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Mobility and Transport

4.1 Bicycle prioritisation through traffic management and ITS


Traffic management and the use of ITS (Intelligent Transport System) technology can be used to assign priority to cyclists. Measures include designing highways, intersections and signage. Traffic management helps to enhance the efficiency and safety of cycle journeys. ITS are also increasingly used in road transport to help cyclists be better informed and to improve the efficiency of cycle journeys using information interfaces. This may include digital signposts that provide real time information about traffic levels, alternative routes and potential complementary transport modes (such as buses or trams that allow bicycles).

Considerations for applicability

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Level of cycling

As a cycling measure, bicycle prioritisation through traffic management and ITS can require significant investment to afford priority to cyclists. As a result, the measure is particularly suited to cities where the existing level of cycling is higher to justify prioritising cycle traffic.

However, using traffic management and ITS technology to prioritise cycling can also be particularly effective in starter cities where the level of cycling is low, as it will provide significant incentive to cycle more. Modal shift may be encouraged as other road users become aware of the increase in priority and safety awarded to cyclists.

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Urban layout/topography

Traffic management and use of ITS will require adaptation of existing traffic signage and road infrastructure. It is likely to be beneficial in cities or urban areas where longer cycle journeys are being made.

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Traffic management and use of ITS can improve the reliability of cycle journeys for all population groups, including commuters, students and tourists.

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Finance Resources

Where ITS is introduced, there may be high costs for new digital signage and for cameras or tracking devices to determine the location of complementary traffic modes and/or congestion levels.

In terms of prioritising cyclists using more basic forms of traffic management, priority can be indicated using painted road surfaces, signposting and/or more expensive dedicated cycle traffic light systems. The measure can be adapted according to need and resources available.

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Time & Human Resources

As indicated by the name, traffic management will require careful thought to implement. Implementation and adapting traffic management techniques to individual routes will require careful consideration and an assessment of lessons learned from previous examples.

As a result, implementing new traffic management systems may require a dedicated and/or experienced team in the design process.

Measure impact highlight

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Managing traffic to provide priority to cyclists will not only improve the efficiency of cycle journeys; but will also enhance the visibility of cyclists to other road users. This will further improve accessibility as all road users become accustomed to the patterns of priority and effectively improves the comfort and efficiency of cycling journeys at the expense of motorised traffic.

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 description, case studies and further guidance

[collapsed title=Detailed description of the measure]

Key features

Bicycle prioritisation through traffic management and ITS solutions can take many different forms with varying levels of investment and/or involvement from city administrators.


Giving cyclists priority at junctions or on selected routes can assist in ensuring the cycling network is coherent, direct and comfortable. Priority for cyclists can also enhance safety. Where priority is given, cycle trips can start to become comparable to those of motorised modes in terms of time.

Priority can be achieved through;

  • Coordinating existing traffic signals;

  • New signage;

  • Timing traffic signals to accommodate green waves of cycle traffic;

  • Establishing priority junctions where the level of motorised traffic is low enough to do so;

  • Raising the level of junctions to improve visibility of cyclists; and

  • New road markings.

Dedicated cycle crossings or those combined with pedestrian crossings may be introduced. The city of Malmö in Sweden has implemented indicated priority by using raised cycle passages (cykelöverfart) to cross the roadway. These raised surfaces also act as traffic calming (e.g. a speed bump) for motorised traffic. Crossings may be further denoted with signposts and/ or painted markings on the road. In Sweden, cycling priority passages have been enshrined in law, with the Swedish Road Act (Trafikforordning) in 2014 making it compulsory to give priority to a cyclist when they are crossing or are about to cross a cycling priority passage. In addition, the law requires further traffic calming measures to be implemented in order to slow the motorised traffic flow, rather than coming to a complete stop. The approach taken in Sweden embeds cycling priority into driving culture further.

Giving priority to cyclists also involves increasing their visibility to other road users. Increased visibility may be achieved through preventing parked cars near intersections or using brighter paint or materials for cycle infrastructure that is located close to roads and intersections.

Traffic management

Traffic management to encourage cycling can include introducing traffic calming measures such as speed bumps or islands to reduce the speed of motorised traffic and enhance safety for cyclists, and redesigning junctions to give cyclists greater visibility. Speed limiting through traffic calming is not usually implemented exclusively for cyclists in urban areas, but can be applied in locations where high volumes of cyclists meet motorised traffic. Traffic management also considers the need to provide clear and unambiguous signage allowing all road users to understand who has priority in any given situation.

Traffic calming in mixed traffic to improve road safety and make cyclists feel secure can potentially lead to higher numbers of cyclists and pedestrians in an area. However, there is a need to cater for cyclists within the traffic calmed areas (i.e. avoiding humps etc). In some cases, cycle bypasses can be used to allow cyclists to avoid red lights. This works where there are low numbers of pedestrians using a route and usually deviates cyclists onto the pavement to circumvent the traffic lights.

Intelligent Transport Systems

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) have been defined by the European Union as "...advanced applications which without embodying intelligence as such aim to provide innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management and enable various users to be better informed and make safer, more coordinated and 'smarter' use of transport networks."

Whilst ITS may be more commonly associated with motorised traffic information which has been in use for years, there are examples of ITS that have been specifically designed to benefit the cycling community. Traffic lights may have a separate, dedicated light for cyclists that can be set to turn green and allow cyclists to move forward prior to allowing motorised traffic to move, making cyclists more visible to other road users.

ITS solutions that can be implemented to benefit cyclists include;

  • LED road-markings that adapt depending on the volume of traffic and/or time of day;
  • Radar which senses when cyclists approach a junction meaning they do not have to press a button to signal intent to cross a junction;
  • Lane lights that are timed according to traffic signals up ahead. They may advise cyclists (through a red, amber, green colour coded system) when the traffic lights up ahead are going to turn red, therefore advising cyclists of the optimal speed to avoid coming to a full standstill at traffic lights thus saving momentum; and
  • Dynamic signs that can be adjusted according to levels of congestion, the direction of traffic flow and that are designed specifically to provide information to cyclists rather than motor vehicles.

Traffic signals that have been timed to allow the relatively free-flow of cycle traffic should be accompanied by an area that cyclists can use to wait when the light is red. This area should have sufficient space for all cyclists, ensure cyclists are highly visible to other road users (for this reason, this waiting area is often at the front of the queue of traffic) and allow all waiting cyclists to pass through the junction when the light turns to green (even at peak times). An alternative to this approach is to have lights that are timed to allow cyclists through the junction first, through a separate, dedicated timed lights system and this works in a similar fashion to a waiting area at the front of the traffic queue as it allows cyclists to set off first.

Real-time information about passenger transport routes and timetables can be provided on bus stops and/or ticket vending machines; however, it can also be displayed on or near bicycle parking facilities to make the multi-modal journey more efficient.

The city of Copenhagen has taken an innovative approach to ITS for cyclists through its implementation of ‘green waves’ for traffic lights. Most traffic lights are programmed to accommodate motorised traffic speeds, whereas those in Copenhagen have been adjusted to accommodate the speed of cyclists. This results in cyclists making fewer stops due to waiting at red lighted. Further adaptations are made in Copenhagen to ensure that the ‘green wave’ follows the flow of traffic, i.e. into the city in the morning and out of the city in the evening during typical commuter times. This approach has been shown to reduce journey times for cyclists in the city.

Another initiative being trialled in Copenhagen is the use of dynamic signage to inform cyclists when there is congestion on cycling tracks and provide directions to less congested routes which may be longer, but more efficient.

Function and objectives

Traffic management aimed at providing priority to cyclists can make journeys safer and more efficient whilst encouraging other road users to observe and predict the behaviours of cyclists. It can be implemented in most city types, and in the majority of areas, although along major routes, at intersections or in areas with high volumes of cycle traffic are likely to benefit the most. Cyclists in congested urban areas are also the most likely to benefit from traffic management measures as they may find that they can make the same journey as a motor vehicle in less time due to cycling priority.

Complementary measures

Several complementary measures exist - some of which form part of traffic management techniques (including signage to denote priority, visibility raising through surfaces or track colour) and others that can run in parallel with traffic management and ITS cycling measures such as{1.8 Cycle streets as Link} and{1.6 Contra-flow cycling as Link} - both of which give priority to cyclists.

It is important that all road users understand the use of infrastructure and street furniture that has been adapted to prioritise cycling. As such, behaviour change, training and/or educational measures can take place alongside changes to traffic management (see{3.1 Cycle information and awareness raising as Link}).


The design of intersections takes account of whether they are safe or not, but crucially also considers whether cyclists feel safe at intersections. This is about enhanced perception for cyclists - if they feel visible and confident that other road users are aware of them, they will feel safer and more likely to travel by bicycle.

Data in Denmark revealed that since 2006, the risk of a serious injury compared to the number of kilometres cycled has decreased by 23%, even though the actual number of casualties has not declined at the same rate for other road user types. Through presenting the number of casualties related to the level of cycling, rather than just focusing on the total number of casualties, a more realistic picture of the risk that cyclists face can be achieved. Since 2006, the proportion of Copenhageners who feel secure cycling has increased from 53% to 76% (City of Copenhagen Bicycle Account, 2016) (see Copenhagen case study below).

Most traffic accidents occur at intersections, and actions taken to improve intersections are usually aimed at increasing cyclists' actual safety, as well as their perception of safety.

Parameters of success or failure

Adapting traffic management to incorporate priority for cyclists ensures that the needs of all road users are taken into account.

Key lessons for transferability

Traffic management and the use of ITS related to cycling priority are largely transferable to other cities, particularly where there is a high level of cyclists. Making these changes in an area - or on routes with low cycling mode share would not achieve the desired effect of increasing visibility, ensuring priority and making cyclists feel safer. Therefore, whilst some elements can be incorporated into any intersection (e.g. allowing bicycles to stop ahead of the vehicle stop-line at an intersection), some are only worth investing in where there is a critical mass of cyclists.


[collapsed title=Case studies]

[collapsed title=Cycle Superhighways - Supercykelstier (Copenhagen, Denmark)]

  • Location: North/North West
  • Population: Large urban area (602,481)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Champion (28%)

Background and context

Copenhagen is a cycling friendly city. The approach taken by the city has been led largely by the municipality rather than regional or national initiatives or policy framework. The city is a 'Champion' city and regularly monitors the share of cycling journeys, engages and collaborates with stakeholders and residents before investing in cycling measures.

Copenhagen has had the opportunity, in the past, to use National funding to subsidise innovative cycling measures within the city. In addition, Copenhagen has made use of donations from private funds, covering respectively 10% and 12 % of the total investments in cycling from 2004 to 2018, while approximately 78 % of investment in cycling in the city has come from the municipal budget (Bicycle Report, Cykelredegørelse, 2018).

Denmark has weak interregional collaboration on traffic and mobility, which creates challenges for the city and led Copenhagen to initiate the Cycle Superhighways Secretariat, which now involves 23 municipalities in the Capital Region. The Secretariat is organised within the Capital Region and is physically located within the city administration of Copenhagen, but cannot finance the development of infrastructure, although it is able to support soft measures, collaboration and analysis.

The city's approach to cycling is set out in its 'Bicycle Strategy 2011-2025'. This contains several goals relating to the quality of the cycling experience in the city, including that (by 2025):

  • The share of the network that has three lanes increases to 80%. By 2016, this share had increased to 20%.
  • Cyclists' travel time is reduced by 15% (relative to 2010 travel times). Travel time had been reduced by 6% by 2016 compared to 2010.
  • Percentage of Copenhageners that feel safe cycling in traffic increases from 67% (2010) to 90%. By 2016, 76% of Copenhageners felt safe cycling.
  • Reduce the number of seriously injured cyclists by 70% (from 2005 figures), i.e. to no more than 35. In 2016, there were 94 serious cyclist casualties.
  • Increase the percentage of Copenhagen cyclists who believe that the cycle tracks are well maintained from 50% (2010) to 80%. By 2016, the rate of satisfaction with the maintenance of the cycle tracks had increased to 71%.
  • Increase the share of Copenhageners who think that bicycle culture positively affects the city's atmosphere from 67% (2010) to 80%. By 2016, 71% of Copenhageners were positive about the contribution of the bicycle culture to the city's atmosphere (City of Copenhagen, Bicycle Account, 2016).

The strategy contains numerous actions to improve travel times, cyclists' sense of security and comfort. The strategy is complemented by additional plans, including a detailed plan setting out how the city's bicycle track network will be expanded by 2025 and a first ever plan that sets out how bicycle parking facilities will be developed over the same period.

Key features

As Copenhagen's 2011-2025 Bicycle Strategy notes, just one intersection that does not feel safe can put cyclists off using their bicycle. Intersection design in Copenhagen is not just about making cycling safer, but also about improving cyclists' perception of safety, as well as about prioritising cyclists and helping to reduce their travel times. Most traffic accidents in Copenhagen occur at intersections, so their design is crucial for improving safety and the perception of safety.

The design of intersections for cyclists is also informed by the 'mandatory wide left turn' in Denmark, which requires that cyclists take a 90° left turn into the road that they are turning into; effectively, cyclists must cycle around two edges of the junction, rather than taking the shorter, direct route through the middle of the junction. Once they are level with the road that they are turning into, left-turning cyclists must wait until it is safe to cross the road - i.e. once all the traffic going straight ahead has gone - at which point they can turn into the road, even if the traffic light is red.

In the interests of cyclists' visibility, cars in Denmark are not allowed to park within 10 metres of a crossing and within 20 metres of a signalised intersection. In Copenhagen, cycle lanes run right up to intersections, i.e. they do not stop short of the junction, while stop lines for motorised traffic are often set back five metres from the actual junction. This makes it easier for drivers, particularly of large vehicles, to see cyclists as well as pedestrians. If a junction has a special signal for cyclists, it is not necessary to have the car stop line five metres further back, as the bicycle signal is set to allow cyclists to set off at least four seconds before the lights for motorised traffic turn green.

In Copenhagen, bike boxes that occupy the full width of the road in front of the motorised vehicle stop-line are not encouraged as the city does not want to tempt cyclists into the middle of the road. Where bike boxes are used, they are only put in front of the inner lane, which could either be in front of a lane of motorised traffic going straight ahead or turning right; bike boxes in front of the latter help motorised traffic to turn right more quickly instead of having to wait for a stream of cyclists going straight ahead on their right.

Cycle lanes through busy intersections are often marked blue to guide cyclists and to help make cyclists more visible, although no more than two blue crossings per intersection should be installed, as research has shown that this could cause adverse effects. At some intersections, a cycle track turning right - called a 'shunt' - effectively allows cyclists to avoid the junction and ignore the lights. After successful trials, cyclists are now allowed to turn right on a red light at some junctions, subject to the approval of the police. Trials have also taken place of having separate right-turning phases for cyclists where there is a particularly large volume of cycle traffic. Footrests are also supplied at some junctions for additional cyclists' comfort.

Signals at intersections can also be adjusted to improve travel times for cyclists. Currently, on some of the main routes into Copenhagen, the timings of traffic lights take account of average cycling speed, so that they change with a frequency that determines 'Green Waves' that reduce the number of stops that cyclists using the routes have to make. The system operates on routes into the centre in the mornings and away from the centre to the suburbs in the afternoon. The lights are timed to go green based on the assumption that cyclists travel at 20 km/h between the different sets of lights. Signage for the cyclists informs them of when the green wave operates, and the average speed assumed.

By 2025, the intention is to have 'Green Waves' for cyclists that ride in groups. Sensors in the road surface would register the number of cyclists using a route and traffic lights would be adjusted to give green lights to such groups. There have been discussions about undertaking pilot projects to embed LED lights in asphalt to enable alternating use of space, including for cyclists, depending on the time of day, but these have not yet been taken forward. In some places on roads with the Green Waves, LED lights have been put in kerbs to indicate the speed at which cyclists should travel to benefit from the Green Waves, but these have proved to be difficult to maintain.


The design of intersections in Copenhagen takes account of not just whether the design is safe or not, but also whether cyclists feel safe at intersections. For example, cycle lanes were previously shortened, so that at the junction cyclists and motorists intermingled; the aim of this was to provide more space for cars. This was a safe approach, but cyclists did not feel safe. Hence, cycle lanes now generally run up to the junction, whereas motorised traffic is stopped short.

Since 2006, the risk of a serious injury compared to the number of kilometres cycled has decreased by 23%, even though the actual number of casualties has not been declining to the same extent as for other types of road user. Relating the number of casualties to the level of cycling, rather than just focusing on the number of casualties, aims to present a more realistic picture of the risk that cyclists face. Since 2006, the proportion of Copenhageners who feel secure cycling has increased from 53% to 76% (City of Copenhagen, Bicycle Account 2016).

Green waves have been shown to reduce travelling times for cyclists. For example, a green wave was introduced on Nørrebrogade, a road taking people into the city centre from the north west of the city. Prior to the green wave, cyclists took nearly nine minutes to travel down the road, at an average speed of just over 15 km/h, because of the many traffic lights on the road.

After the green wave was introduced, the travel time decreased by nearly 30% to 6 minutes and 25 seconds, while the average speed increased to nearly 21 km/h, an increase of over 35 %.

Parameters of success/failure

The success of the scheme is due to the design of intersections, which has been based on years of trial and error of incorporating the needs of cyclists in Copenhagen. A key focus of the design of the cycling initiatives have been to ensure cyclists feel safe as well as improve journey times.


The design of the intersections in Copenhagen, particularly in relation to cyclists turning left, i.e. across oncoming traffic, is informed by the Danish 'mandatory wide left turn' policy. This policy has been in place for 30 years, and so now is well integrated into the way cyclists use the roads - in other countries, where there is no similar policy, certain elements of the design may not be relevant. However, requiring motorists to stop behind cyclists at intersections, and marking the main cycle route blue across the intersection could be implemented, as the former improves cyclists' perception of safety, while the latter improves cyclists' visibility. Some elements of intersection design, such as separate signals for cyclists, are only relevant where there is a critical mass of cyclists using the intersection. Similarly, Green Waves are only relevant on main roads in a city where there is a critical mass of cyclists.

Key insights and lessons learned

Some of the measures in Copenhagen to improve the design of intersections have been very difficult to implement. For example, the local police and safety officers prefer the use of measures that are demonstrably safer for cyclists - whilst these may not necessarily be the measures that make cyclists feel safe.


[collapsed title=Cycling priority passages (Cykelöverfart) (Malmö, Sweden)]

  • Location: North
  • Population: 333,633
  • Cycling Modal Share: 22% (Champion)

Background and context

Sweden published their national cycling strategy in 2017 called “En nationell cykelstrategi für ökad och säker cycling” - A national cycling strategy for more and safer cycling. The national cycling strategy has been designed to highlight cycling in urban planning, consider the different groups of cyclists, make infrastructure more cycling user-friendly, promote safe cycling and encourage research and innovation.

The city of Malmö has had a cycling strategy in action since 2012 and has published several cycling policy documents. These include;

  • The cycling strategy of Malmö 2012 – 2019 which looks at a wide range of initiatives to strengthen and improve cycling (from profile raising to large and small infrastructure changes and safety improvements)
  • The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan 2030, published in 2016 which is an award­winning SUMP. The city's SUMP has focused on making Malmö more accessible and attractive for people and cycling features prominently in the plan's objectives.

Cycling mode share in Malmö peaked in 2008 with 23%, a figure which has since fallen marginally to 22%. In Malmö, a higher proportion of women cycle than men (24 % women compared to 22 % men) and this mode share figure is consistent across the seasons. The city aims to increase the mode share of cycling to 26 % by 2020 and 30 % by 2030. There is also a desire to encourage an increase in cross city-limit commuting and making the city accessible for all. The city is a dense urban conglomeration making travel distances shorter than if developments had been allowed to spread at the edge of the city. Malmö has implemented bicycle priority roads (Cykelöverfart) which allow cyclists to travel safely and more efficiently through the city. Cycling priority passages have been introduced to the Swedish Road Act (Trafikforordning) in 2014 and are regulated in Chapter 3, § 61a and § 62.

The legal definition states in § 61a, that with a "cykelöverfart", road users (drivers) need to give the right of way to cyclists / moped class II just crossing the street at the cykelöverfart or being about to cross it. In § 62 it further defines that "a road user (driver) needs to adapt the style of driving to avoid being forced stopping at the actual crossing".

Key features

Cykelöverfart - or bicycle priority passage crossing roads are cycling measures that provide priority to cyclists and other cycle track users at the point where they intersect the road. They have been designed to provide safe and more efficient cycling journeys and use several different design features to achieve this;

  • Raised profile of the road which elevates cyclists, making them more noticeable.
  • The raised cycling tracks also serve as a speed bump to slow motorised traffic when the cycle lane intersects a road.
  • The colour of the track is different from the surrounding lanes and roadways - in Malmö Cykelöverfart are a continuous red colour.
  • Road markings at the edge of the cycle track additionally notified motorists of the presence of the bicycle priority passage crossing road (see image)
  • Signposts like the already familiar pedestrian crossing signs which have been adapted to show a bicycle rather than a pedestrian.
  • Speed limits are reduced.


Malmö has already created 40 cycling priority passages and the city plans to implement a further 30 passages in 2018. Malmö's publication “The Cycling Year 2016” shows the locations of cycling priority passages by 2016. When choosing the location for a cycling priority passage, the city takes traffic accident hot-spots into consideration to improve safety.

Public information to the topic alongside with a promotional video for the cycling priority passages are available at Malmö’s website

The city has conducted studies to find out whether cycling priority crossings have been successful and found that 9 out of 10 vehicles respected the traffic rules and gave priority to cyclists crossing the road. In addition, qualitative evidence suggests that cycling journeys in the city have become more comfortable, less fragmented and more efficient due to the initiative,

Parameters of success or failure

Although the Cykelöverfart / cycling priority crossings essentially offer greater comfort to cyclists at the expense of other road users, there has not been much public opposition to them. Once the Swedish Road Act introduced Cykelöverfart / cycling priority crossings into law in 2014, the city acted quickly and implemented the crossings at the most accident-prone locations, using existing data to target those areas.


In Sweden, changes to the legal framework allowed these measures to be implemented quickly in urban areas. It is anticipated that National support is required to enable prioritising bicycle traffic across Europe. The costs for a cycling priority crossing will depend on the localised circumstances of the intersection and the same will apply to other cities across Europe. Estimates provided by Malmö on the costs for a 2-car lane road to cross (with speed bumps) is approximately €20 000.

Additionally, the human resources required can depend on the location and existing infrastructure of the spot chose and consider traffic management considerations. These considerations include the potential to increase congestion in the area - which would be an undesirable negative consequence, whether the route is used in passenger transport and the likelihood of causing delays and other priority traffic such as emergency services.



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

The Cycling Year 2016

20 JULY 2021
(17.5 MB - PDF)

Swedish national cycling strategy (2017) En nationell cykelstrategi für ökad och säker cycling

20 JULY 2021
(7.24 MB - PDF)

(in Swedish)

Malmo Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan 2030

20 JULY 2021
(9.85 MB - PDF)

The cycling strategy of Malmö 2012 – 2019

20 JULY 2021
(2.34 MB - PDF)

Copenhagen Bicycle Report (Cykelredegørelse) 2018

20 JULY 2021
(2.44 MB - PDF)

City of Copenhagen (2016) “Copenhagen City of Cyclists: The Bicycle Account 2016”

20 JULY 2021
(6.66 MB - PDF)

Sustrans (2015) Design Manual Chapter 7: Junctions and crossings.

20 JULY 2021
(4.25 MB - PDF)

Cycling Embassy of Denmark (2012) Collection of Cycling Concepts

20 JULY 2021
(14.46 MB - PDF)