Thinking about Cycle Highways

Cities around the world are building cycle highways to encourage sustainable inter-urban transport using bicycles, e-bikes, and other forms of motorized two-wheelers. Along with providing fast, direct, and safe infrastructure, the urban design of cycle highway environments can affect the user’s temporal, sensory, and social experience of movement.

 Image Credit: Hamilton-Baillie, B. (2004). Urban design: Why don’t we do it in the road? Modifying traffic behavior through legible urban design. Journal of Urban Technology, 11(1), 43–62. https://doi.org/10.1080/1063073042000341970

Image Credit: Hamilton-Baillie, B. (2004). Urban design: Why don’t we do it in the road? Modifying traffic behavior through legible urban design. Journal of Urban Technology, 11(1), 43–62. https://doi.org/10.1080/1063073042000341970

The term “cycle (super)highways” is used to describe high-quality cycling routes. However, thinking about cycling infrastructure as highways may indicate an underlying vehicular approach to bicycle infrastructure design. If the goal of cycle highways is to be delightful for the cyclist, then the uniform, predictable, and regulated engineering of highway environments should be balanced with the diverse, vibrant, and human-scale design of pedestrian environments. Recognizing this, the Dutch now use the term “fast bicycle routes” to describe their system of long distance bicycle infrastructure.


Given the direct exposure of cyclists to their environment, the design of bicycle highways should consider the experiential perspective of the cyclists as primary users of the cycle highways while using urban design concepts to create delightful high quality cycle routes.

Cover Photo Credit: Matthew Pinder