists on main cycle superhighways exceed 2000 per hour in morning peak.

Flagship projects that change the image of cycling infrastructure

Cycle Superhighway 3 in London.

Some cities already have a network of cycling paths or lanes in place, but the sub-optimal quality of the infrastructure makes cycling dangerous and not comfortable. This is often a reason for users to avoid bicycles as an everyday mobility option.

Cycle highways as a new brand can be a tool to convince the engineers to change their bad design habits and trigger renewed public support for investing in cycling infrastructure.

Example: the second generation of London Cycle Superhighways allowed the city to make a jump from "paint-only" to internationally recognised best practice in cycling infrastructure.

Synergy with other linear infrastructure projects

Integration of the F15 cycle highway in the design of the A15 motorway extension.

Sometimes the potential of cycle trips along a route would not justify a cycle highway as a standalone investment but integrating it in the design of a bigger infrastructure project (e.g. by connecting stretches of service roads along a motorway, railroad or waterway) can significantly lower the costs. In such cases it can be worth to go the extra mile and ensure cycle highway quality.

Example: the planned F15 cycle highway in the Dutch province of Gelderland, integrated in the design of extension of A15 motorway, is approximately 3 times cheaper per kilometer than F325, added as a separate investment along an existing motorway.

See also

The future role of cycle highways forecast by the CHIPS consortium is presented in our Vision 2030. Various motivations for investing in cycle highways are further discussed in the Plan stage, and examples of specific social and economic benefits in the Sell chapter.