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Prioritising cycle network implementation is more an art than a science.

This section discusses possible approach to determining the order in which the network will be developed.

  • Level of service/cycle review
    Description

    Priority could be assigned to treating sections of routes that have the worst level of service (LOS), or to projects that provide the most LOS improvement.

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  • Existing usage
    Description

    This approach assigns priorities to existing routes with the most people already cycling, which can be based on counts at peak times. Good cycle count volumes can make it easier to generate good benefit-cost ratios. 

    It is important to predict the amount of use a route is likely to experience in the future – new provisions, especially those aimed at a broader target audience, can influence a significant increase in user volumes.

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  • Forecasted demand
    Description

    New provisions, especially those aimed at a broader target audience, can influence a significant increase in user volumes. Thus, instead of simply observing existing demand along certain routes, it is usually more appropriate to predict the amount of use likely to be experienced in the future.

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  • Crash records
    Description

    This method assigns priorities according to the crash cost savings that can be achieved, ie the routes with the greatest crash problems will be addressed first. This could include a measure of exposure, eg crashes per cycle volumes.

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  • Blockage removal
    Description

    Priority is assigned to projects where removing a blockage on the existing cycle network would achieve the greatest increase in cyclist numbers or other cyclist benefits.

    Blockages could be due to road or traffic danger (such as a pinch point or large roundabout), physical factors (such as access to a destination across an unbridged gully), or personal safety concerns (such as a secluded path or underpass).

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  • Easiest or cheapest first
    Description

    The easiest or cheapest elements in a programme are given priority.

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  • Quality demonstration projects
    Description

    Priority is given to flagship projects that showcase attractive, high-quality facilities that others will want to emulate in their own communities. If this approach is preferred, a neighbourhood accessibility plan project could be initiated.

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  • Area consolidation
    Description

    This gives priority to spreading cycle provision across a specific area. Once a consistently high cyclist LOS has been consolidated in one discrete area, provision is spread to another. If this approach is preferred, a neighbourhood accessibility plan project or a neighbourhood accessibility planning prioritisation study could be initiated.

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  • General recommendations

    Several approaches may be used together, ie a multi-criteria analysis is required, to achieve the best outcome.

    The overall aim is to obtain the greatest improvement in LOS for the greatest number of people (existing and potential users), and for these benefits to outweigh the money spent to achieve it.

    The cycle review or LOS criteria could usefully be combined with cycling usage data and cross-compared with crash data and project costs. Together, these may indicate a programme focus on a particular geographical area, bringing forward other lower-ranked projects and removing identified blockages. This treatment could then be repeated for the next highest-ranked area, and so on.

    This approach should not, however, neglect the value of some demonstrable achievement through implementing easy or cheap network elements or some quality flagship projects. Similarly, a focus on a particular area should not neglect particularly strong needs identified elsewhere.

    During implementation, it may be useful to advance a lower-ranked cycling project and combine it with the timing of a mainstream project. This could be for strategic/political reasons, to make certain projects more ‘palatable’ to groups who may oppose them. It might also help retain a balance of equity, for example by giving certain users an advantage through one project where they will be disadvantaged or left out by to another. (See Infrastructure projects under Integration in Implementation).

    The prioritisation process may reveal some factors that had been omitted in the evaluation process and it may be necessary to consider this feed-back and adapt the chosen route alignments or provisions. Some iterations may be necessary.

    One should not get too hung up on the precise means of determining priority; this can lead to ‘paralysis by analysis’ rather than actual work to implement parts of the network. So long as a suitable method has been used to identify the routes to be included, any process of ordering them for implementation based on logic and common-sense should suffice.

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