My Dream Cycleway

In this post, I'm going to try and define some qualities that I think make a great cycleway. Despite the title, there's nothing dream-like about them, they're all photos of real cycleways. Not all of the photos are perfect in every way, but they each have at least one positive quality that I think is important.

The focus of this blog post is the physical attributes of an urban cycleway, so I have left out other important and valuable measures such as mode filtering and route unravelling.

It should also be noted that even a perfect cycleway is of little use on its own. It is very important that cyle routes are direct and convenient, going wherever people want to go, to form a dense network of safe cycling routes. These networks should not disappear at the edge of town, but continue through the countryside from town to village to town again, connecting everywhere together.

Anyway, here it is:

My dream cycleway will be wide. Wide enough to ride beside a friend chatting, with space for others to overtake. Wide enough for three friends to ride together. Wide enough and barrier-free for people with unusual bikes, with trikes, or with assisted mobility devices.

Three boys riding side by side on a red asphalt cycleway, separated from motor traffic by bushes, and with a forgiving, angled kerb up to the footway.
A wide two-way cycleway in the Netherlands, with dozens of peopel riding along it. It passes comfortably under a road bridge in the middle distance.

It will be smooth, red asphalt. Smooth because riding over bumps is uncomfortable and wastes energy, and red because it makes clear that this isn't any old road. Red asphalt clearly says "this is for bikes".

The smooth red asphalt of a Dutch cycleway.

There will be no unneccesary humps or bumps. It will not drop down at driveways or minor side roads. When a change in level is needed, the ramp will be smooth and over a long distance.

A cycleway changes from regular cycleway height down to carriageway level at the main junction ahead, but the change is so smooth that it is almost imperceptible.

It will be at a level halfway between the carriageway and the footway, to distinguish it from both. It will have shallow, angled kerbs so that the entire width of the cycleway can be used safely.

Cat-eye view of a bike next to a forgiving kerb, shallow and angled for safety.
Two boys ride on a protected cycle path in the Netherlands. It has physical separation from motor traffic, and a forgiving kerb between itself and the footway.

It will be continuous and unbroken by side roads, kerbs or driveways. Where it meets junctions the continuity will be clear and obvious.

A cycleway and footway continue, unbroken, with clear priority across a minor junction.
A bird's eye view of a large junction in the Netherlands, showing multi-lane motor traffic with separate cycleways.

It will have at least one metre separation from the carriageway, so that people aren't riding right next to motor vehicles. The faster and heavier the traffic, the bigger the separation should be.

A cycle path in the Dutch countryside. A road with large lorries on it, with a bi-directional cycleway on both sides of the road, each separated by a large grassed area.

It will move smoothly behind bus stops without any reduction in quality, and with clear crossing points for people using the bus stop.

A bus stop in Utrecht. The cycleway passes behind the bus stop, which is on a wide island next to the road.

At bridges and underpasses, the gradient will be smooth and the bridge will be wide. It will not be a poor compromise, but a consistent part of a high-quality network.

A bridge across a major road. To the left is a footway, and we can see the wide bi-directional cycleway. There are street lights too. To the right we can see a parallel railway bridge.

It will be reliable, available 24/7, well-maintained through all seasons – essentially, always there when needed. When it's not available, a safe alternative will be provided.

Smooth, wide red asphalt of a cycleway - which is only temporary, during roadworks
A temporary cycleway. Wide two-way cycleway separated from motor vehicles by heavy barriers.

It will be suitable for use by everyone, of every ability level, including young children…

Two young girls ride their bikes home from school on a smooth, wide, motor-free cycleway in the Netherlands.

…the elderly…

An elderly man uses a practical bicycle for transport in the Dutch countryside.

…fast riders…

Fast racing cyclists on a wide Dutch cycleway.

…and people with disabilities.

A wheelchair user rides on a Dutch cycleway.


If you'd like to use our photographs to promote high quality cycling infrastructure and require high-resolution images, please get in touch.

Photograph numbers 4, 7, 12, 15 and 16 courtesy of A View from the Cycle Path, which is where many of the links also point.


I just realised what's funny about the first photo. All three of them are "salmoning". i.e. going against the flow. That's a single-direction cycle-path and cyclists are supposed to use it in the opposite direction to that in which these three are travelling. There's an equally good cycle-path on the other side of the road which they should be using.

But this is itself a hallmark of good infrastructure. It doesn't become stressed even when people abuse it. As you approach they'll move over a little. Nothing nasty will happen. They'll carry on the hundred metres further that they need to travel to reach their school and their parents don't have to worry about them getting there are back safely.

Does anyone know what „smooth and over a long distance” exactly mean? I'd say that for 12 cm high kerb between a cycle path and a carriageway, 6 m long ramp is enough (making vertical curve radii of 75 m possible), but am I right? I couldn't find any recommendations for this, which is rather strange. What's for sure is that the answer lies somewhere in between the recommendation for roads with design speed of 30 km/h (300 m radius, 12 m long ramp would be needed) and speed humps designed for speed of 30 km/h (2,4 m long).

Dear User 1,

For all kind of normal ramps in traffic, the speed humps guidelines are OK.

If the difference in height becomes more than 0,5 m, rever to:

Ria Glas