Cycle Lanes in the UK: A Study on Their Overall Effectiveness

It can be said that more and more roads in the UK are being built with cycle lanes in mind, as cycling is increasingly being seen as a healthier (and more environmentally-friendly) alternative to driving a vehicle. But when it comes right down to the gist of things, how effective are they, and what can be done to make these cycle lanes more effective in the long term?

Driver behaviour has as much to do with the effectiveness of cycle paths as the way they are made

Driver behaviour has as much to do with the effectiveness of cycle paths as the way they are made

According to research done by Edinburgh Napier University’s Transport Institute and RPS Group, an environment consultant in England, the total effectiveness of cycle lanes depends on several factors, and not just on how they are made and designed.

Cycle lane effectiveness: what studies have shown

In the study done by the university and RPS, the authors made use of bicycles which were equipped with special cameras in order to record overtakes in different road circumstances and situations in the city of Edinburgh. The study featured three notable cycle lane situations: an uncoloured cycle lane vs. a no-cycle lane, a coloured cycle lane vs. an uncoloured one, and a coloured cycle lane vs. a no-cycle one.

1. The research on the first situation featuring an uncoloured cycle lane vs. a no-cycle lane showed that the distance for overtaking by all types of vehicles was greater than when there was a cycle lane. However, overtaking still occurred when a car or other vehicle was shown to come from an opposite direction.

2. In the second situation, research showed that there was a difference in overtaking for cars and other vehicles which passed the cyclists on a coloured lane, regardless of whether the vehicle was oncoming or not.

3. In the third situation, it was found that if there was no cycle lane, drivers of vehicles on a no-cycle lane gave the cyclists only a little bit more room than if they were on a coloured cycle lane.

In the end, the study’s general conclusion is that the effectiveness of cycle lanes can be constituted of three major variables: the width of the road, the presence and vicinity of other parked cars, and the presence of vehicles coming from the opposite direction. In general, it can be said that wider roads give cyclists wider berths from drivers. In addition, with parked cars, it was found that the road’s width was reduced, so drivers had less room to move in order to overtake cyclists.

The speed of both the cyclist and the driver also affected the chances of overtaking. It was shown that drivers who drove faster usually gave the cyclist more space as they overtook them, whilst faster cyclists also increased the overtaking distance.

In conclusion

It can be said, in conclusion, that the width of the road, oncoming traffic, and parking have a more significant impact on cyclists than the addition of a special cycling lane.  In essence, cities should focus and be more aware of existing traffic and road widening projects or solutions in order to enhance the effectiveness of their cycle lanes.



Image attributed to Sura Nualpradid/

Posted on 15 Jun 2015 in News

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