Three Bicycle Infrastructure Manuals Inspired by the Dutch

"It's the Design Guide, Stupid!" wrote Lior Steinberg, co-founder of Humankind.city in a 2017 article comparing the North American (NACTO) and the Dutch (CROW) bicycle infrastructure design manuals.

"What people don't realize is that half a meter can be the difference between a stressful adventure and a great cycling experience. That's one of the differences that make so many Dutch people pick the bike when they need to go somewhere. Wide and safe infrastructure is what brings the masses – and not only the fanatics – to cycle."

You may also know Lior Steinberg and George Liu as co-instructors of the new online course Designing the Cycling City that explores the details of bicycle infrastructure design. The idea to create an online course came a few months back, when Lior and George had a delightful conversation about Chapter 5 of the CROW manual. While discussions and interviews are a great way to learn about a topic, they realized that no formal online curriculum exists to teach how to create great bicycle infrastructure!

A key takeaway from this conversation is that when it comes to cycling and urban design, it is the details that matter. Traffic engineers may not think twice about adding a 0.5m/2ft vehicle travel lane, but when it comes to bike lanes and sidewalks, this extra space can dramatically improve the cycling experience.

The second edition of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide suggests that the minimum requirement for a bike lane can be only 0.91m/3ft wide! Make no mistake: while a cyclist can certainly squeeze through, we should not be under the illusion this can be comfortable nor safe. Not to mention there is no room at all to escape a car door swinging open. The Dutch guide, on the other hand, mandates a minimum of almost double the width, at 1.7m/5.5ft. 

Minimum width of a bike lane, according to NACTO's Urban Bikeway Design Guide, 2nd edition. Illustration by Lior Steinberg from Humankind.city.

The good news is that newer bicycle infrastructure design manuals are taking their inspiration more from the Dutch and becoming more generous with their minimum and recommended standards. While the Dutch inspired ones below are free to access online, nothing beats the original, and in June 2020 we are offering a promotion to purchase the latest edition of the CROW Manual for Bicycle Traffic at half price!

  1. London Cycling Design Standards
  2. Massachusetts Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide
  3. NACTO Don't Give Up at the Intersection

Despite the hundreds of bicycle infrastructure manuals published around the world, those in the bicycle infrastructure community have been picking up knowledge ad-hoc from books, social media, and various sources on the internet such as the Dutch Cycling Embassy. Marco te Brömmelstroet and Meredith Glaser with University of Amsterdam and Urban Cycling Institute launched Planning the Cycling City, the world's first 3-week summer school in 2015. Melissa and Chris Bruntlett authored their book Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality in 2018. The Urban Cycling Institute launched its first online academic course Unraveling the Cycling City in January 2020, and to cover the practical details of bicycle infrastructure design, Humankind.city launched the Designing the Cycling City online course in June 2020.

To celebrate the discounted CROW Manual for Bicycle Traffic, the Urban Cycling Institute is remastering its YouTube livestream interviews to launch its first podcast season with its first eight episodes dedicated to a discussion of the eight chapters in the CROW manual.

Purchase your half price copy of the CROW Manual for Bicycle Traffic before the end of June!

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