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6. The hierarchy of cycle routes

As with all elements of the transport network, different sections of the cycle route network serve different functions, and carry different expectations in terms of the level of service provided to the user. In the same way that users of the motorway network or the main line railway expect a faster uninterrupted journey than those using a country lane or a branch line, there are sections of the cycle network where user expectation is for a quicker, reliable journey and those where a more leisurely trip is desired.

With this in mind, we have categorised all cycle routes into four types so that cyclists know what level of service to expect. Categories are based on current level and type of use, and the linkages to key employment sites, education facilities, services and transport interchanges. Local business networks and cycling interest groups attended workshops which helped to define the hierarchy of cycle routes as follows:

  1. Strategic 2. Major 3. Local 4. Rural
photo of strategic cycle route Photo of cyclists on major cycle route Cycle-3 Photo of rural cycle route
Route type Core Routes linking main settlements and areas of high employment/education Core leisure routes and routes linking the strategic network to secondary destinations Feeder routes within urban areas Rural feeder routes
Largely segregated network of cycle routes with separation from pedestrians where width allows. Predominantly off road routes, although some linking sections might be on road. Mix of on road routes often with cycle lanes/symbols and off road shared use links. Predominantly quiet on road routes without cycle lanes, with some off road paths.
Surface Sealed Surface Sealed Surface Generally surfaced routes Generally surfaced, but some routes may be unsurfaced
Lighting Lit within urban areas Lit within urban areas On road routes usually lit Not generally lit
Example routes Bristol and Bath Railway Path, Concorde Way A432 Downend, Filton Road Frenchay-UWE Brook Way Bradley Stoke, Mangotsfield Rd Staple Hill Avon Cycleway Thornbury-Yate, NCN 41 Severn Beach-Gloucestershire

The cycle route hierarchy will help the council with issues such as the allocation of resources for maintenance and improvement schemes, standards for cycle infrastructure, and the setting of design principles for each category of route. Strategic and Major routes will usually have priority when considering the allocation of future funding, however improvements to Local and Rural routes will also be considered, particularly where match funding becomes available or an urgent issue is identified. This is necessary in order to provide a realistic and affordable level of service and maintenance, and to enable the prioritisation of key routes both now and in the future. The hierarchy has been established using cycle counts, local knowledge and taking into consideration areas of importance and future growth. The current condition of existing cycle routes are being assessed and will help inform the future maintenance programme.

It is important to note that the standards to which we aspire are not always achievable due to constraints on the existing road and cycle network. The suitability of infrastructure will be decided on a case by case basis. The council’s maintenance regime is currently being reviewed as part of the Asset Management Plan review and will be reassessed to fit with priorities and standards within the newly proposed cycle route hierarchy.

The following map shows how the South Gloucestershire Cycle Network shown in section 3 looks geographically, highlighting how Strategic Cycle Routes are providing links between Enterprise and development areas. The map shows all currently identified Strategic and Major cycle routes, as well as key Rural routes which form sections of the National Cycle Network, and is intended to be a living document to be added to and amended over time, as new routes are identified and desire lines change.