Assessing the quality of cycling provision - an audit tool for campaigners

We all know that British cycling infrastructure is - very often - not up to scratch. It's unsafe, or unattractive, or it involves excessive delay, or diversion, or simply doesn't make sense. Or all of the above.

But can we really say how bad, or how good, it is? Up until now, it's been quite difficult for the average cycle campaigner, without many tools at his or her disposal, to make an objective assessment of the quality of a cycle route, or a cycle network.

Happily, that now appears to be changing. This year we have seen simple audit tools appearing - based on Dutch guidance - that allow cycling campaigners to score cycle routes on a step-by-step basis. These audit tools can identify flaws, issues and problems, showing how routes can be improved, and they also provide a numerical assessment of the quality of a route. 

The Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) assessment tool is included within Transport for London's new (draft) London Cycling Design Standards, in Chapter 2 [pdf]. 

And there is a similar tool in the Welsh Active Travel Design Guidance. The Cycling Route Audit Tool can be found in Appendix B [pdf]. 

These audit tools are very similar. Both employ the  5 core criteria of the Dutch approach - Safety, Coherence, Directness, Comfort and Attractiveness - and both award scores for the route under consideration, for various aspects of these criteria.

TfL's CLoS tool gives a final score out of 100; the Welsh Cycling Route Audit Tool gives a score out of 50. The TfL tool covers junctions and links, while the Welsh tool is aimed more specifically at link-based provision, with a separate assessment for junctions included in the Guidance. (Another difference is that the TfL tool includes 'Adaptability' in its assessment - which might be useful for engineers and planners, but isn't something campaigners should really be considering in assessing the quality of a scheme, from a user perspective).

Although the tools are similar, I haven't used the TfL version, but have used the Welsh Audit Tool recently, to audit a cycle route. I found it really useful and straightforward. All of the criteria can be easily ranked by a layperson - with perhaps the exception of assessing 85th percentile vehicle speeds - and you get a nice straightfoward score at the end of the process. 

The cycle route I audited scored 24.5 out of 50. This sounds acceptable, but the Welsh Guidance suggests that any route that scores below a threshold of 35 is not fit for inclusion in a cycle network, or to even be labelled as a cycle route! So this is a clear way of assessing whether cycle provision is even fit for purpose. Likewise, if a cycle route gets a 'critical' ranking on a single criteria, it isn't fit for inclusion in a network.

There are 25 separate criteria, each awared a score of zero, one or two, with clear guidance (and helpful hints) on how each criteria should be scored. 

For instance, under 'Directness', 'Distance' of the route is ranked according to the 'deviation factor' from a straight line - a deviation of more than 40% scores zero, between 20 and 40% scores 1, and under 20% scores 2. Another example - under 'Safety', a criteria is 'avoid high motor traffic volumes where cyclists are sharing the carriageway', again with clear information on the score to be awarded, based on the volume of motor traffic. An on-road route with more than 1000 vehicles per hour scores zero, for instance.

The end result is a clear, objective assessment of what your council might be claiming is a 'cycle route' - with the added benefit of specific information on how that route is failing, and what can and should be done to bring it up to standard. 

And you can do it yourself - without relying on experts!

We'll certainly keep an eye on these tools; and if you used CLoS or the Welsh equivalent to score your infrastructure - whether that's simply for fun or to lobby your council - please share the results for discussion in the forum.


The tools look very good and useful and I would like to use them for routes in Leeds but can someone save me a lot of cutting and pasting and formatting by supplying the original excel versions?




I am going to use these audit tools on a before/after basis for some newly proposed routes in Preston.

Agree, Excel format would be better but I'll give it a go...


CTC RtR Preston

CTC Right to Ride - Preston

Graham and Neil,
i spent the time copying and pasting to make a working xls-tool.
Need someone to proof-read before handing it out.
lg roland

Those who find these tools interesting may want to support this geovation idea - to take the audit tools and turn them into an easy to use website or app

AKA TownMouse

See Appendix B of Design Guidance Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013

It's good to see a tool to analyse the quality of cycle routes using criteria which are appropriate to many situations. It provides a chance to compare routes and networks across UK and abroad.

I've some comments about the details:

  1. Cohesion - Density of network. This is largely an attribute of the network. So it's not a very useful indicator for a route which is the first serious attempt at reasonable quality within a existing network of poor quality (e.g. one almost entirely shared with motor traffic).
  2. Directness - Distance. The scoring is reversed! Deviations <20% are good!
  3. Safety - speed difference. I think the motor traffic speeds for sections of shared carriageway are roughly correct. But where cyclists must cross the path of motorists, more or less simultaneously, the speeds need to be a lot lower. Speeds over 20 mph as red, 15 mph amber, 10 mph green?
  4. Safety - traffic volumes. I assume that whether or not there are painted cycle lanes is irrelevant?
  5. Safety - risk of collision. Side road junctions. How frequent is frequent/infrequent (x per km)?
  6. Comfort - surface quality. Add tram lines. Add kerbs with excessive up-stand (>10mm when approaching direct-on, even less if approaching at a smaller angle).
  7. Attractiveness - Isolation. Surely only applies in urban situations?
  8. Attractiveness - Street clutter. "End of Cycle Route" signs present (or should that be under Comfort - way-finding, as such signs only produce confusion)