Improving cycling facilities through better signs?

First off; I am not going to open up a hornet’s nest regarding cyclists vs cars, suffice to say I am a firm advocate of improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists wherever we can. This article therefore is going to concentrate purely on the traffic signs aspect of cycle infrastructure design.

Traffic signs for cyclists are a mixed bag, I have to say. They did not appear in TSRGD until 1981, and seem to have been simply evolved from the existing signs for pedestrians (e.g. blue background and a white border/text). There is a small part of me that thinks this is a bit of a shame as it means the signs use the same colour conventions as used on motorways, but that’s probably another discussion entirely.

Likewise, you have to use the same regulatory and warning signs for general traffic as you do for cyclists, which can cause confusion if there is a parallel cycle track alongside a road warranting its own signs, for example the new Cycle Superhighways in London, or the Leeds to Bradford Superhighway.

I would really like to have the opportunity to be able to use scaled down signs for cycle tracks as a result. This is done in other countries; for instance in France:


The cycle track ends here and cyclists are made to rejoin the main road, I’m not going to comment on that arrangement; note however that the cycle track features scaled down road markings and signs as if it was a miniature road for cyclists in its own right. This has surely got more beneficial impact than a standard shared track with just paint or the occasional 2.3m high 600mm triangle. Picture from Google Street View – location: Neuville du Poitou, France.

Another issue that needs improved signing is where cycle tracks cross roads. It is currently rare that a cycle track takes priority across a side road, and as such there is not a formal method of signing it.

Some suggestions for improving signs where a cycle track takes priority over a side road at a junction. 

The left most sign shouldn’t be necessary in most circumstances, however there could well be situations where a parallel cycle track is very close to the main road meaning that turning traffic may need to stop suddenly. Ideally, there would be sufficient set back to avoid this, but one mitigation measure is of course extremely tight radii turning into the side road. Such designs are discussed in detail in other blogs so I shall not repeat that here.

The actual point where traffic is required to give way or stop (in exceptional circumstances, now of course possible under TSRGD 2016 and the relaxation of the requirement to seek site specific authorisation for Stop signs)  should also be explicit that there is a cycle track crossing. I have suggested a new sign for this scenario; it could be varied depending on which way cyclists are coming from.


This sign was trialled by me (under Regulation 53 of the TSRGD 2002) as a way to remind drivers on a relatively quick approach to a new signalised junction that there is a cycle lane to the left that crosses the path of a dedicated left turn lane. 

Left-hook collisions, along with the ‘door zone’, are the biggest threats cyclists face. In theory there should be no need for signs to warn drivers of these situations, but in practice drivers often neglect to check before moving left. It is likely to be fatal if the cyclist gets stuck alongside a HGV doing this.

The example cycle lane above caused concern with a Road Safety Auditor; given that the new length of road in question was subject to a 30 mph speed limit yet the alignment invites a higher speed. The risk of a left-hook collision was deemed to be high, particularly during the ‘bedding in’ period of the new road. As the sign designer on this scheme I was asked if there was anything we could do, given that construction was underway and there was no way to modify the carriageway. My suggestion was to trial the above sign during the ‘bedding in’ period; and the Safety Auditor was satisfied with this through the designer’s response.

In summary, cyclists are a vulnerable class of road user, and we need to ensure that we seek out ways to tailor our traffic sign system to ensure that these vulnerabilities are mitigated against and therefore cyclists do not face unacceptable risks whilst using the road.

*Regulation 53 allowed the provision of a temporary sign for traffic management purposes, provided that they remain in situ for no more than six months. As I left my role at the authority this example was from before the expiry of that period, I don’t believe the instruction to take down the sign has been given.

3 thoughts on “Improving cycling facilities through better signs?

  1. The utterly useless 25 mm x-height for cycling (and walking?) signs has spread from London to the rest of the country in TSRGD 2010/5/6 ☹. Same size as our local [supposedly plausibly unreadable/ studiously unseen] motor abandonment restriction plates have been for years! In my consultation response, I argued to make the range 40 mm–100 mm for cycle traffic citing draft chapter 2 of TSM. After all, if they can manage such enormous letters for ‘CYCLISTS REJOIN CARRIAGEWAY’ and its much unloved variant

    I also argued for authorising a [nearly complete] subset of rectangular & pointy general traffic signs—including use of colour, stacking, diagrams, arrows, panels, sub-signs, patches, etc.—with S24 symbol (bicycle rampant) if cycling-specific, rather than an inadequate obvious cut-and-shut of the walking/ horsing signs. I’d also be in favour of doing the equivalent for walking and horsing. It seems pointless to maintain a whole separate category of design; is doing so based on credible evidence? Elsewhere, I’ve made the same point about road markings, although not to DFT, as yet.

    There are a number of scaled down circular/ triangular sign types already permitted in UK and I do spot them in use. Is it not the full set, excluding motor speeding limits? Yes, they could be used more uniformly. But as for ‘opportunities’; sometimes you just have to create those yourself 😉.

    I think your proposals for cycle tracks across side roads can satisfactorily drop half the bicycle symbols. The left one by putting double-mitres at top and/ or bottom to indicate whether the cycle track is uni- or bi-directional—the line width already makes it clear that it is not part of the side road: thank goodness we kept that distinction 😂. The right hand two by putting both arrows (either optionally omitted as required) in a line at the top/ bottom; overall 1 SW narrower and 2 SW shorter.

    p.s. How could there possibly be a ‘hornet’s nest regarding cyclists vs cars’? Surely one is a living, breathing, human being with rights and the other is just an inanimate, if fetishised, manufactured artefact 😈? There are rumours that some cyclists even own motor car(s), but not vice versa!


    1. Some far-too-small (300 mm?) cycling signs in action—400 mm better and Vienna convention compliant. Still mounted a bit high up for my liking as well and the surfacing colours are totally wrong; should be always red for cycling, skating & mobility scootering and light grey blocks for walking, or anything other than black/ red if it really must be asphalt… Motor traffic lights are completely unnecessary sans motorists. Also, note the conspicuous absence of mini-Hoare-Belisha beacons and zigzags on the Hamburger junction!


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