Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Cycle Traffic

In October, without a huge amount of fanfare, a new Highways England ‘Standard’ was released, entitled ‘Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network’.

Importantly, this is not merely cycling design ‘guidance’. It sets out, quite explicitly, requirements for how cycle traffic should be designed for when it travels along, or crosses, or engages with, the Strategic Road Network (SRN), the roads administered by Highways England. Over the course of this week I’m going to look at this document – which has the unglamorous reference title ‘Interim Advice Note 195/16’ – in a series of posts. It’s 68 pages long, and there’s a large amount of important detail in it, so it’s worth examining thoroughly. It’s not completely perfect, it isn’t sexy or exciting in appearance, but, crucially, I think it raises the bar massively in terms of design quality, and in terms of user consideration.

Although IAN 195/16 does contain recommendations, and design advice, much of it sets out minimum standards and requirements – in particular, things like gradients, design speeds, widths, and so on – and states that designers to have to apply for a ‘Departure from Standards’ where they feel they cannot (or choose not to) meet those requirements.

The following definitions are used –

  • “Must”: is used in this document to denote a statutory obligation.
  • “Shall”: is used in this document to denote a requirement.
  • “Should”: is used in this document to denote a recommendation.

So in the very first paragraph of section 2, entitled ‘Cycle Traffic’,we have the passage

Highways England and designers shall plan to acquire land to create the space to accommodate cycle traffic as part of new scheme designs (see Section 1.3) or when enhancing cycling provision for existing routes with NMU prohibitions.

… the ‘shall’ here denotes a requirement – this is something designers have to do – they have to plan land acquisition, alongside new road schemes, to create cycle provision. Likewise (shortly after) –

Infrastructure shall provide sufficient capacity to accommodate growth in volumes of cycle traffic.

… is a requirement that cycleways should be wide enough to deal with future demand, not just the existing (greatly suppressed) levels of use. IAN 195/16 states that designers shall use planning guidance to account for future cycle traffic.

We then, pleasingly, have reference to these familiar five principles, explicitly taken from Dutch design guidance.


Note again the repeated use of the word ‘shall’ (requirement) here, rather than ‘should’ (recommendation).

After this IAN 195/16 moves swiftly to ‘Facility Selection’, based around one of the most significant tables in the document – a speed/volume separation requirement.


This is what designers have to do for cycle traffic on the SRN, without applying for a ‘Departure from Standards’.

Any vehicle flow above 5,000 vehicles per day, regardless of speed limit, requires physical separation of cycle traffic from motor traffic; any speed limit above 30mph also requires physical separation. Painted lanes or ‘quiet streets’ are only appropriate at 30mph or below and with motor vehicles flows below 5000 per day. (The document also notes that if actual speeds are higher than the posted speed limit, then that is the category of provision that should be considered).

This doesn’t quite match with the Space for Cycling requirement of >2000PCU/day and speed limits of >20mph both requiring physical separation. I suspect that painted lanes on a road carrying 5,000 vehicles a day and with a 30mph limit are not genuinely inclusive. Nevertheless it is a very good foundation, especially given that these are minimum requirements. Sharing (or ‘combined traffic’) is not appropriate above 30mph; nor is it appropriate above 5,000 vehicles per day.

We also have the important provision that ‘if actual speeds are higher than a speed limit, and are unlikely to reduce through control measures, then consider the next highest category of speed’ – i.e. cycle facilities should be appropriate to the speed that people are actually driving at, not simply matched to a (potentially unrealistic) speed limit.

Speed is also crucial when we are considering how cycling itself should be designed for. We have this important requirement –

Cycle traffic shall be separated from pedestrian and equestrian traffic in order to allow cyclists to travel at the design speed.

No shared use footways, in other words. The design speed being 30kph, or 18mph, on the flat, and 40kph (25mph) on downhill gradients of 3% or more –


Absolute minimums are permitted only under specific circumstances.

The type of vehicle that is being designed for is hugely important too, and it is really encouraging to see this kind of document putting non-standard cycles front and centre – these are, after all, the kind of vehicles (and users) that will be excluded from the network if it is not designed properly.

A handcycle is the first image we come to in this section

A handcycle is the first image we come to in this section.

The ‘Cycle Design Vehicle’ – i.e. the standard unit size that designers must account for – has dimensions given as 2.8m long, by 1.2m wide, accommodating things like tandems, longer cargo bikes, and bikes with trailers, as well as wider cycles like hand cycles and trikes. There are diagrams giving dimensions for these vehicles.

It’s also good to see things visibility envelopes (for stopping distances) taking account of different potential users too.


Finally, for this ‘introductory’ design basics segment of the document, we have stipulations on horizontal and vertical alignment, and on gradients.

‘A good horizontal alignment will not include diversions or fragmented facilities’ is a clear, concise way of stating that cycle provision should not meander, and should be straightforward and continuous. Changes in direction should be provided by ‘simple curves’ – because that is how people change direction, not at sudden right angles! – according to the following dimensions.


Similarly for vertical alignment, we have a stipulation that gradients (just as with horizontal direction) should not change dramatically – ‘For comfort, there shall be a minimum sag K value of 5.0’, where ‘K’ is essentially an expression of how quickly gradient changes over horizontal distance – the smaller the ‘K’, the more quickly gradient is changing.

Finally, stipulations for gradient ensure that steep slopes are never encountered, and that steeper gradients are only encountered for short periods.


If these criteria cannot be met, then ‘earthworks shall be provided’ or the ‘horizontal alignment adjusted’ to bring the gradient into line.

That’s a good place to end for now. The impression created from these initial paragraphs is, clearly, that the title of this document is quite deliberate. Cycles are indeed ‘Traffic’ and should be designed for accordingly, with just as much care as for motor vehicles on the road network.

In the next post we will look at what ‘Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network’ has to be say about cycle facilities in particular – how wide they should be, what form they should take, and the relationship they should have with the road network.

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30 Responses to Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Cycle Traffic

  1. M Schodorf says:

    Thanks for the concise rundown – this document definitely needs more press. I was alerted to the existence of the new IAN by a Ranty Highwayman tweet a few months back. I am currently working to integrate it into a new scheme I am working on, hoping for great things!

    Just one note on segregation by design speeds. As this document applies only to the SRN, it is unlikely to be applied to roads with speeds under 30mph. I believe there is a note in there somewhere that mentions most SRN roads will require segregated facilities. As a bonus, they also stipulate the minimum offset from the carriageway based on speed!

    The part I find even more exciting is junctions. They have a quite extensive section on what is required, even when minor roads meet the SRN. This is again all based on speed and average daily numbers of vehicles passing by, but it out and out says you have to have complete segregation of modes at high speed junctions with slip roads. In my mind, that is a biggie!

  2. Amy Burbidge says:

    I’m trying to use it now in comments on a planning application for major new warehouse park to south of junction 9 of the A14. We have required through planning policy that new devt must provide for ped/cycle connectivity to Kettering, which is to the north of the A14, and therefore must cross it. Policy doesn’t precsribe how or where, but developers are looking at taking ped/cycle crossing on new footways around the existing roundabout, with at grade crossings of the roundabout 2 lane entrances, which I think would be pretty terrifying to cross by bike/foot even with the “elephant foot” marking theys are proposing. Design does not reflect the requirements in the HE document (which I reckon are for grade separation or raised table or signalisation). Will be interesting to see what the HE and developer make of this as noone except me seems to be raising this new guidance. I suspect it will be a shock tpo the developer but would rather have that conversation now!

  3. Paul Mason says:

    Thanks, Mark, as always for doing the work for us. We in the Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group were aware of Interim Advice Note 195/16 but it is good to be reminded of it and have the salient points picked and commented on.

  4. Phil Jones says:

    Glad you like it! 🙂

  5. Paul Luton says:

    Now “all” we need it for this to become the official standard for all roads in the UK not just ones associated with the strategic network.

  6. rdrf says:

    Call me an old cynic, but I suspect plenty of Highway Authorities will duck out of their obligations unless there is a “must”, and that there may be plenty of succesful applications for “Departure from Standards”. However, that may just be me, and we can but see what happens.

    • CyclinginEdmontonfromtheEyesofaTeen says:

      They also need a process by which it’s publicly overseen and well reasoned why any application for departures from standards cannot be avoided.

    • Mark Williams says:

      Only applies to brand new trunk MOATs which weren’t already designed 20 years ago prior to Alistair Darling cancelling them on environmental grounds, but are now magically OK and currently being built. No obligatory retro-fitting to existing network AFAICT; [unfathomable?] cycling detours when `upgraded with new routes being provided’ (i.e. bypassed) for motoring; `alternative’ unfathomable cycle routes away from the SRN seemingly preferred in all cases and an obvious get-out clause in 2.1.1: simply prohibit cycling (e.g. A6/A14 Kettering), when all else fails :-(. No joining in with the happy, clappy from me until we establish this is not the poisoned chalice it appears to be…

      Predictions for how many megametres of cycle route this document shall apply to before being withdrawn and quietly forgotten? Will we be able to cycle onto Le Shuttle by that time, for example?

  7. Pingback: Cycle Traffic & the Strategic Road Network – Cycle Traffic (As Easy As Riding A Bike

  8. Bmblbzzz says:

    What is the difference between a requirement (“shall”) and a statutory obligation (“must”)? I would interpret it to mean only a “must” has to be complied with by law; in which case the “shall” becomes little more than a strong recommendation. You seem to interpret it differently. What am I missing or misunderstanding? Thanks!

    • Bmblbzzz says:

      To make that clearer: There is a legal requirement to fulfil a statutory obligation. What compels the relevant bodies to fulfil a requirement? Or are the requirements simply the details of the obligations?

  9. Bmblbzzz says:

    On the content of the “Interim Advice Note”, or at least what you’ve mentioned so far; it’s very pleasing that they’re taking into account tandems, cargo bikes, etc, and that there should be decent minimum radii and gradients. Although I do wonder about the gradients: there must be plenty of strategic routes with sections over 5%.

    • Phil Jones says:

      How would you have liked to word the gradient section? (Asking for a friend!)

      • Bmblbzzz says:

        I’m wondering how it is to be interpreted. How is a maximum gradient of 5% to be complied with in cases where the strategic route goes over a hill? In some cases there might be room to zig-zag (provide earthworks) or to choose an alternative route, but not in all, particularly in urban situations.

        • Andy R says:

          I think you are overestimating how steep (new) trunk roads actually are. From TD9/93 Highway Link Design;
          “4.2 Effects of Steep Gradients: In hilly terrain the adoption of gradients steeper than Desirable Maximum could make significant savings in construction or environmental costs, but would also result in higher user costs, ie by delays, fuel and accidents. Whilst on
          motorways the disbenefits associated with the consequently high traffic volumes indicate that 4% gradient should normally be regarded as the Absolute Maximum, on all purpose roads an economic assessment of the effects of adopting a steeper gradient should be carried out to determine the economic trade-off between construction/environmental cost savings and disbenefits to traffic (as shown in Annex 2). There is, however, a progressive decrease in safety with increasingly steeper gradients, and gradients steeper than 8% shall be considered as Departures from Standards”.
          So, 8% and you’re already applying for departures, which is a pain as it slows down the design process and is far from guaranteed to get through. For motorways that desirable maximum is only 3%, for Dual All-Purpose 4% and for Single All-Purpose 6%.

          • Bmblbzzz says:

            I’m thinking of the existing roads rather than new builds. For instance, there are some sections of the A38 heading south out of Bristol that are definitely over 5% and there is no space for earthworks without demolishing rather a lot of houses. In general, strategic routes take the flattest course so finding an alternative route is rarely going to be possible (and of course if it’s too far from the SRN, it won’t serve the same destinations; I’m thinking here of specific buildings, shops, workplaces, schools, as opposed to destinations in the sense of towns). To give a more ‘strategic’ example, Fish Hill on the A44 between Cheltenham and Oxford actually has an OS chevron, so is over 14%. That one probably has room for earthworks though they’d have to be substantial. It would be a shame to see relatively short sections of road used as an excuse to avoid building anything. But then does this Note apply to existing roads? Presumably not.

            • Andy R says:

              If an existing road or junction or other piece of trunk road infrastructure is being modified it will apply – I’m working on a couple of schemes right now.

              But I’m afraid there won’t be any Highways England project sponsors, or whatever the Managing Agent Contractors* are called thesedays, solely retrofitting cycling facilities just because this document exists.

              *Asset support contracts

            • Bmblbzzz says:

              Correction: Evesham, not Cheltenham.

  10. ambrosewhite says:

    Thanks as ever Mark for a useful summary so far. It may be helpful for readers if you could include a statement about who this document is aimed at and upon whom those requirements, statutory obligations etc fall upon.

    My understanding is more or less that the intended readership of this document and therefore the designers and sponsors directly affected are
    – Highways England, their consultants, or any other party designing and implementing new schemes on the Strategic Road Network owned and managed by Highways England.

    – Designers of new highways schemes not on the SRN may choose to consider, observe or meet these standards but are not obliged.

    Is that right?

    Will be interesting how this gets interpreted where the SRN and the local authority networks meet and what happens to the provision.

  11. Pingback: Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – ‘ | As Easy As Riding A Bike

  12. Markus Wagner says:

    This is a nice summary of the first part of the document. Having read the document in its entirety this evening with my legal academic hat, I have a a few questions that I hope you or others can shed light on.

    1. How far on either side of an SRN does the document apply? I am thinking of a situation that we have in Warwickshire where three crossings over the A46 will be redone in short order. All three will eventually feature larger roundabouts over the A46 (one is currently a single bridge with one lane each way, to be expanded to a three lane roundabout with a second bridge to be constructed) and I am wondering if you have any insight as to the application of the document on either side and if so how far (I would imagine that there has to be a distance approaching the SRN where this applies). Thoughts?

    2. The differentiation between must and shall is unclear to me. I agree with your understanding of “shall” being mandatory which is the usual way to interpret the word. The use of “must” throws a bit of a monkey wrench into this however as it is unclear what “shall” means at that point. I am tempted to ask the authors – if anyone has contact information, PM me at

    Would be grateful for any answers!


  13. Great work Mark.
    And thanks to Phil J, John Parking and the crew …(?)
    Given that Highways Authority officers frequently choose to use DMRB for everything its good that DMRB now includes this good guidance.
    It’ll be embarrassing for officers who now try to produce less good provision for roads which aren’t Trunk Roads, they surely will have to refer to ‘some’ standards? It would be illogical to have less good standards applied to roads which have the same characteristics yet are not designated as Trunk/SRN.

  14. Pingback: Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Junctions (1) | As Easy As Riding A Bike

  15. Pingback: Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Junctions (2) | As Easy As Riding A Bike

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