What have London Cycling Design Standards ever done for you?

What, you may ask, did the London Cycle Design Standards (LCDS) ever do for you?

Not much - and that's exactly the problem. The last version of LCDS, published in 2005, was limited in scope, constrained by out-dated national regulations and often ignored. Even the simple stuff like building cycle-friendly speed humps rarely made it to the design stage.

Transport for London has published a draft edition which aims to bring Dutch or Danish quality of road design (a Mayoral commitment from the Love London Go Dutch campaign) to London streets. A full version of this review of LCC's response to the draft standards will be published in the next issue of London Cyclist magazine, free to members of London Cycling Campaign.

LCC's take on the new LCDS (currently at consultation stage) is a guarded welcome, but with a significant number of caveats (there are some two hundred comments in our detailed response). We certainly share the view expressed in LCDS that  "it will take consistent commitment to the quality and ambition of cycling infrastructure design to realise The Mayor's Vision for Cycling".

Very welcome is the new concept of a Cycling Level of Service measure - a system of grading cycling infrastructure against best practice standards. However, we would want the grading system to be cranked up a notch - most of our roads are a long wey below standard. The key principles are safety, directness, comfort, coherence , attractiveness and adaptability.

Eliminating red tape

The draft LCDS takes advantage changes in the national rules on signs and regulations and the plans to reduce red tape in the way new ideas can be tested and used. A  range of continental junction and street designs which, thus far, have been a rarity in the UK are included. You will find illustrations of Dutch style roundabouts with separated crossings for cyclists and pedestrians, Danish style two stage right turns, junctions with protective islands at each corner, cycle priority streets,  low level cyclist light signals and priority crossings that include a pedestrian zebra with an adjacent cycle crossing.

Eliminating left turn danger

An LCC member inspired design ('Hold the left turn') that reduces the danger of the infamous left-hook collision is also included (illustrated above) yet the draft document is not strong enough on how this and other innovations can be best used on London's main roads. Regrettably, as we say  in our response to the LCDS consultation, the design guide stops short of providing London planners and engineers with more detailed diagrams, dimensions and applications of the continental and other new designs. There are also junction solutions that are not included at present - the Dutch CROW infrastructure manual devotes 68 pages to the technical details of various junction treatments.

Coherent networks

Unlike the earlier edition of LCDS the new version allocates significant space to planning cycling networks. Practitioners are provided with guidance on creating a fine mesh of permeable street for cycle users as well as providing protected space on busy roads and removing barriers. The document also makes clear that consultation with stakeholders should take place at a meaningful stage in the design process, not after there is no scope for change.

Cycling Level of Service

The core element of LCDS is a Cycling Level of Service measure. It enables highway authorities to check the standard of provision for cyclists at present and to judge how various new measures could improve it. Heavy turning traffic at junctions, for example, is rated as 'critical,' some conflict as 'basic,' significant reduction of conflict as 'good' and elimination of conflict as 'highest.'

What LCDS describes as 'basic' would undoubtedly be labelled as 'inadequate' in Holland but the principle of rating provision for cycle users has merit. In Copenhagen the authorities go a step further, publishing an annual bicycle account.

Stronger guidance required

There is little doubt that LCDS 2014 is a step forward in UK cycle infrastructure design. With the benefit of consultation input and some revisions it could become the standard to beat in UK guidance.  Our full consultation response will be published shortly. These are the areas of the Draft Design Standards which need improving:

  • It needs to absolutely clear that these standards apply to all streets in London, not just to cycling schemes funded by the Mayor's Vision for Cycling programme
  • There should be guidance on how the Cycling Level of Service must be used to evaluate all traffic schemes and to create an area wide evaluation of what is needed to provide safe and inviting space for cycling.
  • Junctions and roundabouts - there is very little guidance of what junction to use where or why different choices might be made. Detailed drawings and dimensions are needed to help planners and engineers make informed choices.
  • Traffic signal innovations need much more detail. It needs to be clear that cyclist and pedestrian safety should be prioritised over theoretical estimates of motor traffic congestion.
  • A "green scramble" phase for cyclists and pedestrians as used in Netherlands is a quick and cost effective way of making difficult junctions safe for cycling
  • Construction detail is very weak, there is little on choices of materials or costs.
  • Traffic calming is dealt with briefly - there should be a full exposition of dozens of different types with advantages and disadvantages for cyclists.
  • There should be guidance on how the Cycling Level of Service must be used to evaluate all traffic schemes and to create an area wide evaluation of what is needed to provide safe and inviting space for cycling.
  • There is very little on wayfinding for cyclists. Cycling in London would be far more attractive if we could all find the best quiet routes.
  • The design standards should give clear guidance on how planners can move from the existing motor traffic dominated streets towards high quality, greener street environments.

See the draft London Cycling Design Standards on TfL's website.

Read the full consultation submission by LCC.