Cycle Design Speed

Strategy behind the Standard

This Strategy ensures there is consistent guidance on cycle design speed across all cycle schemes in order to maintain a good standard of safety for those who cycle.

  • Design speed defines how fast cyclists can travel along the route section without endangering their safety.
  • High design speed means shorter travel times, and therefore increases the competitiveness of cycling.
  • Consistent design speed reduces the need of braking and accelerating (comfort).
  • Even the users that cycle slower enjoy the benefits of high design speed: the good view of the route ahead gives ample advance time to make decisions (safety)

The design speed determines relevant aspects of horizontal and vertical geometry of cycle tracks.

Best Practice Guidance to be used by Essex Highways

The design speeds in Table 5-4 (taken from the LTN 1/20, shown below) should be used for cycle only tracks and for rural shared use facilities where there are few pedestrians – such routes should be designed as cycle tracks which pedestrians may lawfully use rather than a footway that can be cycled on.

Cycle traffic should preferably be separated from pedestrian and equestrian traffic to avoid conflict and allow cyclists to travel at a comfortable speed (see Chapter 6). Where cycling is on-carriageway, it is assumed that the geometry provided for motor traffic will be adequate to cater for all types of cycle.

LTN 1/20 Table 5-4: Design Speed for off-carriageway cycle routes

Circumstance Design Speed (kph) Absolute min design speed (kph)
General off-carriageway cycle tracks 30 20
Downhill gradients >3% 40 N/A

Stopping sight distances also need to be considered, which refer to the distances required for a rider to perceive, react and stop safely, as outlined below:

LTN 1/20 Table 5-5: Stopping sight distances

Design speed (kph)Minimum stopping sight
distance (m)

For further detailed guidance on design speeds and stopping sight distances, please refer to LTN 1/20 (chapters 5.6 and 5.7).

How the Standard should be applied

The guidelines stated above should be used when designing any cycle route in Essex. Only in exceptional circumstances should there be a departure from the standards set above.

This standard applies to any new cycle routes created, and when reviewing an existing cycle route which needs updating, if the benefits are deemed sufficient.