Cycling infrastructure design principles: directness

A key concept of cycle-friendly infrastructure design is directness, described by CROW as a principle that “always offers the cyclist as direct a route as possible with detours kept to a minimum”.

Directness is about all the factors that determine journey time. The principle of directness is relevant to consider in a variety of situations. For example, in congested urban networks, bicycles could easily compete with cars: as such, planners who take this principle into account may reduce road users’ average commute and help promote bicycle use. So, what does this mean, and how can this principle be applied in practice?

Network design

The principle of directness is crucial to planning a network, as factors that could result in detours should be kept to a minimum. Taking this principle into account can also ensure a shorter journey for cyclists compared to motorists: by deliberately creating longer routes for cars by using measures such as one-way streets for cars, employing traffic calming measures such as bollards that halt cars but allow passage to cyclists, and by creating routes that may exclusively be used by cyclists and pedestrians.

Furthermore, at the intersection level, delays could be reduced by giving priority to cyclists (e.g. more “green time” for cyclists and pedestrians). Reducing these delays contributes to the directness at the intersection level and consequently to the directness of the network.

At the section level (between nodes or intersection), the principle of directness also plays a role. Designing for directness at the section level means to maintain directness in terms of distance and to avoid bendiness as much as possible. In practice, deviations often occur.

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Photo by Mikel Ortega, used under creative commons 2.0 license