The evidence for contra-flow cycling

Adelaide City Council has had a strategic objective of implementing contra-flow cycle facilities for over fifteen years. However, Council has been constrained from achieving this by carriageway width requirements for contra-flow lanes and a demand for on-street parking that makes these lanes politically difficult to achieve. A recent attempt to tackle this issue acknowledged from the outset that formal contra-flow lanes were problematic to achieve. Instead, a brief review of international research was undertaken as the basis of understanding and addressing the risk associated with enabling contra-flow cycling without contraflow bicycle lanes. The results may be surprising. The most significant study undertaken found that enabling contra-flow cycling in quiet one-way streets, using ‘bicycles excepted’ signage and without formal contra-flow lanes, reduces rather than increases the overall crash risk for cyclists. Other studies were hampered by very low crash numbers in quiet one-way streets but found no evidence of increased crash risk. This paper presents the evidence for a simple, inexpensive means of improving cycling convenience and safety in urban conditions where traffic speeds are low (85th percentile speeds no higher than 40 km/h). Noting the difficulty or reluctance of European municipalities in adopting this measure – experience that has led to cyclist contra-flow using ‘bicycles excepted’ signage becoming mandatory in 30 km/h and 50 km/h zones in Belgium and in 30 km/h zones in France – this paper further discusses the role of a risk management methodology in applying new and innovative treatments to Australia conditions. This paper does not present design practice and guidance, but all proposed contra-flow locations should be reviewed and any site-specific safety issues addressed. The list of references includes document sources for the reference of readers seeking design guidance.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This paper is adapted from a paper that was presented at the 5th Australian Cycling Conference, held in Adelaide 21-22 January, 2013
  • Authors:
    • Patterson, F
  • Publication Date: 2013-3


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01485915
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: ARRB
  • Files: ITRD, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jul 9 2013 10:24AM