London’s Cycling Design Standards: A Model for NYC?

As New York City begins fulfilling its commitment to build 200 miles of new bicycle lanes over the next three years, the question will increasingly arise: What kind of bike lane should go where? Currently, DOT seems not to have any set of guidelines to answer that question. So, take a look at how the City of London does it.

Transportation Alternatives’ bike program director Noah Budnick pointed me to the London Cycling Design Standards book. It is a remarkable document and, perhaps, a great model for New York City to follow.

The chart below can be found in Chapter 4, page 62. With vehicle volume on one axis and speed on the other, it establishes a general set of rules for when a street should have a physically-separated, "segregated" bike lane versus when bikes should mix with "calmed" motor vehicle traffic. Note that London has long-since stopped debating whether or not physically-separated bike lanes are a good and necessary thing.


  • First and Second Avenues on the East Side of Manhattan are clearly high speed, high volume upper right hand quadrant. Clearly a place for separated, protected bike lanes especially considering

    The reply from DOT through our very nice Community Assistance person was:

    “No, we’re not planning on adding striped (Class 2) lanes on First or Second Avenues. It is a recommended route (Class 3, signage only) at this point. The BRT initiative is definitely a factor.”

    I don’t think there are signs on Second Avenue except for the part that is the “Greenway Connector” between 63rd and 37th Streets.

    Frankly, First and Second Aveunes should not be a “recommended route” without protected or buffered bike lanes considering that the Queensboro Bridge (QBB) was cited as the worst cluster of cyclist fatalities in the DOT’s own report.

    There should be plenty of room for both BRT and bike lanes on these wide avenues. In fact in Paris, they combine the two. To do otherwise merely invites car traffic and creates traffic congestion at bottlenecks like the QBB.

  • The BRT initiative is definitely a factor.

    See, I don’t get that. Not to be negative or anything but, come on, there’s already a bike lane on 1st Ave intended for northbound traffic, and BRT is supposed to along the same route.

    Either they’re going to manage to have both on one street, or they’re going to remove the class 2 lane bike lane, which would be a step backwards.

    If they’re going to have both there, then why not both all the way (extend the bike lane) and why not both on 2nd Ave, too? 1st Ave’s not that different.

  • P

    Fascinating chart.

  • ddartley

    The chart makes it very clear that in London there has been deep, diligent thinking about all the various choices that can go into different cyclist accommodations.

    That diligence alone is a great example for NYC planners to follow.

  • Mary Beth Kelly

    I am the wife of Dr. Carl Henry Nacht. My husband and I were biking on the Hudson River Park bike path on June 22, when he was hit and killed by a tow truck.
    Thankyou for posting this news. It is just this kind of shift in thinking and,hopefully, legislation that TA and myself are aiming for here in NYC.
    Mary Beth Kelly

  • P

    Ms. Kelly-

    Thousands of people you’ve never met share your sorrow and I feel certain one legacy of your husband will be a safer city for cyclists and pedestrians. Thank you.

  • ddartley

    Ms. Kelly:

    It’s true; probably everyone who regularly reads this site remembers very well what happened. Thank you for addressing this community.

  • Greg Raisman

    First, Mary Beth, I am terribly sorry to hear about your loss. I read about your and your husband’s crash and felt terrible. I hope you and your family are healing well. Thank you very much for speaking up about the need to make our roads and trails safer.

    We have a lot of work to do.

    I hope it’s not rude, but I do have a question about the London Design Standards. There are some interesting ideas for designs and process in there. Has anyone seen anything on how London maintains the facilities once their built?

    I’m most curious about the curb-tight island on page 10 and the series of curb tight islands on page 12 of the Facilities chapter.

    Greg Raisman
    Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership
    Portland Office of Transportation
    greg (dot) raisman (at) pdxtrans (dot) org

  • Greg, I don’t work for London Transport but the cycle facilities that do exist in London are quite well maintained. How exactly, no clue. I’m just an average cyclist and daily commuter.Ironic that a New York blog points me in the direction of documentation on London I’ve never come across before. I have to say on paper it looks brilliant. The debate however seems to continue in practice.For the most part I can’t complain, but cycle paths do seem to mysteriously disappear into thin air. Personally I find because cities such as London and New York have an infrastructure designed for the motorist in mind, bike lanes become very difficult to incorporate where needed and wanted. Fostering a more respectful attitude between cyclists and motorists would do wonders to start with….and Ms. Kelly, you and your family will be in my prayers.

  • Greg Raisman

    I hear you, Ludwig. We struggle with those challenges in Portland as well. We use blue bike lanes in some of our higher conflict locations. However, it seems we’ll always struggle with pavement markings and signage that work for a bike lane through an intersection (challenges abound for communicating to both motorists and cyclists as well as maintenance issues).I also agree with you that the London facilities look very well maintained. Maintenance becomes a real issue in conversations about innovative items like the curb-tight islands. The Maintenance folks are concerned because they can’t get their street sweepers behind them.We continue to discuss how to manage through those issues. There are lots of factors. From an advocacy perspective — Why is it any different than having a parked car consistently there that you can’t sweep behind? From a Maintenance perspective — if we’re going to build something, we might as well figure out a sustainable way to take care of it. We haven’t found that middle ground yet on curb-tight islands. My impression is that they could hold some promise for many applications. Can we use them as non-drainage impacting curb extensions? Can we use them to create protected bike facilities like those in London? Can’t answer that until we find out how London or some other place takes care of theirs.Ludwig, You interested in moving a bit past "just an average cyclist and daily commuter" by doing a little sleuthing with our friends in London? How do they do it? How much does the equiptment cost necessary to pull it off? How much labor does it take?From my perspective, it’s answers to questions like these that can turn an "average cyclist" into a really powerful advocate.  

  • Jim

    My heart goes out to Ms. Kelly and her family for her loss. Dr. Nacht was my physician for the seven years I lived in New York, and it was he who originally told me of my HIV diagnosis in 1987. He was a wonderful, compassionate doctor and I still have his business card, even though I haven’t been his patient for 15 years.


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