A network contains many types of facilities, and the cyclists using it vary in age and cycling skills. Different cyclists have different needs and prefer different types of facilities. Before deciding what provision should be made for cyclists, it is necessary to understand clearly what cyclists need.

A New Zealand study into cyclists’ perceptions of cycling infrastructure levels of service was completed by WSP Opus in 2019 – see Research Report 660 Factors affecting cycling levels cycling levels of service

Should cycle facilities be provided on-road or off-road? Should they be provided on urban arterial roads, or should these roads be avoided? What provisions should be made for cycling in rural areas?

People choose to cycle for a range of reasons and these people have a wide range of abilities and needs. Satisfying the needs of people who cycle (or may wish to cycle) and providing a high level of service (LOS) for cycling are vital to maximising cycling. One type of cycle provision may not suit all people wanting to use a particular part of the cycle network. 

  • Types of people who cycle

    Often the term ‘cyclist’ is associated with people who cycle frequently, fast and assertively for competitive sports and/or long-distance commuting, often in challenging traffic environments. Many people who choose to cycle (or who would be interested in doing so under certain conditions) do not consider themselves ‘cyclists’ because they do not fit the stereotype (Koorey 2007). People who choose to cycle on certain occasions also drive, walk or use public transport at other times. Even the types of ‘cycle’ differ greatly – this could include bicycles, tricycles, e-bikes with a wide range of designs available for each. Because of this, it is important that cycle planning considers people beyond the traditional ‘cyclist’ stereotype and attempts to avoid using the term ‘cyclist’ where those negative connotations could arise. This is essential for achieving the wide public support necessary for cycleway projects to be delivered.

    Propensity and ability to cycle differ from person to person, and thus each person who cycles has different requirements. As a result, the ‘design cycle/cyclist’ is considerably more variable than the ‘design car’ applied in typical transportation planning. However, for the purpose of planning, it is necessary to make generalisations and define a particular ‘target audience’ (ie group of people for whom a route is intended to cater). There are a wide range of different methods that can be used to classify people who cycle into different potential target audience categories.

    Classification by risk tolerance

    One method of classifying cyclist types is the Geller (2009) method, which focuses on people’s willingness to cycle for transportation as a function of perceived safety of cycling conditions, ie risk tolerance. Unlike most traditional methods, which focus on existing cyclists, Geller’s method is based on an entire population (eg the inhabitants of a particular city) and includes people who don’t currently choose to cycle. Geller divides the general population into four types of people who cycle (or don’t) for transportation:

    An adaptation of Geller's original schematic which uses the proportions determined by Dill and McNeil (2012) is shown in the diagram below.

    While Geller’s original chart has defined boundaries between the four categories, this diagram uses gradual transitions between the colours of the different categories to reflect the fact that boundaries are not necessarily fixed; the model should be seen as a way of drawing lines to define groups within a continuum.

    The proportions of each group are not determined by the cycling provision currently available, rather they reflect the people who will cycle that will change as conditions improve or get worse. Proportions might vary according to local culture and other demographic factors, and it is not possible to clearly assign every person into one of the categories. It should also be noted that an individual may change over time, and become more confident over time through training or experience (ie move leftwards on the chart). Alternatively, an individual having or hearing about a bad cycling experience may become more risk-averse (ie move rightwards on the chart).

    Note that this categorisation was developed based on people who cycle for transportation purposes, but the concept (if not the proportions proposed) can also be applied to recreational cycling trips.

    Geller’s four types of cyclist are described below.

    Strong and fearless

    These people will choose to cycle regardless of the road and traffic conditions. They have usually learnt by long experience how best to interact assertively with traffic and have a low level of risk-aversion.

    The 'strong and fearless' should never be considered a suitable target audience, for planning and design of cycle networks. The subset comprises a very small proportion of the total population and, in any case, these people require little in terms of provision. Furthermore, well-designed routes and facilities should not require advanced skills to negotiate them. However, it may be necessary to consider how these people will react to certain changes to the road layout when provisions are made for another target audience.

    According to Dill and McNeil (2012) ‘strong and fearless’ people account for about 6% of the total population in the City of Portland.

    Enthused and confident

    These people will cycle on networks that provide little physical separation from motor traffic. They prefer to have some space on the roadway when roads are busy, either informally (e.g. wide kerbside lanes or shoulders) or formally (e.g. painted cycle lanes, advanced stop boxes) to choose to cycle. These people place a higher importance on directness and will therefore not generally divert far to choose a more attractive route such as an off-road path.

    According to Dill and McNeil (2012) ‘enthused and confident’ people account for about 9% of the total population in the City of Portland.

    Interested but concerned

    These people are, in principle at least, willing to cycle but wary of doing so in certain circumstances. According to Dill and McNeil (2012) a large majority in this group consider that they know how to cycle in traffic, yet these people often do not feel comfortable doing so; therefore they should not be considered as incompetent cyclists but rather risk-averse. In their research Dill and McNeil defines this group as those who are not ‘very comfortable’ on cycle lanes.

    Some ‘interested but concerned’ cyclists however feel ‘comfortable’ using on-road cycle lanes even on major urban roads. (Dill (2012) found that about 40% of this group were comfortable with cycle lanes on a major urban four-lane road with parking at 50–56 km/h). A majority of interested but concerned said they were comfortable with cycle lanes on a two-lane neighbourhood shopping street at 40–50 km/h, and nearly all were comfortable on quiet residential streets with no facilities at 30–40 km/h, but to provide facilities that would attract all of this group to cycle more, provide their preferred full separation from motor vehicles if travelling along busier roads and grade separation or traffic signals for crossing them.

    This group can include beginner adults and younger children. They may currently ride to school and shops and for recreation near their homes in local environments that feel safe for them. Some of them already ride for transport on occasions but are uncomfortable in their current riding environment.

    This category also includes people who do not currently choose to cycle at all because even their local environment does not feel safe enough for them.

    Where cycling strategic plans aim to maximise the number of people who choose to cycle, they focus on attracting a higher proportion of these interested but concerned cyclists. However, the planning process must also take into account how expensive and practical it may be to design all cycle facilities to the extent required by all interested but concerned cyclists. Cycle training can help to increase their confidence and reduce their level of concern.

    According to Dill and McNeil (2012) ‘interested but concerned’ people account for about 60% of the total population in the City of Portland.

    No way, no how

    Some people don’t choose to cycle for transport, regardless of infrastructure, road environment, or training provided. Some people in this category may, however, choose to cycle for recreation. The choice to not cycle for transport could be due to perceived practical constraints such as long distances, or the need to transport luggage or passengers. Some have physical limitations, others simply have a personal dislike of cycling that cannot be influenced. Planners are advised to not invest time or effort into this group.

    It is, however, important to understand these people in terms of their opinions towards people who cycle. Even though people in the ‘no way no how’ category will not cycle for transport themselves, if they see cycling as a benefit to the community and consider that people who cycle have a valid place on the transport network then they are more likely to interact well with cyclists on the network and be more supportive of cycling projects. Hence, the right public marketing/promotion is important.

    People in this group may eventually change their views over time as cycling becomes a more prominent and socially accepted activity, or as other external factors (eg fuel prices) change, or as solutions are found to some of the previous barriers (eg using e-bikes to travel longer distances, or cargo bikes to transport luggage).

    According to Dill and McNeil (2012) ‘no way, no how’ people account for about 25% of the total population in the City of Portland. Pettit and Dodge (2014), whilst having a different classification system, found that 76% of people in Wellington would cycle if safe, separate infrastructure were provided; this suggests that the equivalent ‘no way, no how’ bracket for Wellington is 24% of the population and accords well with the City of Portland findings (Dill and McNeil, 2012).

    Classification by skill levels

    Another way of categorising people who cycle is to group them according to their skill levels:

    This categorisation aligns roughly with Transport Agency cycle training grades. The BikeReady Cycle Skills Training guidelines(external link) (2018) gives more information on the competencies involved with the different skill level grades.

    Grade 1: novice

    This group includes children and beginner adults. Depending on their age, children have serious knowledge, perceptual and cognitive limitations in relation to roads (Crossing, 1987). They can be unpredictable, do not have a good appreciation of road hazards and are generally unfamiliar with road rules. However, children as young as eight may not pose as high a risk as adolescents as they have a reduced tendency for deliberate risk-taking behaviours.

    These cyclists most commonly ride to school and shops and for recreation near their homes. This local environment should be safe for them. They do not have the skills to safely interact with traffic. Essentially they can only comfortably ride in off-road environments and very quiet local streets. Before they commence on-road cycle training, beginners need basic bike handling skills, such as balancing and steering (including avoiding obstacles), stopping quickly and safely, looking behind, and indicating. Cycling strategic plans can aim to provide novice level training in schools, in preparation for on-road training.

    Grade 2: basic competence

    These people can ride on quieter two-lane roads, manoeuvre past parked cars, merge across one lane and turn right from beside the centreline. They can cope with simple traffic signals and single-lane roundabouts that are well designed to slow through traffic. On busier roads they prefer cycle lanes and facilities at junctions. They are not equipped to interact with faster traffic, multi-lane roads and multi-lane roundabouts. They usually lack the confidence to defend a lane in narrow situations.

    Children can achieve basic competence at about 10 years of age by undertaking Grade 2 of the cycle skills training course. Their utility trips generally extend further to intermediate and high schools.

    School-based Grade 2 training based on the Transport Agency guidelines is provided in many local bodies and may qualify for financial assistance from the Transport Agency. Some adult cycle training is also available in some centres.

    Grade 3: advanced

    People in this grade have developed advanced skills as a result of their riding experience.

    People with advanced skills, can ‘defend’ a lane (ie take up a vehicular cycling position) where there is not enough room to cycle side-by-side with motor vehicles, merge across faster multi-lane traffic, use multilane roundabouts in most cases (albeit somewhat apprehensively), and will not usually divert to a cycle path if it impedes their speed.

    Grade 3 cycle skills are not commonly available as official courses for groups. Grade 3 training may be considered in cycle planning for school students transitioning to high school or in workplace travel planning, specific to their environments. Grade 3 training does not currently cover the skills necessary to negotiate hilly routes.

    Which classification method to use

    Neither the Geller method for classifying risk tolerance, nor the cycle skill level classification is a perfect model; there are many different ways that cyclists could be classified. Planners may wish to adopt a different system of categorising cyclist sensitivity to perceived safety of cycling conditions. For example, Pettit and Dodge (2014) developed a model for Wellington City Council to assess readiness to cycle for people in different user type categories based on a variety of trip requirements. Ideally, a classification method should be based on people’s actual cycling experiences, as opposed to stated preference surveying which may not accurately reflect the decisions people make in reality. Note that the Geller method and subsequent investigations by Dill and McNeil (2012) were based on stated preference surveys.

    Some guides focus on facility characteristics and equate these to a very basic user description, often just a title, according to an increasing level of difficulty. For example, the NZ Cycle Trail Design Guide (MBIE, 2015) presents a system for grading on-road rural routes on a five-grade system ranging from ‘easiest’ to ‘expert’.

    The key message is that it is important to define a target audience so that subsequent planning and design steps will be appropriately suited to the intended users of a route or network. The classification system should be conducive to the goals set for the route or network provision. For example, Christchurch city has set a goal of developing a network of major cycle routes that can be comfortably traversed by an unaccompanied 10-year-old. Sustrans (2014) recommends ‘design should be attractive and comfortable for the less confident cyclist – a sensible 12-year-old or novice adult’.

    Classifying people according to willingness to cycle or risk tolerance is not mutually exclusive with classifying people according to training levels; there may be some correlation between the groups presented in Geller’s typology and the skill level categorisation. But it is also important to remember that some people who consider themselves competent at cycling in certain environments remain unwilling to do so, due to safety concerns. Geller’s model shows that the perception of safety is key. Training can be provided to help improve people’s competency and confidence for cycling. Cycle skills courses focus on equipping people to cycle on-road without any physical separation from traffic; however, while completing a course helps someone to become more competent at cycling, they may still feel concerned about doing so. Physically separated facilities may entice people to cycle in the first place, but will rarely be provided for the whole journey.

    For a network to be fit for cycling it should at least cater safely for people with a Grade 2 cycling competency as a minimum standard across the network (see Network scale and coverage in the Network planning considerations for an explanation of why every street is a cycling street). This also meets the preferred provision for enthused and confident people who cycle and will be somewhat comfortable for some of those who are interested but concerned. As well as the appropriate physical provisions, training to at least Grade 2 should also be provided to ensure safe operation. Kingham et al (2011b) identified the infrastructure most likely to attract people to start cycling, whilst the Geller typology was not employed at this stage, it could be considered that these people would be classed as ‘interested but concerned’.

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  • Cycle trip types

    For the purposes of cycle planning, it can also be useful to consider the types of trips that different cyclists make; these have two main purposes:

    • utility
    • recreation.

    Utility cycling involves making a journey for the main purpose of doing an activity at the journey's end, such as work, education or shopping.  That is, transportation to a specific destination is the key purpose of the trip.  Time is often an important consideration for people making these trips.

    Recreational cycling is done for the journey itself. Recreational cycling includes people riding for sports training, touring and simply for leisure. This category also includes children playing on their bikes near their homes or anyone making short trips within the neighbourhood.

    Cycling trips can be more finely grouped into five main types:

    Neighbourhood cycling

    Most neighbourhood cycling involves trips to local schools, amenities like parks and shops, and children playing on their bikes; they can therefore serve both of the main purposes of utility and leisure. Provision should therefore be based mostly around the needs of interested but concerned cyclists.

    Land Transport NZ (2007) gives guidance on the delivery of neighbourhood accessibility planning projects.

    Cycling speeds are typically lower than 15 km/h. However, it may still be necessary to cross busy roads to get to local destinations, and many potential destinations are situated along well trafficked arterial roads. 

    The highest priority of neighbourhood cycling provision is ensuring a safe environment for children and less confident cyclists in their local streets and around shops and schools. Mackie (2010) offers an evidence-based school travel planning toolkit to supplement existing processes.

    In general, people making neighbourhood cycle trips prefer:

    • safety
    • comfort and personal security
    • low traffic speeds and traffic volumes
    • a good separation from traffic when local destinations require them to travel on busy roads
    • minimal gradients
    • facilities for crossing busy roads, such as traffic signals
    • secure parking at destinations
    • good lighting for evening trips
    • screening from weather and wind integrated with the surrounding landscape design.

    Commuter cycling

    Most commuter trips are done by intermediate school or high school students and adults commuting to work or tertiary education. For the purpose of this guide ‘commuting’ trips include all utility trips, ie where people cycle for transportation rather than leisure purposes.

    Traditionally, commuter cyclists are the main users of the primary cycle network and provisions for commuter cycling have been those identified now as being appropriate for enthused and confident cyclists).  This involves trips predominantly on arterial roads or other primary cycle routes. Data from the New Zealand Travel Survey 2010/14 indicates the average trip length for cycling to work is about 4.5 km (Abley Transportation, 2016). Enthused and confident commuters generally ride at speeds of 20–30 km/h and most will choose a faster route at the expense of higher perceived safety, comfort and attractiveness. Interested but concerned riders, at least starting out, may choose to ride shorter trips and at a slower pace.

    It is important to note that designs based on ensuring the repeat business of current enthused and confident commuters may not attract new users with less confidence. If the intent is to encourage higher levels of commuter cycling, across-town cycle facilities should cater for interested but concerned cyclists of basic competence, while maintaining some provision suitable for the existing commuters.

    People undertaking commuter trips by cycle are likely to appreciate many of the following factors:

    • direct and coherent routes
    • minimal delays
    • facilities that give them their own space, possibly with physical separation from motor traffic at higher volumes and speeds
    • safe passage through intersections (either with an emphasis of not incurring extra delay in comparison with motor vehicles or by minimising conflict with motor vehicles)
    • facilities for changing clothes, lockers and showers
    • good lighting for evening trips
    • secure parking at or very close to destinations.

    Note that these preferences may be related to the particular target audience, for example, interested but concerned people are more likely to trade off directness to reduce risk.

    Sports cycling

    Cycling for sport is mostly undertaken by adults and teenagers who undertake on-road cycling or mountain biking for targeted exercise. Most children cycling for exercise would generally fall under the recreational trip type. Sports cyclists may travel at speeds higher than 30 km/h. They are enthused and confident cyclists (if not strong and fearless in many cases) who are prepared to claim their road space.

    People who cycle on-road for sport generally cycle long distances, mainly along urban arterial or rural roads, and may seek challenging terrain. They often travel in groups of two or more and sometimes like to ride two abreast. Those who use off-road mountain bike trails may also cycle on-road to get to the mountain bike tracks.

    In general, people cycling for sport prefer:

    • high-quality smooth sealed road surfaces free of debris (especially in the shoulders)
    • minimal delays
    • physically challenging routes and demanding gradients
    • generous road widths or, in rural areas, a continuous shoulder.

    Leisure cycling

    Leisure cyclists ride mainly for non-competitive recreation and place a high value on enjoying the experience; they are usually less constrained by time. The skill and experience of these people varies widely, and can influence the level of provision required for a particular facility.

    Popular destinations for leisurely cycle trips include routes along rivers, coasts and reserves, easy mountain bike tracks/paths, as well as attractive roads with low traffic volumes and speed.

    In general, people undertaking leisure cycle trips prefer:

    • routes that are pleasant, attractive and interesting
    • comfort
    • good surfaces (that may include well-maintained unsealed tracks)
    • minimal gradients
    • a high degree of safety and personal security
    • screening from weather and wind
    • parking and refreshment facilities where they stop for a break or to visit attractions on the journey.

    Touring cycling

    Touring cyclists travel long distances (typically between towns and other attractions), possibly carrying additional gear and provisions, and often travel in pairs or groups.  In comparison to recreational cyclists, who only undertake trips within a single day, touring cyclists’ trips away from home span multiple days; they may well stay in accommodation facilities along their routes, or some may camp along the route with equipment they’ve carried with them.

    Traditionally cycle tourists have been enthused and confident cyclists who are comfortable travelling on roads with no specific cycle facilities. However, opportunities for interested but concerned cyclists to participate in cycle touring are increasing and growing numbers of cycle tourists are combining roads with the more advanced off-road trails being provided. Many of the New Zealand Cycle Trail(external link) ‘Great Rides’ aim to cater for interested but concerned cyclists, whereas the connecting ‘Cycle Touring Routes’ are often on-road routes suitable only for enthused and confident cycle tourists.

    People undertaking touring trips by cycle prefer:

    • generous road side shoulders with high-quality road surfaces/lightly trafficked back roads
    • separation from heavy motor traffic
    • routes that are, or lead to, pleasant, attractive and interesting locations
    • rest areas – water, toilets, shelter
    • good surfaces (but can be unsealed)
    • route/wayfinding signage
    • opportunity to purchase food.

    Note that these preferences depend on the type of cyclist (ie within the target audience spectrum).

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  • General route requirements

    There are five main aspects that a network of cycle routes should provide[1]:

    Each individual cyclist has different expectations of a route, based on their ability and the reason for undertaking their trip. Thus the relative importance placed on the above factors varies from person to person. 


    Cycle routes should be safe, in terms of both actual and perceived safety. They should limit conflict between cyclists and others, and provide a good level of personal security.

    Safety issues for people who cycle gives a summary of the main actual safety issues based on analysis of crash records. Traffic speed and volume affect cyclists’safety. As these increase, it may be more desirable to separate cyclists from motorists. Elsewhere, reduced speed limits and/or traffic calming is an important safety measure. Safe provision at intersections and crossings is important.

    Public lighting and other features that improve personal safety are also crucial. Cyclists should always have available a convenient route that provides a high level of personal safety. Routes used at night should have lighting.

    Cyclists’ perceptions of a route’s safety are important. Appropriate infrastructure standards and design will help cyclists feel more secure. Note that perceived safety is the main factor used by Geller (2009) in defining the various types of cyclists according to their willingness to cycle.  At times, people’s perceptions of what is safe or unsafe may not align with the actual safety of a treatment, as identified by crash records. Multi-criteria analysis of provision for cycling and should consider perceived safety and actual safety separately.


    Cycling routes should be smooth, non-slip, well maintained and free of debris, and be designed to avoid complicated manoeuvres. The gradient of individual sections of a route and the cumulative amount of climbing over the route’s length will affect people’s levels of comfort differently, depending on their preferences and trip purposes.

    Separation from motor traffic has already been discussed as a safety factor; increasing distance from traffic noise and fumes also makes cycling more comfortable.

    Hot sun, rain and wind can discourage people from cycling. Measures to reduce their effects and make cycling more enjoyable include:

    • considering walls, embankments or suitable hedges next to paths, but being aware of maintaining public surveillance
    • paying attention to exposed paths near foreshores or ridges
    • providing shelter at critical destinations (Bach, 1992)
    • tree canopies providing shade and shelter over riding routes.


    Cycle routes should be direct, based on desire lines, and result in minimal delays door to door. Parking facilities should be in convenient locations.

    Indirect cycle routes or excessive delays and stops (eg at intersections and crossings) may lead cyclists to choose more direct routes with greater risk. CROW considers the distance of the straight line between an origin and a destination and suggests a route may be up to 20% longer.  Rendall et al (2012) found that 72% of utility trips studied were less than 10% longer than the shortest path (ie not a straight line, but an actual possible route within the network); further analysis of the data used suggest 90–95% of trips are less than 30% longer than the shortest path.   The people considered in this study would have likely fitted in the enthused and confident category. It could be expected that interested but concerned people would be willing to accept a greater deviation; a maximum of 20% compared to the shortest available route is suggested, but note that this target audience’s preference could change over time as their confidence grows.  

    Other route factors may also influence the acceptable level of deviation. For example, people are also more likely to accept higher deviations where the shortest route involves notable gradients, and a less direct but flatter route is available.


    CROW (2007) uses the term ‘cohesion’ in place of ‘coherence’. It identifies this as ‘the most elementary network requirement’ because it is concerned with ‘the extent to which cyclists can reach their destination.’ Coherent cycle networks link key potential origins and destinations, in a way that people know how they can complete their trip by cycle and what their options are.  If this isn’t obvious, people won’t be able to complete their trips by cycling.

    To be coherent, cycle routes should be continuous, intuitive and recognisable. People cycling and other road users should be able to recognise that this is a cycle route and identify where people are expected to cycle and what facilities are intended exclusively for cycling.  If the intention or direction of a cycling route is not entirely clear (especially with non-facility routes such as neighbourhood greenways), then route and destination signage and painted markings become more important.

    Coherence requires a consistent standard of provision throughout the network. National consistency (ie accordance with the principles and guidance offered in this Cycling network guidance) is also important so that the cycle networks of different localities across the country are coherent.

    Cycle routes need to be consistent with the needs of the types of cyclist and the trip purposes they are designed for.  If the provisions do not suit the intended users, the routes will be under-utilised and may even discourage people from choosing cycling on other routes. For example, if a route is promoted to attract the ‘interested but concerned’ but its design is not coherent with that audience’s needs, someone may have a bad experience on that route and choose not to persevere with cycling at all.

    All of the considerations outlined above are particularly critical at intersections, where it is generally more difficult to provide for cycling to an acceptable level, especially for a less-confident target audience.  If intersection treatments are not consistent with the provisions between intersections, routes are effectively severed and thus coherence is reduced. 


    Cycle routes should integrate with and complement their surroundings, look appealing and contribute in a positive way to a pleasant cycling experience.

    Natural features such as rivers, parks and coastlines, or designed features such as plantings, seats and public art, can add to the attractiveness of a route. Similarly, removing unattractive features such as debris, litter and graffiti or shielding unattractive environments such as busy roads or unappealing structures can improve attractiveness.

    [1] Based on CROW (2007), except CROW uses the term ‘cohesion’ rather than ‘coherence’. Sustrans (2014) also employs these principles.

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  • Level of service for cycling

    ‘Level of service’ (LoS) is a traffic engineering term that describes traffic quality as experienced by road users. It is a type of user satisfaction survey score. It is traditionally applied to motor traffic, where it is primarily concerned with delays and interruptions to traffic. However, when applied to cycling, this concept may be broader and other aspects, such as perception of safety, comfort and coherence, seem to be more important. To distinguish LoS for cycling from traditional LoS measurements it is sometimes also referred to as ‘level of stress’, ‘level of quality’, ‘bicycle compatibility’ and ‘bikeability’.

    The Geller method (see Types of people who cycle, above) as interpreted by Dill and McNeil (2012) effectively assesses people’s ‘level of comfort’ for cycling in different road environments. using stated preference methods, and is therefore focused on the perceived safety aspect. LoS for cyclists should gauge how well the general route requirements for cycling (safety, comfort, directness, coherence and attractiveness) are satisfied. These requirements can be rated individually or combined into a composite score. The ratings and weightings of these various criteria may vary from person to person. Also the same person may value delays quite differently depending on the purpose of the trip. Experience plays a smaller part than often appreciated. In the New Zealand Cycle for Science study, (Bezuidenhout, 2005) when people with varying levels of cycling experience and confidence rode through and rated many facilities, the less experienced rated facilities slightly more generously. A recent study in Atlanta compared cyclist LoS prediction methods with user ratings and found that there was little difference between the Geller target audiences in how they rated how ‘suitable’ facilities were for cycling. (LaMondia and Moore, 2015). In practice most LoS methods that are based on surveys of users as they experienced the environment, use the average scores and do not distinguish between trip type or target audience. The key connection between cyclist LoS and target audience is that facilities with higher levels of service will attract greater numbers of users, have more satisfied customers, and in particular facilities that feel safer will attract more of the interested but concerned audience.

    LoS can be evaluated for an existing facility by having a sample of people to ride through and rate the facility, preferably under different operating conditions. There are also methods for predicting cycling LoS based on design and operational characteristics. Available methods are discussed in Assessment methods.

    LoS for cyclists is at the heart of meeting the needs of users and should therefore be considered throughout the planning and design process. Having a good understanding of the factors that influence cyclists’ perceptions of a facility, and the attractiveness of the various options, from the start of the planning process can help to develop the right options in the right places and ensure value for money from investment. Level of service ratings are the basis of multi-criteria analyses for developing and rating route options, and some LoS methods include MCA like processes. Multi-criteria analysis methods for cycling facilities are described in the section on Route options selection. Note that a route’s characteristics, and therefore the LoS provided with respect to the five main requirements, will vary with the time of day. For example, traffic volumes are greater during peak periods, which can affect people’s perceptions of safety and the delays experienced. Lack of lighting may decrease a route’s LoS during hours of darkness because it is no longer as safe, comfortable or attractive. See Evaluating cycle route options and facility type for more about evaluating cycle route options (including alignment and facility type), including methods of gauging LoS.

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  • Summary

    Table 1 summarises the relevance of cyclists’ needs to cycle planning. It is necessarily broad and subjective, and individual cyclists will vary. Interpret the table with caution, and use your own judgement. Further discussion about the importance of complementary facilities can be found in Table 3: Relative importance of complementary facilities for different cycling trip types

    Table 1: The relative importance of network or route criteria to different cyclist groups


    Cycle trip type






    Base target audience for provision

    Interested but concerned

    Enthused and confident

    Enthused and confident

    Interested but concerned

    Enthused and confident

    Possible cycling objectives

    Transport or enjoyment near home 

    Transport to a destination   

    Physical challenge

    Enjoyment and exercise

    Enjoyment, sight-seeing and exercise



    Importance to base user, and additional benefit to be gained if target audience can be broadened


    Personal security

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    One blue bike and two extra orange bikes

    High degree of safety

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes and two extra orange bikes

    Two blue bikes and one extra orange bike

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes and two extra orange bikes


    Separation from busier/faster traffic

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Five blue bikes

    Two blue bikes and two extra orange bikes

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes and two extra orange bikes


    Screening from weather and wind

    Three blue bikes and one extra orange bike


    One blue bike and one extra orange bike

    Four orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes

    High-quality riding surfaces

    Four orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Five blue bikes

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes and one extra orange bike


    Direct routes

    Two orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Five blue bikes

    One blue bike

    Two orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    One blue bike

    Minimal delays

    Two orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Five blue bikes

    Five blue bikes

    Two orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes



    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Five blue bikes

    Four blue bikes

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Sign-posted; recognisable

    Two orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Three blue bikes and one extra orange bike

    Four blue bikes

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Five blue bikes


    Pleasant and interesting routes

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Two blue bikes and two extra orange bikes


    Two blue bikes

    Five orange bikes (interested but concerned)

    Five blue bikes


     One bike (low importance to user)

    Low importance to user

     Three bikes (moderate importance to user)

    Moderate importance to user

     Five bikes (high importance to user)

    High importance to user

    Orange bike

    Interested but concerned users

    Blue bike

    Enthused and confident users

    For example: 

    Three blue bikes and two extra orange bikes

    Indicates that the criterion is moderately important to an enthused and confident target audience (the base), but of high importance to an interested but concerned target audience and therefore more attention to this criterion would be needed if the planning intention is to broaden the target audience beyond the base provision. 

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