Design and Build What does readability mean?

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

How to get in touch with a cycle highway?

In order to build and promote your cycle highway as a mobility product, you need to understand the decision process a potential cyclist goes through. This process, also called the ‘customer journey,’ starts with discovering the mobility alternative cycle highways are. 

A user can only find and use a cycle highway if it is made ‘discoverable’. He needs to get in ‘touch’ with the mobility product. And he has to do so several times before he gets committed to it. The most obvious way by which a person gets in touch with a cycle highway is the cycling infrastructure itself – walking by, driving by or coincidentally cycling on it. But how will he be able to recognize the infrastructure as a mobility product he might need and use for certain purposes?

In the city of London, potential users can recognize a cycle highway by means of a CS-number (network-identity), a central pink brand colour and a specific logo.

Browse the readability toolbox to learn more about branding and wayfinding strategies in Flanders, the region of Copenhagen, The Netherlands, Germany,...  Do the identity scan to find out if your cycling route is a clear case of a cycle highway. 

Brand touchpoints

Not only the cycling infrastructure itself is an important touchpoint. Other touchpoints for new (potential) users are digital, like websites, route planning devices, social networks, blogs, online communities, etc. How will people be able to hear, read or speak about cycle highways on social media? What will be the "#hashtag" they might use on twitter? How will they recognize a cycle highway on google maps? 

Just as other famous mobility products (e.g. the Camino de Santiago hiking routes or the European motorways with their E-numbers), a cycle highway needs to wear an identity. The infrastructure needs a clear brand that helps potential users to differentiate the mobility product from other competing products in the mobility market. Over time, this brand will be associated with the characteristics of the cycle highway. The brand will guide consumers in the crowded and complex mobility marketplace by standing for certain benefits and values.

It is important to apply the identity or brand in every single touchpoint – on all wayfinding measures in the streets (e.g. signposts), in communication, in online maps…  In this way the brand becomes a ‘glue’ that not only connects different types of infrastructures on a cycle highway, but also helps to link the ‘real world’ to online information and to a much broader cycle highway network.

Self-explaining cycle highways

Not all cycle highways have coherent cycling infrastructure. First generation cycle highways (e.g. in Flanders or Copenhagen) often contain a mixture of infrastructure. The integration of the cycle highway brand (C-code-logo, brand colour) in wayfinding measures along the route enables you to glue the different pieces of infrastructure together and create a recognizable and usable route for cyclists (see below position -+). 

In the readability toolbox, you will find different ways to create an identity and improve wayfinding. An identity can be very basic. You give the cycle highway route a specific name (f.i. HST-route, Rijnwaalpad or Comber greenway). But you can also build a more consistent set of elements (codes, logo, brand colour) and apply it on different cycle highways. In this way you create a larger scale network-identity with a specific look and feel (e.g. state level scale Flanders).

See also coherence in the maturity assessment tool. 


CHIPS recommends to use one central brand colour (e.g. Flanders, London, Copenhagen) and a much broader network-identity on a European scale. This European scale can be achieved by using C-numbers. With this standardization (eventually combined with a "couleur locale"), every starting region can help to create economies of scale that will improve the general exposure of the mobility product. Integration in important (digital) touchpoints like Google Maps will be much easier. Browse the the readability toolbox to find examples and learn more about the CHIPS recommended strategies.

Browse the Readability Toolbox

Definition of readability

For a cycle highway to be readable, it must be:

  • Self-explaining. New users need a minimum of time and energy to understand, use and follow the cycle highway in their journeys. The cycle highway can be used and understood by observing it. Doubts and errors during the journey are avoided or easy to recover. The cycle highway is “plug&play”.

  • Findable and learnable. The cycle highway is easy to teach, find and remember: the cycle highway differentiates itself clearly from other mobility products and can easily be found in the field, … It is capable to attract the attention of potential users.

As we explained above, we have to be careful not to downsize the concept of readability to a specific system of wayfinding or to a specific type of cycling infrastructure. Readability also entails a more general awareness or knowledge of the cycle highway mobility product. This awareness is influenced by branding, integration of the brand in diverse touchpoints and promotion.

A cycle highway is ‘readable’ if a specified user at every moment and on every part of the cycle highway is capable to intuitively recognize and use the cycle highway with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. Well thought-out infrastructure and elaborated awareness raising elements focusing on identity and guidance offer the cyclist tools to help decision making before and during the journey.Definition of Readability

Clarification of the definition:

  • With the ‘specified user’ we also mean the potential user who has heard about the cycle highway and understands it as a mobility product that might be useful for certain purposes.

  • The sentence ‘at every moment and on every part of the cycle highway’ does not necessarily mean that a user should constantly have readability tools at his disposal. The user we envision is not an ‘alien’ who falls (like Mister Bean) suddenly from the sky on the street. A cyclist learns about the cycle highway product and enters the cycle highway space through an entrance. It is enough to provide visual clues at these entrances and along the route. Visual clues are also important on decision points like a crossing or a change of direction. Visit the different playlists in the readability toolbox.

  • A readable cycle highway does not necessarily mean that the cycle highway has everywhere always the same outlook with self-explaining infrastructure. Awareness raising elements at specific decision-points are able to remediate the lack of infrastructural readability (e.g. CHIPS pilot F3 cycle highway Louvain-Brussels).

Two aspects of readability

Aspect 1: The infrastructural aspect of readability
Readability is stronly linked with the specific route alignment (f.i. along a waterway) and the design of the infrastructure. It’s obvious that a cycle highway is easier to understand and follow if the route is direct, uninterrupted, coherent in design and of a high infrastructural quality (e.g. 4 meters wide, comfortable asphalt all the way, …). The infrastructural readability can be improved by using re-occurring or standardised elements that strengthen the self-explaining character of the infrastructure. E.g. a standardised colour of asphalt, standardised designs of crossings or recognisable cycle highway bridges.

Aspect 2: The awareness aspect of readability
Well planned and designed cycling infrastructure migth be very easy to use and follow. But this infrastructural readability does not mean that its users understand the central idea behind this infrastructure. Without an extra identity layer (see above) most users will not be aware of the status and utility of the route as a whole. A user might f.i. be using the cycle highway infrastructure for a short trip without even knowing that it's part of longer distance cycling connection between two cities.

An extra identity layer is needed to disclose the infrastructure as a mobility product that can be used for certain purposes. This identity is established by awareness raising elements like a brand, a logo, a name, wayfinding element that expose the identity, promotion campaings, online routeplanning devices etc. These readability tools help potential users to become aware of the difference between a cycle highway and other (similar) cycle infrastructure. In the case of bad infrastructural readability, awareness raising tools can help to glue an amalgam of different types of infrastructure into a more coherent cycle highway that can efficiently be promoted and used.

Interaction between the two aspects of readability
In the sheme on your right we envision the four types of interaction between both aspects of readability. The most optimal combination (++) is a cycle highway with a  good infrastructural readability combined with awareness raising elements that disclose the infrastructure as a specific cycle highway product. If your cycle highway consist of a mixture of infrastructure, you need more readability tools to glue the pieces togehter into a route that can be used and promoted on the mobility market (-+). In both positions (++, -+) it is important to integrate the network-brand in the different readability tools. CHIPS recommends to use one central brand colour and a code with a letter+number that refers to a broader network-identity: preferably C-numbers on a European scale. Browse the readability toolbox to learn more about the strategies to improve the readability of your cycle highway.

Join the discussion