What colour should cycle paths be?

— We also need to talk about surface type and quality, not just colour.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: When the question is asked: What colour should cycle paths be, there’s often mixed views and a few people always say forget about the colour and focus on segregation.

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There’s one day left to vote in this Twitter poll from Robert Burns, Director of Infrastructure and Climate Change at Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council:

What are the different approaches now?

Denmark: Blue paint across major junctions and other conflict points.

Netherlands: Colouring at junctions is now seen as the minimum in the Netherlands. Best practice followed by the more cycling-friendly Dutch councils is for a red asphalt on their cycle network. Red asphalt is key here — it’s not a surface treatment, it is final layer of surface.

The colour is used to flow along cycle paths, bicycle streets etc, giving clarity and consistency — it’s not just for segregated areas. It can be used to signify a low-traffic street is a bicycle street or part of a cycle route. Also of note is that this is not a mandtory requirement at a national level, so, there are variations.

Ireland: Mostly red resin bound surfacing. Often dog rough and only at junctions — a lot of what was applied to surfaces in cities and towns around Ireland was so poorly done or not maintained that it has given red surfacing a bad name (when these issues can happen with any colour).

UK: Much like Ireland a mix of different treatments, including no colouring on some of the best routes.

A few questions and observations:

  • Do we need to pick a cycle path colour, any colour, and stick with it, nationally?
  • Do we need to start talking less about colour and more machine-laid asphalt rather than lower-quality tarmac?
  • If there are different colours at junctions in different places, does that diminish any possable safety of colouring at junctions?
  • If routes are blacktop and colouring put at junctions with resin bound surfacing, how do we insure quality?
  • Are buff surfaces fine for quick-build routes while not for permanent routes?
  • If buff is allowed on some routes, should there be red at junctions?
  • Is it confusing that buff colour is used for anti-skid surfacing on major roads, footpath buildouts and pedestrian streets, and also cycle paths?

A concept example of red surfacing throughout a cycle route in an Irish context with red cycle path flowing into a red bicycle street / low traffic street where cars are allowed for access, but it’s clear it’s part of the cycle route:


  1. I think having it consistent across the country is the most important thing.

    DLRCC are doing a great job generally, but I’d fault them for the fact they are using the same colour buff on cycle paths as they do on footpath build outs.

    As someone who is colour blind, the red doesn’t stand out to me very well particularly when wet. My preference would be for blue but it should be consistent so all cycle paths around the country would be the same, not leaving it up to individual councils to decide.

  2. I said in response to Robert on Twitter that the chosen colour must be distinguishable by colour-blind folks, particularly those driivers who have great trouble staying out of the marked lanes!

  3. Why are we still having this discussion? Red is the best not because Dutch use it but because you can make asphalt red with iron oxide. All other colors are simply paint which becomes quickly dirty from tire marks and eventually starts to peel off after a few seasons. Why are countries and cities trying to reinvent the wheel by presenting something unique but eventually flawed? Put the pride away and stop creating these subpar solutions to a problem that has already been solved.


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