Motor Traffic Free Routes

Strategy behind the Standard

Motor traffic free routes away from the highway can form important links for everyday trips. They are attractive to those who prefer to avoid motor traffic. To achieve their full potential, off-highway routes need to be designed and maintained to a high level of quality, particularly in terms of surfacing, accessibility and lighting. They should be well maintained and kept free of leaf debris, snow and ice. It may be appropriate to design them as shared use paths, with an expectation that all users will take care but in some situations, such as busier commuter routes, it will be preferable to provide separation between pedestrians and cyclists.

Best Practice Guidance to be used by Essex Highways.

For best practice guidance on the design of motor traffic free routes, see Chapter 8 of the LTN 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design.

ECC Recommendations

Traffic free routes away from highways can include routes on disused railway lines, through parks and public open space, in canal and riverside towpaths and public rights of way.

Some key design considerations include:

  • With suitable widths and surface materials, off-highway routes can provide a high level of service for utility cycling;
  • Off-highway routes should be integrated with the wider network, with clear signing and properly constructed links between the off-road sections and the adjacent highways
  • On some routes, access points may be far apart and the alignment may be separated from its surroundings. This may lead to anti-social behaviour, crime and/ or fear of crime. Achieving a good level of social safety should be considered in the design process
  • For year-round utility cycling, a sealed surface is necessary and street lighting should be provided. Where the purpose of the route is primarily for leisure trips, these features may be less important. However, loose gravel surfaces can be difficult or inaccessible for people in wheelchairs and some types of adapted cycle

Motor traffic free routes are seen as desirable infrastructure where circumstances permit and should be used wherever appropriate, paying particular attention to the management of any user conflict. Careful consideration should be given to the way in which the needs of pedestrians and other users of the motor traffic free area are safely met in conjunction with those of people who cycle.

Maintenance of traffic free routes is an important consideration. They can quickly become unattractive or unusable when littered with broken glass or dumped refuse and should be included in routine cleansing operations.

Autumn leaf fall and subsequent leaf mould can be slippery and hazardous if not cleared. Unlike highways, there is no natural sweeping effect from the passage of cyclists and pedestrians. Where a traffic free route forms part of the local cycle network for utility trips it should be prioritised for snow and ice clearance.

Best Practice Examples in Essex

Bunny Walks, Chelmsford

Mill Ln., Maldon

Flitch Way, Braintree

The Wivenhoe Trail, Colchester

Internal Colleague Engagement

Whenever designing new or upgrading existing cycling infrastructure, ensure the following depts./teams are consulted: Maintenance, Asset Management, Network Assurance, Road Safety

How the Standard should be applied

The guidelines stated above should be used when designing any off-highway cycle route in Essex. Only in exceptional circumstances should there be a departure from the standards set above. This standard applies to any new motor traffic free routes created, and when reviewing an existing motor traffic free route which needs updating, if the benefits are deemed sufficient.