Cycling for Everyone
Cycling for Everyone

Cycling & Infrastructure

Riding a bike may seem like an easy activity. However, cycling as a means of transport in built environments requires a perfect balance between the cyclists, the public police for bikes, and the infrastructure. This balance is not obvious, because in each context there are different and many variations and combinations that create infinite situations. Therefore, the Dutch Cycling Embassy has gathered key factors in terms of infrastructure that have transferability and adaptability in diverse contexts. 

From safe and cohesive cycling networks to bike parking facilities design, the Dutch Cycling Embassy can provide you with the infrastructure and expertise information you need.

  • The Dutch CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic considers five basic design principles for network design: cohesion, directness, safety, comfort, and attractiveness. The key of those design principles is their transferability: they can be adapted to virtually any context!


    • Cohesion: Cycling as a means of transport means going by bike from anywhere to everywhere! A cohesive infrastructure ensures a uniformed network. These networks must consider multimodal transport. Thus, the grid of bike lanes has to reduce the number of crossings, and provide links and link alternatives among origins and destinations. 


    • Directness: In order to make the most efficient balance between distance and time, it is essential to minimize detours for cyclists. To achieve this, it is necessary to reduce bends, prioritize the cyclist in traffic lights, and make exclusive/separate bike lanes. The goals of these strategies are to reduce journey times and guarantee less physical effort, making cycling a competitive transport alternative. 


    • Safety: Good cycling infrastructure design must guarantee both social and road safety. It is necessary to reduce stress and the exposure to pollutants and noise to assure personal health on the road, and specially to attract new people that are interested in cycling, but still concerned and fearful of the conditions.  To achieve this, bike lanes work better when they are not parallel to main busy roads, but in neighborhood low speed streets. In addition, bike lanes that are physically separated from the roads will make cycling safer. To minimize the risk of collision, it is also crucial to build tunnels and bridges for intersections with busy traffic and high speed roads.


    • Comfort: Looking for comfort is a human instinct. The goal of cycling policy is to make cycling a pleasant experience. To address this, planners have to consider that cyclists are the starting point of the strategies and infrastructure: Normally, bikes have no suspension system, are human operated vehicles, and require a balancing act. To guarantee a comfortable situation, it is imperative to minimize stops and nuisances in the network. Also, it is essential to  make smooth pavements that reduce the vibration and height difference. And finally, to avoid the anxiety of getting lost and optimize the wayfinding, a good and intuitive signing system is necessary.  

    Attractiveness: It is well known that an aesthetically pleasant and good quality built environment boosts the cycling activity in an area. This consists of creating green and open areas, in which streets are quiet and well maintained. The presence of vegetation and water attracts cyclists. Therefore, it is imperative to avoid unpleasant conditions when planning infrastructure, such as congested and polluted streets that worsen the safety and health perception. Clips for 5 design principles

  • Not all roads lead to Amsterdam, but with such an advanced bicycle infrastructure, there are plenty of routes one can take to their destination! That is what network planning is about: dividing different modes and speeds into a variety of lanes, allowing people of all ages and abilities to reach their school, work, and place of leisure safely. Great cycling networks such as Delft´s were planned as a cohesive intersection of three grids according to length, speed, and purpose: (1) the Urban Network (grid mesh: 400- to 600-meters) for trip lengths of two- to three-kilometers. (2) the District Network (grid mesh: 200- to 300-meters) for trips of one- to two-kilometers. And (3) the Neighborhood Network (grid mesh: 100- to 150-meters for trips of 500-meters to one-kilometer. These grids are articulated with safe intersections and bicycle parking facilities.  Best practices: Network planning

  • “A network is as strong as the weakest link”, is probably the best way to describe the importance of intersections in cycle planning. You can build the best infrastructure in the world, but if it stops when cyclists approach the intersection, the entire journey becomes less safe and comfortable. Luckily, over the years Dutch designers have developed great examples of safely dealing with intersections. In the regular ones, where traffic lights are needed, two measures can be combined to create more capacity and flow at a junction without redesigning it completely. First, reducing the traffic islands in size which separate cyclists from motorized vehicles to create more space for waiting. Second, widen the crossing path for cyclists and thereby repaint the lines on the road towards the other side of the junction. 

    In unique situations, some intersections can be redesigned as roundabouts: Cyclists have separated infrastructure, pedestrians have separated foot paths, and the curve is large enough to serve cars, buses, and larger freight and service vehicles. To improve comfort, pedestrians and cyclists on roundabouts often have priority over cars. Roundabouts, if well planned, can require the same amount of space as regular four-arm junctions, although the crossings for pedestrians and cyclistsare much shorter. Best practices: Intersections design

  • When a bicycle journey ends, the most desirable situation is leaving your bike in a safe place. One can find bike racks all around Dutch cities, but with the growing number of cyclists, it never seems to be enough. In recent years, municipalities in the Netherlands are participating in an “arms race” of sorts: creating the biggest, smartest, and most innovative bicycle facilities, and companies can also be competitive players in offering parking facilities to their employees and customers.

    When planning and designing a bike parking facility, its safety, accessibility, and proximity to the destination are essential. In the Netherlands, most of the train stations, which are the final destination of a growing number of bike journeys, offer free indoor parking facilities. Also guarded facilities are free the first 24 hours.  The management of these facilities is a key element to its success. Best practices: Parking

  • As cycling becomes a more and more popular means of transportation, it is common to see commuters of larger distances. Thus, high standard bicycle paths reserved for fast and direct commuting over long distances are being built in the Netherlands and Europe. According to the European Cyclist’ Federation (ECF), criteria for fast cycling routes include: 

    • To  be at least five kilometers long .
    • Being separated both from motorized traffic and pedestrians.
    • Avoid frequent stops and steep climbs, and prioritize mild gradients.
    • Provide regular maintenance and services such as public lighting, service stations, etc. 

    The development of fast cycling routes comes at a time when urban centers are facing common challenges, such as congestion and pollution. Large urbanization problems force planners to find new alternatives and solutions. This coincides with new trends in the cycling sector, including e-bikes, public bike sharing, and goods delivery by cargo bikes. As more people cycle more often for longer distances, and with higher speed, this calls for an upgrade in cycling infrastructure: fast cycling routes. Reference to EFC

    Best practices: Cycle Highways

  • What happens when a cyclist arrives at an intersection? To which direction shall you turn? Left, or right? That’s exactly where good wayfinding systems come into play: signs, marks, and boards show cyclists their way, guiding the users along the route. The best wayfinding elements are so intuitive that you hardly notice them, but they help you get to your destination safely and comfortably. A good signing system is essential, as well as having a Numbered Junction Network. Recently, Bicycle Route Planner in mobile phones has become a good resource! Best practices: Wayfindng

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Portrait of Nout Ramaekers

Nout Ramaekers

Program Manager