Analysing the various existing cases in North West Europe provides insight in the question if cycle highways are competitive or complementary to other transport modes. The answer very much relies on the four indicators that determine the degree of success or failure of a node:
- The characteristics of the user
- The characteristics of the destination
- The quality of the chain
- The quality of the alternative
As has also become apparent from the section on governance, for many cities planning cycle infrastructure means releasing pressure on car traffic. Decision makers do not always realise that optimising the cycle infrastructure network is not just about investing in new cycling infrastructure. Just building a cycle highway is not sufficient on its own. As a consequence, local cycling infrastructure has to be improved, flow-through at traffic lights has to be ensured and so on. The same applies to planning an integrated system where one mode facilitates a transfer to finish the trip by bike. When one is considering a transfer node, planners need to consider the alternative and the quality of the chain.
Our exploratory research shows that cycle highways are mostly complementary to transport modes that are not flexible, in other words public transport. A car is mostly equally flexible in reaching one’s destination and therefore compete with cycle highways. Whenever motorised accessibility is limited compared to active modes’ accessibility, cycling has a bigger chance of being complementary.
It appears to be logical that cycling highways are planned along strong, existing connections. Here, the biggest potential for cyclists is found. Whenever it is planned parallel, one offers the chance to compete with other transport modes. However, the bike becomes powerful when it is complementary. Thus, to ensure that cycle highways fulfill their full potential, they should not stop at major public transport interchanges but continue to reach other important destinations (e.g. universities, major employment centres). Opting for a physically integrated system requires thoughtful and careful policy to improve the traveller’s mental map of the chain.