What’s LTN 1/20 got to do with it?

You may have heard the term “LTN 1/20” being bandied about in discussions on the design of new cycle lanes. What’s it got to do with new cycle infrastructure in the city? The answer is quite a lot!

Last July 2020 the Government published a document called “Gear Change” which lays out their vision for making cycling the natural first choice for many journeys, especially short journeys in towns and cities.

The accompanying design standards for cycling that are required to implement this bold vision are laid out in another document known as LTN 1/20, or to give it its full title “Cycle Infrastructure Design Local Transport Note 1/20”.

Gear Change (pdf download)
LTN-120 (pdf download)

This is the design guidance that local authorities must follow when making any changes to the highway, including new highway construction and new or improved cycle facilities. From even a cursory look at the document you can see that it raises the bar considerably. Some of the key design principles are summarised in this infographic.

Key design principles of LTN 1/20

There is now no excuse for the sort of substandard cycle infrastructure we’re all too familiar with.

As the forward to Gear Change explains, it is nothing less than a travel revolution to make cycling a mass form of transport. So, yes it’s a big deal!

There is – finally – a recognition at the highest level of government that “paint is not infrastructure”: that the only way to enable more people to cycle is by building better quality infrastructure. The vision makes clear that shared-use routes mixing cyclists with pedestrians will no longer be acceptable. Routes must be built to the highest international standards, or will not be built at all.

UK’s first Dutch-style roundabout – Fendon Road, Cambridge (pic: Joe Giddens)

The revised standards, which came into force in July last year and replace the older and lacklustre LTN 2/08, set a “national default position where high quality cycle infrastructure is provided as a matter of course in local highway schemes”.

Cycle infrastructure should be planned and designed for everyone, such that routes are accessible to all – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or disability:

  • On urban streets cyclists must be physically separated from pedestrians and should not share space with pedestrians (Principle 2, p9)
  • Where cycle routes cross pavements, a physically segregated track should always be provided (Principle 2, p9)
  • At crossings and junctions, cyclists should not share the space used by pedestrians but should be provided with a separate parallel route (Principle 2, p9)
  • On roads with high volumes of motor traffic cyclists must have physical protection, both at junctions and on the stretches of road between them (Principle 3, p10)
  • Cycle infrastructure should be designed for significant numbers of cyclists, as well as for non-standard cycles (Principle 5, p10)
  • Routes must join together to create a holistic, connected network (Principle 8, p11)
  • Schemes must be legible and understandable, and must be clearly and comprehensibly signposted and labelled (Principles 10 & 11, p11)
  • Schemes must provide direct, logical routes that are easy and comfortable to ride (Principles 18 & 19, p13)
  • Surfaces must be hard, smooth, level, durable, permeable and safe in all weathers (Principle 14, p12)
  • Barriers and dismount signs should not be used (Principle 16, p12)
  • Once routes are built they must be maintained properly afterwards (Principle 13, p12)

If all the cycle infrastructure in Norwich was built to this standard it would be transformative. Sadly it isn’t retrospective but it gives you some idea of the step change in what local authorities must now deliver.

The authors have clearly taken a leaf out of the famous Dutch CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic (widely regarded as the best design standards in the world) with its five core principles for what makes a successful cycle network: cohesion, directness, (road and social) safety, attractiveness and comfort.

Low-traffic neighbourhood in Waltham Forest (pic: barnetlcc.org)

Rather than arguing piecemeal over every little detail of a proposed new scheme there is now a coherent, overarching document that can be referenced when challenging poor proposed schemes.

To ensure that councils follow these new standards the Government is setting up an inspectorate called Active Travel England which will be led by a new national cycling and walking commissioner.

It is intended that Active Travel England will perform a similar role to Ofsted in raising standards and challenging failure. If councils don’t build cycle schemes that meet LTN 1/20 they may not get funding for their other local transport schemes.

Although Active Travel England is not yet fully operational this is no idle threat. Brighton and Hove City Council had their funding from the DfT cut after the decision by the council to remove a pop-up cycle lane.

A measurable quality threshold has been introduced which must be achieved when designing cycle schemes. All road projects funded by the DfT must now have a Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) rating of at least 70% to be considered for funding.

Recognising that it’s at junctions where the highest risk of collisions occur, a Junction Assessment Tool (JAT) must also be used to identify the potential for conflicts and what measures may be required to reduce them.

When launching the government’s ambitious plans to boost cycling and walking, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“These higher standards will make clear that schemes which consist mainly of paint, which make pedestrians and cyclists share the same space, or which do not make meaningful change to the status quo on the road, will not be funded.”

All of this should make a huge difference to anyone campaigning for better cycle infrastructure.

In a sense, the only question you need to ask of any new cycling scheme – or indeed of any new road scheme – is does it comply with LTN 1/20?