Strategy behind the Standard

This is to ensure that there is consistent guidance across all cycle schemes which means that a good standard of safety for those who cycle is maintained.

Steep gradients can lead to high speeds for descending cyclists and low speeds for climbing cyclists which can create hazards for all users. At speeds less than 7mph the deviation to maintain balance on two wheels can increase by up to 0.8m. It is not uncommon for cyclists to travel this slowly on steeper uphill gradients and therefore they will require more space and separation from faster vehicles.

ECC Recommendations

Routes should avoid steep gradients wherever possible as uphill sections increase time, effort and discomfort. Unlike motor traffic, human physiology means that people can cycle steep gradients that are fairly short but are not capable of maintaining high levels of effort for longer distances. Where gradients cannot be avoided cycle routes should be designed in such a way that the steepness and maximum length of longitudinal gradients meets the requirements of Table 5-8 below.

Acceptable maximum Gradients:

Gradient % Desirable maximum length of gradient (m)

LTN 1/20: Chapter 5.9, Table 5-8

Where height differences at new build sites suggest longer lengths of gradients than those given in Table 5-8 earthworks designs should be adjusted or the horizontal alignment adjusted to limit the length or severity of the gradient. Level sections of 5.0m minimum length can be used between gradients to achieve compliance with Table 5-8.

Designers should carefully consider the combination of horizontal and vertical geometry where gradients are greater than 3%. Unguarded hazards (e.g. fixed objects, steep drops or water hazards) should not be permitted within 4.5m of the route where they would lie in the path of an out-of control cycle.

The surface material used on a route with a gradient should also be carefully considered. Unbound surfaces are more prone to erosion on gradients.

Best Practice Guidance to be used by Essex Highways.

For further guidance on gradient requirements, please see LTN 1/20 Chapter 5.9.

How the Standard should be applied

To ensure a more comfortable cycle, the directness of the route may need to be balanced with avoiding steep gradients. Cycle routes along existing roads and paths will usually have to follow the existing gradient although there may be opportunities for signed diversions onto alternative routes to avoid the steepest uphill gradients, or to reduce gradients through earthworks where sufficient space is available.

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 route created, and when reviewing an existing cycle route which needs updating, if the benefits are deemed sufficient.