Guides and Standards Overview

There's an awful lot of guidance out there on building for cycling, and actually quite a few tools for campaigners and those interested in supporting engineers and councils, to look at. This week's round-up is an attempt to gather a reasonably comprehensive list of the things we know about. (We'll also try to tell you all the acronyms, as these pop up in discussions a lot.)

Design Guides

The main, most current UK design guide is Transport for London's LCDS - the London Cycle Design Standards(link is external). available as part of TfL's streets toolkit(link is external). The LCDS is long, comprehensive, and super useful, but will take you a while to get through.

The Department for Transport has issued the Manual for Streets (MfS(link is external) and MfS2(link is external)) though this is much broader than just providing for cycling - many would argue it doesn’t do a good job on the cycling, anyway. You can also check out the infamous LTN 2/08(link is external) (LTN means ‘Local Transport Note’) on their website about cycle infrastructure design. Finally, the DfT hosts DMRB - the Design Manual for Bridges and Roads(link is external), which is superbly geeky and occasionally useful (and, we understand, due for an upgrade soon). Local authority engineers and planners tend to jump from manual to manual, seemingly depending on whatever suits their situation best. For example, the DMRB is ranking highest, whereas the LTN2/08 for example is only guidance and can be more easily dismissed. The technical details in all of these design documents can be interpreted in many ways.

CycleNation has led a coalition of groups to produce the ‘Making Space for Cycling’(link is external) guide, available both as web pages, and as a PDF(link is external). Sustrans, meanwhile, has created its own ‘Route Design Resources’ page here(link is external), with a couple of sections on cycling. Although over a year old, the guide on cycling for junctions and crossings(link is external) is still in draft form, though given the amount it seems to talk about painted cycle lanes as if they’re a good universal solution, some might argue that’s how it should stay …

If you want to go straight to the Holy Grail of the Promised Pedal Land, then you should call the Dutch, find €93 +VAT and postage and buy the CROW manual(link is external). Don’t rush though - we understand this is due for an update very soon indeed.

South-east Scotland has its own guidance - Cycling Infrastructure: Design Guidance and Best Practice (PDF link(link is external)), and Transport Scotland has “Cycling By Design (PDF)(link is external)” Edinburgh has a 2000 document called “Cycle Friendly Design Guide (PDF)(link is external)”, but there’s sadly nothing friendly about some of the crap designs in it.

Manchester has newer (2014) guidance: Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) “Cycling Design Guidance (PDF)(link is external)” and the archive site for Cycling England has a lot of documentation of a certain vintage, here(link is external). A lot of the Cycling England content is also available via the Cycling Embassy website, here.

Wales has a very good document in  Active Travel Wales(link is external), while Ireland’s National Cycle Manual is also online, if you want to know what happens in nearby, car-obsessed islands ... The US has a group called NACTO, who have their own guides(link is external), and there’s 2010’s “PRESTO Cycling Policy Guide (PDF)(link is external)”, put together by a consortium of European groups,

Cambridge Cycling Campaign, which has been involved in some of the documents described above, has its own (now a bit old) page of links, including a useful guide to cycle parking(link is external) which is Cambridge specific, and hasn’t been entirely superseded by LCDS guidelines.

Almere Consulting’s Tom Bailey has also produced an excellent guide called “I’d love to cycle there: planning for active travel”(link is external) (PDF).

Ipswich Borough Council have adopted their own Cycling Strategy SPD(link is external), which is primarily aimed at new developments, and changes to current infrastructure on the rare occasions money becomes available. This was partly produced due to the lack of detail in the Suffolk Cycling Strategy(link is external) by the highways authority, Suffolk County Council.

In Newcastle, newcycling is campaigning for the city council to adopt LCDS as a stopgap measure for inconsistent council designs. Newcycling also lobbies their council for a Strategic Cycle Network to be adopted into planning policy.

The question we have been asking ourselves: why are there so many design documents out there? Some better, some worse. The Cycling Embassy campaigns for one document, a binding standard, to be adopted throughout the whole of Great Britain. The essence of what that document would look like, we believe, is found in the Dutch CROW, especially the Sustainable Safety principle. We believe a national standard is the way forward. It would do away with the local guesswork, chopping and choosing. It would mean that road layouts look similar and feel safe everywhere for cycling.


There are some great tools out there, too. Like Streetmix(link is external), which lets you see how a street can look with different types of allocation, from turning lanes, to bus lanes, to proper cycle lanes. Other things you might hear about include “CLoS’ and ‘CEAT’. The CLoS - Cycling Level of Service - audit is available from TfL and is described in this PDF(link is external). There’s a handy spreadsheet hosted by London Cycling(link is external), which you can use to complete it, when you need a clear view of whether a route is fit for purpose, and why not. The same manual(link is external) (PDF) contains a ‘Junction Assessment Tool’ (JAT) The “Cycling Environment Assessment Tool” - CEAT(link is external) - has been built by CycleNation, and allows you to put in clear data about a route, to understand whether it’s likely to be used for cycling.

And the World Health Organisation has HEAT - the Health Economic Assessment Tool(link is external), which allows you to look at the health benefits of walking and cycling.

In Summary

The most important ones are, we think:

CROW - CROW manual(link is external)

LCDS - London Cycle Design Standards London Cycle Design Standards(link is external)

S4C - Space for Cycling - Making Space for Cycling(link is external)

And then …

MfS - Manual for Streets MfS(link is external)

DMRB - Design Manual for Bridges and Roads(link is external)

LTN 2/08 - Local Transport Note LTN 2/08(link is external)

Finally …

We at the Cycling Embassy are trialling ‘Slack(link is external)’ as a tool for collaboration. If you’d like to join our Slack, drop me an email on sends e-mail) from the email you want to use.

And really finally, if you want some useful cartoons, Dave Walker has some great ones at Cycling Cartoons(link is external), and Lizzie(link is external) had the pithiest analysis of how to decide if a piece of infrastructure is up to standard: “Would my Mum be happy to cycle here?(link is external)”