Cycling infra design principles: cohesion

One of the principles of cycle-friendly infrastructure design is cohesion, which CROW has argued should “form a cohesive whole and link all origins and destinations that cyclists may have”. So, what does this mean and how should this principle be applied in practice?

Cohesion is about the possibility of getting somewhere by bicycle, whether it is a single-mode trip by bicycle or a multi-modal trip that involves using a bicycle to access public transport hubs.

Let’s start with single mode trips.


Imagine a short trip from home to friends elsewhere in town or venturing on a short trip for fun. On each trip, your route will take you from your residential street to somewhat busier roads. You might be cycling in mixed traffic and on (off-road) cycle paths and/or lanes. Cohesion is about connecting all these elements and ensuring that a door-to-door trip is possible by using your bicycle. Therefore, considering cohesion is essential when planning the bicycle network, either within each hierarchical level in the network or between the individual levels. Such planning guarantees that sections and lanes remain connected without missing links and that the lower level networks (e.g. local streets) are linked to the main network (feeder functions).

Grid size

Another important element that determines the ‘cohesiveness’ of a network is grid size, which can be defined as the distance between parallel connections. A grid size of 300-500m is usually the right choice within built-up areas, which offers a balance between providing sufficient choices and route alternatives without either lengthening the trip or reducing the number of crossings. Grids that are too small, for example, often have too many crossings and interconnections, which in turn affects user comfort.

Connections with other networks

Besides the cohesion of the bicycle network itself, cohesion with networks of other modes of transportation is also important, especially when it comes to public transport networks. The bicycle is – or could be – an important means of transportation to access railway stations. In the Netherlands, 40% of all railway passengers use their bicycles to travel to station by bicycle. When the bicycle network is well-connected to the network such benefits can become manifest.

Another issue to consider is the harmonisation with pedestrian networks, e.g. facilitating cyclists to access urban centres where they can park their bicycles and continue their journey in pedestrianised areas. Maintaining separate networks for both cyclists and pedestrians contributes to safety by minimising potential conflicts.

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Photo by Grant Barclay, used under Creative Commons 2.0 license