Bicycle street

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A ‘bicycle street’ or ‘cycle street’ is a type of low-traffic street or road where car access is maintained, but the main priority on the carriageway is bicycles, not motor vehicles.

In a number of countries, including Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands mark these streets with “cars are guest signs”. These signs have legal backing in Belgium and Germany, but not in the Netherlands. has talked to traffic planners and engineers in a number of cycling-friendly Dutch cities and towns, and recurring themes are raised by experts. They say that bicycle streets don’t always work and they stress that care is needed to get streets to function in a way where cycling is safe and attractive.

IMAGE: While different countries use different signs for bicycle streets, this is the suggested sign as a possible modification to UN 1968 Convention on Road Signs and Signals.

Two of the key elements to successful bicycle streets are (1) limiting through motor traffic, and (2) traffic calming for the remaining traffic.

Bicycle streets might not work well because a street is too long and straight, or due to not enough measures being put in place to reduce or calm motor traffic, or just because there is too much loading and car parking activity, ie beside a row of shops.

The design of bicycle streets varies widely — in some cases due to experimentation, city-level context or fitting the individual street.

Example street: Leidseweg, Utrecht

Here’s a short clip of Leidseweg, a bicycle street in Utrecht:

Leidseweg — which runs northeast to southwest in the below map — can be seen here in the context of other combinations of bicycle streets and cycle paths in the same area:

Green lines = cycle paths
Yellow lines = bicycle streets

It’s worth saying that bicycle streets are not a solution on their own, and that, just like cycle paths and filters etc, these are all tools in the designer’s and planner’s toolbox.

This map is simplified and only shows the main routes which are being focused on (green lines = cycle paths, and yellow lines = bicycle streets) and the context of the cycle paths on the main routes around the area (purple lines = cycle paths on surrounding main roads). There are many other elements of the network of cycle routes and traffic calming measures which are not shown.

A layer of measures traffic calming and reduction measures support the bicycle street:

And, yet another layer is traffic circulation planning — we already outlined the bollard locations on Leidseweg above (now shown with red Xs here). An extra tool to limit traffic flow is making these residential streets one-way for cars.

In this situation, the two bridges which are marked below with blue circles are also width-restricted and all street users mix on the bridges, which limits car throughput. An extra move might be to make them for walking and cycling only.

A selection of Dutch bicycle streets: