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Mobility and Transport


Cycle lanes are on-road spaces for people who cycle, with road markings separating them from other road traffic. Cycle lanes do not typically have physical barriers preventing motorised traffic from using the cycle lane.

Considerations for applicability

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Level of cycling

The expected level of cycling influences suitability and design of cycle lanes. Whilst cycle lanes are likely to be beneficial for all levels of cycling in cities, (provision of dedicated space for cycling), they are likely to be most suited to climber and champion cities.

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Urban layout/topography

Steep gradients can negatively impact the comfort and attractiveness of a cycle lane. Cycle lane routes should avoid steep gradients, although the directness of a route should also be considered.

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Cycle lanes may be able to support the mobility of seasonal peaks in tourists by offering routes to and around tourist sites. Students often live within cycling distance of their education facility and so cycle lanes may also encourage the use of bicycles and improve the safety of existing cycling students. This is also the case for the provision of cycle lanes connecting various population groups to a range of popular destinations.

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Finance resources

Cycle lanes can be relatively inexpensive to implement. They use existing road space and utilise paint to visually separate the cycle lane from motor vehicles. The cost will vary depending on length of cycle lane and the amount of material/paint used. Consider the indirect costs of supporting measures such as signage, intersections and enforcement, and also the cost of feasibility studies and design.

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Time & human resources

Relative to other cycle infrastructure, cycle lanes can be implemented quickly with a small team as they use the existing carriageway and rely on painted visuals to separate the lanes. Time and human resources may be required immediately following their implementation to enforce the separation of cycle and motor vehicle lanes.

Measure impact highlight

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Cycle lanes can be relatively quick and inexpensive to implement, making them one of the most common forms of cycle paths implemented in cities. They allow people who cycle to take advantage of the accessibility that the existing road network provides. When the design of the cycle lane follows best practise and implementation is part of a coherent network, cycle lanes offer a safe and convenient route for people who cycle to travel around a city.

Note: An overview of the direct and indirect impacts resulting from correctly implemented cycling measures is available in{Challenges that cities face and how cycling can address them as Link}

In-depth measure analysis, case studies and further guidance

[collapsed title=Detailed description of the measure]

Key features

Cycle lanes are one of the most common forms of cycling infrastructure. They form part of the carriageway and are distinguished for cycle use by continuous road markings that delineate the edge of the cycle lane. The main aim of cycle lanes is to indicate road space reserved for the use by bicycles on the carriageway. A bicycle symbol will often be used at the beginning and end of the cycle lane or repeated throughout the entirety of the lane. Colouring may also be used to increase visibility.

Cycling lane

The suitability of different infrastructure for moving cycling traffic depends on the space available, the number of people cycling, the volume of road traffic and the speed of traffic. Outside of built-up areas, the implementation of cycle lanes is most suitable on roads with low traffic volumes (2000-3000 passenger cars units per day) and vehicle speeds below 60km/h. Within built-up areas, cycle lanes can be considered on busy cycle routes but only where traffic speed is low (up to 30km/h), and where road speeds are high (up to 50km/h), cycle tracks are more suitable. (PRESTO, Cycle Lanes)

Cycle lanes are quick to implement as they adapt to the existing carriageway. They provide a legally reserved space to cycle without mixing with road traffic, increasing safety, accessibility and comfort.

Range of alternatives

Traffic calming ({Traffic Restrictions and Charges as Link}) measures can be used as an alternative to cycle lanes as they create conditions that are more suitable for traffic mixing.{Cycle Streets as Link} can be implemented on major routes through residential areas

Cycle lanes are often implemented as a cheaper and less space-intensive solution to cycle tracks. However, if the traffic speed is high (>60km/h) or the vehicle or cycle volume is large,{Cycle Tracks as Link} should be considered due to the greater degree of separation from motor vehicles that they offer.

If the volume of people cycling is low, or there is not enough room to have a dedicated cycle lane, suggestion lanes can be used instead. These draw attention to people who are cycling but are not exclusively reserved for cyclists. They are not recommended on roads with high heavy goods vehicle (HGV) use and speeds >50km/h (SUTP factsheet H-02). Similar to suggestion lanes, bus lanes can be adapted to include the use of bicycles. In these situations, the bus lane should be wide enough to allow safe overtaking or narrow enough to prevent overtaking (SUTP – FGSV 2010 page 29). However, high volumes of people cycling will impede bus traffic and high numbers of buses can decrease the appeal of cycling.{Contra-flow cycling as Link} lanes can be used in one-way streets.

Complementary measures

The correct design of{Intersections as Link} along a cycle lane is key to ensuring safety.

Strategically positioned{Cycle Parking as Link} along a cycle route can support an increase in the number of people who cycle as a result of improved attractiveness, accessibility and inter-modality. On busy routes, repair stations can also be a value-added service that will increase the attractiveness of the cycle lane.{Grade Separated Crossings as Link} such as bridges and tunnels can also improve the performance of a cycle lane by ensuring the continuity and improving the coherence and directness of cycle infrastructure.

There are several complementary information and awareness raising measures, including{Cycle Maps as Link},{Cycle Events as Link} and{Signage and Wayfinding as Link}. These measures contribute to raising the profile of the cycle lane and increasing its coherence and attractiveness, resulting in greater use.


The increased safety and access that cycle lanes can offer may result in a shift from other transport modes to cycling.

Despite their obvious advantages, cycle lanes can be wrongly implemented as an easy solution. Consideration must be given to the number of people cycling and the traffic characteristics such as volume and speed. Furthermore, on busy arterial roads, a false sense of security from cycle lanes may encourage cars to drive faster and closer past people cycling, reducing safety.


Cycle lane in the City of Copenhagen, Ursula Bach

Parameters of success or failure

As cycle lanes can sometimes take away space from road traffic, impact assessments and stakeholder engagement are needed to anticipate and limit negative impacts.

While cycle lanes offer increased safety to people who cycle in comparison to mixing with traffic, they do not always make cyclists feel as secure as they may do when using{1.2 Cycle tracks as Link}. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the design of the infrastructure ensures comfort and that there are good actual and subjective safety levels.

Cycle lanes should have adequate widths, smooth surfaces, and clear signage and there should be enforcement against violations by motor vehicles. At the planning stage, care should be given to assessing whether a cycle lane is an appropriate solution. A number of guidelines outline principles to guide the selection of appropriate cycle paths (Sustrans, 2014., Collection of Cycle Concepts, 2012).

Finally, it is important to consider the coherence of the cycle lane and its integration into a cycling network. Examples from Denmark [1] and New York [2] show that individual cycle lanes have a negligible impact on cycling numbers, but a network of cycling lanes improve the perceived safety and quality of the service resulting in increased cycling numbers.

Key lessons for transferability

The perceived safety and overall attractiveness of the cycle lane is a key determinant of performance. The appropriateness of the measure should be considered, and best practise design procedures should be followed. Enforcement of traffic rules may also be required, especially in cities where cycling culture is less prevalent.


[collapsed title=Infrastructure quality design guidance]

Overall recommendations

  • Cycle lanes should only be applied on streets with medium or low motor vehicle volumes.
  • Cycle lanes should be wide enough for people who cycle to feel comfortable and safe, allowing for comfortable clearance of other users.
  • The surface of cycle lanes should be smooth and level.
  • Clear markings and accompanying signage should be in place to increase the visibility of the cycle lanes.
  • Buffer zones may be considered between the cycle lane and motorised traffic where safety is of concern, particularly where there is heavy freight traffic.
  • Buffer zones between the cycle lane and parked vehicles are strongly recommended.
  • Cycle lanes should be monochrome coloured and appropriate cycling symbols used on the cycle lane.
  • Cycle lanes should avoid detours and frequent street crossings.
  • Where possible, priority should be awarded to people who cycle at intersections.

City practitioners should consult national cycle infrastructure design standards or regulations (where available) regarding the appropriate implementation of cycle lanes in respective Member States (including road widths, cycle lane widths, traffic speeds etc.).


[collapsed title=Case studies]

Cycle lane on Wojska Polskiego / Wita Stwosza (Gdansk, Poland)

  • Location: Baltics, Eastern, Central
  • Population: Medium urban area (464,000)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Climber (6%)

The city of Gdansk, Poland, implemented a cycle friendly street on Wojska Polskiego / Wita Stwosza. The two streets form a corridor near the University of Gdansk and can act as an alternative corridor for university students. The introduction of cycling infrastructure along this street has been seen as a way to introduce innovative cycling measures to the city.


Google Maps, 2019. Wita Stwosza, Image captured May 2014

The street is 2.8 km long and situated in the north part of the city, close to the University of Gdansk. The two-lane street was converted into a lane for cars and a broad lane for people who cycle – exceeding 3m wide in many sections. This makes it one of the widest one-direction bike lanes in Europe. Filtration lanes and bike boxes have been implemented at intersections to increase safety for left turning cycle traffic. People who cycle have also been given priority over motorised traffic via the traffic lights, which have an earlier green phase than for cars.

The cost to implement these features was €250,000, Construction took three months.

In terms of evaluating the success of the measure, counters were installed on the street (although baseline data is not available to compare against). Public opinion has been generally positive, and although there was initial opposition at the removal of on-street car parking, many residents now regularly use the street for cycling. Some of the public were initially opposed to the changes due to the fact that a segregated cycle path was not being implemented – however, this is no longer the case.

The scheme owes some of its success to the strong political support of the vice-mayor who was determined to see the measure implemented. The measure is considered transferable to other cities and is regarded as a best practice example for other cities outside of Poland. The measure has been viewed by Polish city representatives who are interested in the cycling features that have been implemented in the street.


[collapsed title=Key guidance, further reading and references]

Cycling Level of Service assessment tool (LCDS):

The Sustainable Urban Transport Project’s factsheet H-02 considers cycling facilities on the Road

(1.67 MB - PDF)

The Sustrans Handbook for cycle-friendly design, Guidelines for cycle lanes (page 18)

(8.34 MB - PDF)

The Sustrans Design Manual ‘Principles and processes for cycle-friendly design’

(2.28 MB - PDF)

PRESTO / Rupprecht (2012) “Cycle Lanes"

(196.73 KB - PDF)

The Cycling Embassy of Denmark’s Collection of Cycle Concepts, Chapter 8 and 9 on planning and designing the cycling infrastructure

(14.46 MB - PDF)

CROW (2017) Design manual for bicycle traffic. Chapter 5

Copenhagen’s guidelines for the design of road cycling projects - Focus on Cycling, Chapter 2 "Sections"

(17.53 MB - PDF)

ETSC The European Union’s Role in Promoting the Safety of Cycling

(2.21 MB - PDF)

Cycle Nation 'Making Space for Cyclists', Chapter 1 on cycle lanes

(2.98 MB - PDF)

Brussels Mobility 'Installing Marked Cycle Paths and Suggested Bike Lanes (Fr)'

(2.72 MB - PDF)

Transport for London’s ‘International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practice Study’, Pages 23-27

(5.08 MB - PDF)

Mobile 2020 ‘More biking in small and medium sized towns of Central and Eastern Europe by 2020’ handbook on cycling inclusive planning and promotion, Pages 78-79 on cycle lanes

(32.57 MB - PDF)




[1] Nielsen, Erling Dan, Andersen, Karina Vestergaard og Lei, Karen Marie (1996): Trafiksikkerhedseffekten af cykelbaner i byområder, Rapport 50, Vejdirektoratet, Danmark

[2] Landis, Bruce W.; Vattikuti, Venkat R. og Brannick, Michael T. (1996): Real-Time Human Perceptions – Toward a Bicycle Level of Service, Transportation Research Record 1578, USA


[1] Nielsen, Erling Dan, Andersen, Karina Vestergaard og Lei, Karen Marie (1996): Trafiksikkerhedseffekten af cykelbaner i byområder, Rapport 50, Vejdirektoratet, Danmark

[2] Landis, Bruce W.; Vattikuti, Venkat R. og Brannick, Michael T. (1996): Real-Time Human Perceptions – Toward a Bicycle Level of Service, Transportation Research Record 1578, USA