Design and Build Width

  1. Plan
  2. Design and Build
  3. Sell
  4. Evaluate

Why is it important?

  • Cycle highway should comfortably accommodate cyclists with different levels of fitness and skill and on different types of bicycles. Therefore, the width of a cycle highway should allow faster cyclists to safely overtake slower ones.
  • Because cyclists are social and like to talk to each other, for most of the route it should also be possible to ride side by side.

How can it be measured?

Width should be measured perpendicularly to cyclists’ trajectory and is rather straightforward to measure. The only considerations are whether to include in the width:

Minimum and recommended values

Most existing guidelines (see comparison in the table) give 4.0 m as recommended width for a bidirectional cycle path, and 2.5-3.0 m per unidirectional cycle paths. Minimum widths are respectively 3.0 m and 2.0-2.5 m.  The numbers are based on the assumption of a bicycle needing approximately 1.0 m wide lane for riding:

  • Two-wheeled bikes usually are 60-75 cm wide; an extra 20 cm is needed for maintaining balance.
  • Kid trailers and three-wheeled cargo bikes can be wider – up to 80-90 cm – but do not need the extra space for balance.

The recommended width of a bidirectional cycle path of 4.0 m means that 2 cyclists can overtake or ride next to each other in both directions (2x2 “lanes”). The minimum width of 3.0 m means one cyclist in each direction and a spare lane for overtaking or riding next to each other in more popular direction (e.g. in the morning to the centre, in the afternoon toward the suburbs).

    Guidelines/standard titleRegion/ country/ organisationWidth, two-way cycle pathWidth, one-way cycle pathWidth, one-way cycle lane
    Design Manual for Bicycle TrafficCROW, Netherlands4.0 m3.0 mnot recommended for CH
    Vademecum FietsvoorzieningenFlanders3.0 m or 4.0 m, depending on the expected usage level not mentioned as a solution
    Kwaliteitscriteria voor fietssnelwegenProvincie Vlaams-Brabant4.0 m recommended, 3.0 m minimum2.5 m recommended, 2.0 minimumnot mentioned as a solution
    Qualitätsstandards für RadschnellverbindungenBaden-Württemberg4.0 m3.0 m3.0 m (or 2.75 m + 0.5 m buffer if parking is allowed)
    Qualitätsstandards für Radschnellverbindungen reduziert (can be applied to 20% of route length)Baden-Württemberg3.0 m2.0 m2.0 m (min. 1.85, with 0.75 m buffer from parking if it is allowed)
    London Cycling Design Standards Greater London 4.0 m2.5 m2.0 m
    Supercykelstier. Koncept 2.0. Planlægning, udformning og driftCopenhagen2.5-4.0 m, depending on cycle traffic; bidirectional paths along roads not allowed with more than 1500 cyclists/peak hour2.25-3.5 m, depending on cycle trafficnot recommended for CH
    Manual for the design of cyclepaths in CataloniaCatalonia2.5 m (recommended); 2.0 m (minimum)2.0 m (recommended); 1.5 m (minimum) 
    Réseau cyclable à haut niveau de service. Objectifs et principes d'aménagementCerema / France 4.0 m recommended, 3.0 m minimum3.5 m recommended, 2.5 minimum 

    How is it related to other criteria?

    Space is a precious resource, and, in some cases, it might not be feasible to provide the recommended width in corridor that would be optimal from the point of view of other criteria (e.g. directness, attractivity, connectivity). The decision whether and how much to prioritise width over other qualities might depend on the (expected) volumes of cycle traffic.

    In case of interruptions cycle paths need to be wider before the stopping place, to provide space for accumulation of cyclists waiting e.g. for a green light.

    Cycle paths need to be widened also on slopes. Cyclists going uphill need more space for maintaining balance; going downhill – more space for safety buffer because of higher speed.

    The choice of width might depend on the expected cycle traffic, specific values are given e.g. in “Supercykelstier koncept 2.0” (Copenhagen).

    • Pro: if there is not much cycle traffic, we do not need four-meter wide cycle paths;
    • Con: if there is not much cycle traffic, is it really a cycle highway?

    As for the buffer zone from motorised traffic, it is required for bidirectional cycle paths. For example, “Supercykelstier koncept 2.0” (Copenhagen) requires at least 1.0 m distance inside and 1.5 m outside build-up areas. CROW’s “Design manual” recommends at least 0.35 m in build-up areas and 1.5-10.0 m outside, depending on speed of motorised traffic.

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